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Messages - Dormouse [ switch to compact view ]

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Start using AsciiDoc with the AsciiDocFX editor. That is similar to MarkDown text format files. The AsciiDocFX editor comes with an automatic (real-time) preview, so it very easy to see how your content will look like, while you are typing it. Which should cover most, if not all, of your needs to alter the layout afterwards. But if you still find a need to do so, you can alter the default CSS style sheet that editors like AsciiDocFX use to render the content as preview.

I had a quick look. Preview feature worked well, but I couldn’t set up a colour scheme to suit  me, so that rules it out.

Also doubt preview as a solution. Goes back to the days of print and proofing marks (and preview would have been wonderful then). The problem is that it works by splitting writing and reading modes, and this has an impact on focus and efficiency. Like many writers, I typically write first, check and format later.  Putting headers in wouldn’t affect focus, but putting in a bullet list would - especially if there was a need to check the preview to see if it achieved the desired appearance. Also formatting is easier done with just a mouse - at least for me.
There’s then the assumption that post-writing mode is reading. In some cases it might be, but with the zkn notes it isn’t really. I design the note format to help direct my attention appropriately when I next look at the note. But when I do, I am as likely to be in edit/change mode as in read - and that means not wanting to switch between panes.

Text files like MarkDown and AsciiDoc have also the advantage that these are very easy to search through by any and all types of search engine software (local or remote). These documents are also easy to store in any database of your choosing or to serve up as (internal) web content, if you so desire. With RTF and other document types created by word processing software, such options are very limited in the best case scenarios to non-existent.

Depending on RTF and/or other document types, will bite you in the long run, in ways you'll never expected.

I accept text files are easier to search and plaintext is easier to manipulate (not so sure about markdown etc - it’s isn’t, for instance, recognised by docfetcher as a separate file type which means text shown includes formatting).
I also accept that there are risks in using RTFs, or other more complex document types, but here I have to weigh the risk against the efficiency gains I have from using them.
And I have to be aware that many of my sources are held in document formats of all types, including PDFs, doc/docx and ebooks, as well as informational image files. And all these I suspect are more likely to give problems than RTFs. As it is, I use text files where they are sufficient and RTFs where I need the formatting.

General Software Discussion / .txt/.md Vs .rtf
« on: January 05, 2020, 07:16 PM »
I was looking at the file size differences and thinking that smaller must end up being faster for search etc (RTF being twice the size of the others).
So I looked closer. TXT often doesn't have the formatting I'd want when i'm reading. MD is the same size, virtually, and not hard to learn, so I checked the commands.

They're easy enough, and probably faster if you prefer the keyboard. But I always format after writing and prefer the mouse - so i think RTF may be faster for me. Accepting that there will be some markdown editors which allow input in the same way - but having spent so much time looking at programs, I'm not keen on looking again quite at the moment.

General Software Discussion / Efficiency Vs Complete
« on: January 05, 2020, 07:08 PM »
I was sent an academic paper today. I didn't think it was very good. Argument but no evidence. So i thought I'd delete it.
Then I thought that I have it, so it's no loss to keep it, and easier too.
Then I thought, I've read it already. I do have thoughts about it. Maybe I should make a note.
So I did. But only one note, done in a single pass. But still had to do the naming and tagging and add the link. Can't say it felt like the best use of time.
And probably inconsistent with Luhmann's injunction about selective reading.
But then, most academic papers are poor, so this is just normal.
So okay. I'm content enough to have done the note. And sure it wasn't worth going over and over.

I feel that getting this balance right is the key to making the process effective.

For me a helpful article because it starts simple and rules out what doesnt work in most systems; (flounders a bit in the middle imo); and only towards the end really describes the zettelkasten system as they see it.
Thanks. I agree that it's quite a good article, although I think it incorporates the weaknesses I personally perceive in the zettelkasten movement.

There's a reification of Luhmann as super productive, with an assumption that this is down to his unique working methodology which he described in some detail. Many academics, writers, scientists etc etc have been super productive, but they haven't left descriptions of their working methods; there has been a tendency for their productivity to be put down to their genius.

No-one else has achieved long-lived highly productive success using a zettelkasten. There simply hasn't been the time since the method became widely known. Most (all?) evangelists of the movement are relatively young. Presumably they have suffered some frustration with their previous approaches and hope that zettelkasten will help them to success. This necessarily means that they don't have experience of how a highly productive method feels in action over a long period of time, and will be proceeding on the basis of faith using the descriptions they have read of the system.

What strikes me most from this - and all the other articles - is that it is technocratic. All about the technique, digital or physical, and little about the content. Whereas, to me, the key feature is the thinking and reflection time enforced by the system. I say enforced but the degree is actually individually determined: some people will use the system as described, especially if they are using one of the programs mentioned, mechanistically and with little thought. Equating productivity with the number of notes or the number of links.

I believe that it can be a very helpful system (to some but not all), but only if people use it as an aid to their own thinking. I'd also note that Luhmann was highly successful and productive very early in his career when his zettelkasten system was still fledging.

The zettelkasten part of the system is much simpler. Everything I think about goes in. It’s the antithesis of the project zettelkasten approach.
The underlying concept is that if I spend some time thinking about anything, then I might think about it again in the future.

  • Notes based on reading are usually processed as a group because I don’t distract myself from reading by making a detailed note.
  • Usually I will mark a section that gets put in as a direct quote.
  • Next I make a quick brief note (the fleeting note) - might be done at the time of marking, otherwise later but soon after reading.
  • Next, usually after some hours, I make a fuller note. I regard this as a Level One note. The format is as a document with the quote at the bottom, the fleeting note above and the Level One note at the top.
  • Naming and tagging can be done at any point, but is usually most convenient when the Level One note has been completed and the note is placed in the long-term zettelkasten (previously it was moving through staging folders).
  • Within days, I hope to complete Level Two notes. These reorganise the ideas in the earlier notes so that the concepts are clearer and better separated. This is the first major linking stage when the linking may become more complex.

Subsequent notes are simple. They are written, linked, named, and tagged in one pass.

For me, the initial stages of making notes are more rigid and time consuming than conventional systems. Thereafter it is efficient and integrating new thoughts into previous structures is easy.
The later notes in conventional systems are either more time consuming or only retain their ease at the cost of full integration with previous thoughts.

No system copes well with independent small thoughts and small notes. Database systems work best (The Journal is okay). I simply combine them to create documents to put into the archive. Time will tell whether this is effective. I think it will work where the combination is on a single topic, but thoughts aren’t always like that.

This is a graphic illustrating the document flow in my system.
The central features are the document archive and the zettelkasten.

Evernote is primarily a collection and holding pen facilitating organisation prior to transmission to the archive.
The main use for the Journal is combining smaller notes into single files. Secondary use as a journal.
The OneNote project is simply there to show that some work might still take place in database programs if that is more efficient.


I've provisionally decided on my initial tagging system. Tags in file name and body of file. Any tagging during use will go into the Tagspaces sidecar.

Seven tag fields.
In the end I decided to be much simpler. Short 2 or 3 letter tags to make typing easier, and I'll type many in directly. Tags and sub-tags. No maximum or minimum number. Should be intuitive and obvious (to me).

I'll need a master list. Thought it would be easiest in a table. Requirements: easy to have the background colour I need, easy zoom and easy alphabetical sort. I checked through the text editors and word processors I usually have open. Could they do it? No! Wasted time looking, gave up in the end and just used Word. Ah well.

General Software Discussion / Enhancements
« on: December 29, 2019, 05:48 PM »
Two things struck me that could be enhancements to a zettelkasten program/process for some people for some usages.

Coloured or labelled links like spider diagrams or mind maps.
A limitation is that it imposes a consistency in the use of the concepts behind the links.
Doesn't suit my approach but would really help some.

Tiny notes attached to other notes.
I use stickies attached to documents, but the method is irrelevant.
These mostly arise from subconscious thinking, or something read in passing, rather than deliberate cogitation. Small thoughts, nothing complicated, so if I'm developing a character it might be 'Douglas Firbrae' or 'red hair'; I'm not going to actively think about it at the time - probably actively working on something else - but I don't want to lose the idea and I need it to be where I need it when I do actively work on the topic.

Some tiny ideas, of course, deserve notes of their own. I recently thought of Edward Siwardsson. No time to work it up, but worth retaining. My subconscious may decide to play around with it. Or not. (fwiw, very little is known about him, but he was an Anglo-Saxon/Northumbrian nobleman at a time when the development of Scotland and northern England was being contested between the Gaels, Picts, Irish, Danes, Norse, Anglo-Saxons, British, Normans - some more directly involved than others. He won the battle which was pivotal in giving David I the throne of Scotland; David brought to Scotland the Norman knights whose descendants would later fight for the throne (the Bruces, Stewarts, Balliols, Comyns etc)).

You can see that issues around tiny ideas and snippets are still unresolved in my mind. I'm assuming that Luhmann never had any need to manage them because his thoughts were always longer and more complex. But many of mine are small. They just pop into my head when my brain is unfocused. I have always assumed that this is normal.

General Software Discussion / Re: Top 3 programs you use
« on: December 22, 2019, 06:18 PM »
This also relates to DoogiePIM ... development has slowed somewhat
It has. Came back from the dead, frequent updates at start, but much slower now.
Quite a few things on the list to be addressed haven't been (yet). Forum pretty inactive. I've not bothered installing the latest update yet. The code might have been rewritten, but there really aren't many changes from GemX in the way it works. But it does what it does and keeps on going, which may be enough. I don't think there would be enough money to justify an Android version of such a huge program.

Ultra Recall was almost left to die but has been revived. Updates aren't cheap though.

General Software Discussion / Re: Top 3 programs you use
« on: December 22, 2019, 05:15 PM »
Maybe there were too many two-pane organisers for the market to bear, as there appears to be a winnowing going on.
I think TreeDBNotes most recent version is 2015, and there had been only tiny changes for some years before that.
I remember some vehement argument and criticism in the forum for a year or two before it was closed down. Many posters arguing for more PIM features. I thought they were wrong, and that more could be done to develop the text editor, whichh I believed was always its best feature.

I think there were too many organisers, but I think that the major problem was that the market simply moved away from the concept. Developers took themselves into a PIM cul-de-sac, and had nowhere to go when better answers to the PIM need arrived. Very few people want purely local anymore.

somtimes it's hard to understand the system when reading about the details, this a very helpful description
The pure zettelkasten is just the room, mainly the table.
But, for me, it doesn't work without the rest. Including my librarians, Tag and Search.

yeah, just had a look, nine years ago he had some sort of lifetime deal via gizmo (techsupportalert?)
Curious to see the new one.
I think he had sales independent of the gizmo deal too. I appear to have two licences.

General Software Discussion / Re: Top 3 programs you use
« on: December 22, 2019, 11:02 AM »

Up for me
So it is.
Before, I just got this when I googled:
Viagra Same Day Delivery: Strongest Pill Ever
order cialis paypal. \"TreeDBNotes. get cialis very cheap · viagra nhs prescription · cialis overnight new york · ebay viagra · retail pharmacy price cialis ...
And this one failed at the purchase link.
Very glad it is still there. I rarely use it now, but still have fond memories.

Nice to be back to content. I've spent far more time on programs than I anticipated.
Feeling good at the moment.

In my mind, the zettelkasten works like having my own room in the Bodleian, with my current activities laid out on a large table in the middle, surrounded by small bookcases with the books needed for immediate references.
If I want more, or am moving on, then I can wander round the main library collecting books and other materials as I need. And if I need to do a detailed trawl into less familiar materials, I can ask the librarians to bring me stuff that might be relevant from the stacks.

Concentric circles. The more intensely worked material on the table in the middle, with all my notes; linked books and journals nearby. Associated material a little further away and stuff I might conceivably available after a little search.

I'll probably use Microsoft ToDo
No I won't. Still too complicated for my needs. Also insufficient.
Google Keep I think. Always liked it for lists. I'll have as many checklists as I want, when I need them. Share with Evernote (& then the zk when I think the record might be useful). I know I could do it in Evernote, but I always find that more cumbersome for checklists.

Looks as if it is very nearly 10 years since I bought v4.

General Software Discussion / Re: Top 3 programs you use
« on: December 22, 2019, 10:12 AM »
2. TreeDBNotes
Looks as if the main website is now down completely and purchase links no longer function.
The free version was always good enough for most uses.

I used WindowBlinds for a period. I was very pleased with it early on.
But I found it needed a lot of maintenance. Often little things, just to get it going again. Dealing with imperfections in chosen themes. Etc.
That's why I ended up going with global changes. At least they're stable. And light themes are ubiquitous in programs, so I get no surprises from unexpected white panels. (With the exception of Evernote - but I'll be fine as long as i can use classic mode.) Where I can, I choose more subtle themes. Used WindowsBlinds to do that for all programs but themes always introduced a glitch somewhere along the line.

I'm not sure what I'll do with photos etc long-term. Maybe use another computer. Maybe some programs would allow me to reverse the reversal, just within their own window.

Just glad he could deal with the important things without Sagelight being a burden.

Still have fond memories, but never thought there was any chance of it resurfacing. They were the days when I didn't have to worry about glare! Be interesting to see what it does now, though I'll have to take time working out what computer to use it on. Or setting a  computer up to use it on.

So far, the biggest irritation for a program that is a diary equivalent is, despite hierarchical organisation, the Category and Calendar mode seems to works as fixed folders rather than virtual folders or filters. Evernote has this one nailed.
I’ve not found a convenient way to see all notes from a given chunk of days.
Two solutions currently.

1. All entries in one journal/Category. It's then possible to scroll through all entries one month at a time.
2. Using Topics and Search by Topic. A lot of control of which entries are seen, and for what period. Downside for me is that it is not so visually comfortable. And requires that the tagging be done.

I can manage with this.

An unrelated observation arising from my new freedom to focus on a single workflow largely based on documents, is that I'm quite ruthlessly ditching many 'best' programs. If they are important for a project, then  that's fine but otherwise out. Trello, for example, will probably go even though it's a good personal fit. Easy share from Android has become a key feature which frees me from requiring a particular program on all platforms. Many things will be shared with Evernote (but could easily be something else) which can then be exported to documents or The Journal. I'll probably use Microsoft ToDo because it will fit in rather than any better ToDo solution.

Paradoxically I can envision the possibility of using Evernote more not less. It's quite good at merging notes for saving into documents.

All part of a brain decluttering process.

are you talking about seeing a bunch of notes at once?  like full notes in several windows or boxes on the screen?  If so, yes, that would be an awesome feature. 
Yes. Google Keep does it of course.

I don't need the whole note. Just sufficient to know whether it's what I think I remember. In a timeline I can speed through. The note pane will show the whole note, but I won't look at that unless I think it might be the right note. Similar UI view need as an email client.

Many programs do something similar, but they vary on how to see the timeline and on how much of the note you can see in the extract (few have options to set this). I like Evernote's implementation for this, but the colours are wrong and there are the other concerns.

The use case is trying to replicate the function of an old writer's notebook or diary (old fashioned diary where you write in the new date/time with every entry - not something pre-printed). Can be useful for finding something that you know you did two years ago, probably. Unnecessary if you remember a tag you gave it or a word you used (assuming no typo), but otherwise quickly scanning through approximately the right period is usually successful. Also useful for browsing: you see something you did, it strikes a chord it hadn't at the time, then you look around for other notes fitting the new chord. A bit like a mine going through its spoil heap with updated extraction methods.

I've decided to regularly import snippets from Evernote to The Journal. Seems simple to do, and The Journal has convenient document save options. And i can set it up to suit my eyes which is a big advantage over native Evernote client where I'm stuck with white text on black background - functional, but tiring after a while.
Because there doesn’t seem an adequate manual, I’ve been having to try things out on The Journal, so I accept that I might have missed some of the features I want.

So far, the biggest irritation for a program that is a diary equivalent is, despite hierarchical organisation, the Category and Calendar mode seems to works as fixed folders rather than virtual folders or filters. Evernote has this one nailed.
I’ve not found a convenient way to see all notes from a given chunk of days. Search requires a text term as the basis for the search. History will apply, but I think that’s simply backwards from now.
There are possible workarounds. Search for a ubiquitous word like ‘the’. Combine all categories and use annual or monthly journals instead of daily. Use Topics instead of Categories.
But still.

What initially attracted me to this idea is the prolific output of that guy, regarding writing books.  So I think it's ok that the process is rigorous and somewhat difficult, because the time spent on that fine-tuning and curating seems to be what makes the putting together of a book or something so much faster.  So i think the efficiency is in the ultimate output of these notes.  The process is definitely not efficient.
I believe that Luhmann's process was efficient.
He didn't treat all material the same. I don't know what fraction of his academic reading made its way into his zettel, but I'd be surprised if it were more than 25% and probably less than 10%. Academics skim a lot, have a rough memory for what they have seen and only pay close attention to what is in their own field. A lot of reading ends at the abstract. They do also have to take notes in areas where their knowledge is slight, but they're required to give a lecture - but they'd be exceptionally skimpy notes. He emphasised the need to be selective in the reading and note-taking. He also emphasised the need to only do what you feel like doing when you feel like doing it - another way of improving selectivity.

Selecting the material to make notes on, managing the depth of the notes, controlling the time and effort spent making links - all these are an intrinsic part of the process, but they tend to be ignored.

Dormouse, regarding your sources...I still don't quite understand.  If you have pdf's of articles or even textbooks, you put the actual pdf file in that source directory?  and then you annontate it?  i was almost thinking you copied the text into a text file, and then annotated....but that would be crazy.
Digital copies of articles, books etc simply live in a Publications file.
If I write a note on them, then they're moved to the Sources file in the zettel, so that I have all my links together. Probably no annotating or highlighting. Just the one link.
If i am examining the source in more detail, I will probably highlight as I go and then copy each highlight into separate notes. Quickly add the 1st brief note, then revisit for the better written 2nd pass note. I don't discard the first note, although it may have outlived its purpose (no time saved by discarding; there may be a future value in having a better detailed history of the note and development of thought). I keep all these on one document.
Further notes will then add and comment on cross links etc. These may be done at any convenient time.

General Software Discussion / Conserving cognitive effort and time
« on: December 17, 2019, 10:24 AM »
I’ve noticed that most discussion of zettelkasten seems to be about the perfection of the process with little interest in workflow or efficiency. Apart from a frequent attraction to database options that make IDs and linking quicker. Maybe that can be justified if the zettelkasten itself is the desired endpoint. Otherwise I’d expect anyone interested in working productively to maximise effectiveness. Which means expending time and effort commensurate with the gains.

Taking the typical academic, reading a journal in his area of interest. Let’s say an experimental scientist..
If there’s a paper very closely aligned to her/his (I was tempted to write his - are most zettelkastenites male, I wonder?) own work, I’d expect detailed notes on the question, the design and methodology, the stats, results and interpretation. With a number of rounds of reconsideration, comparison with other experiments, own work etc. Probably 20-50 notes in all. With a lot of time and thinking going in to it. And all at or close to the time of the original reading.
The rest of the journal might only warrant one note. Looking at topics covered, paradigms and stats used etc. Useful for considering changing trends in the field. A bit of a reminder of what’s in it. But not immediately useful, so undeserving of more time.

Seems to me that this approach is essential if the zettelkasten is to be a useful tool rather than an albatross hanging around the users neck.

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