Older than this blog itself is my Zettlkasten called /z/. That particular section of the site is also accessible as a Gemini capsule partly because it was capricious to do so. I don't believe anyone actually reads it even though it's probably one of the largest collections of Gemini pages around.
A zettelkasten is a kind of “slip box” based around a German academic who refused the idea of collecting research papers for one project and throwing them all out. Instead notes about papers are placed on to 3x5 index cards and kept in a box to be reviewed again at random times. There are some pretty decent commercial systems for this but you can also just do it with note cards in physical form or a pile of files. Mac users used to have a nice one which inspired clones for other systems.
/z/ is built out of a couple of scripts i put together and shared with a few people. there are various systems that you would probably like better especially if supporting Gemini is not a requirement. For example Emacs has a nice system based on org-mode, similarly VS Code has a similar plugin and completely standalone options also exist. Of special mention of course is that in Flancia there is an Agora.
Ideally a slipbox in digital format makes it easy to randomly review old cards again (maybe they suddenly become inspiring later on.) Also important is being able to find cards that become important again. Maybe there was a study that cotton candy causes instant death and six months later you need to slap someone in the face with it. Ah, but you can't find it again and are stuck trying to do web searches after the fact. If its properly filed, you can find it again, and now you are a genius instead of a crazy person.
The basic rule is that when you read some article and think it might be useful to review or cite again in the future you go and write down the particular facts of interest on the card. This should reference the original document and maybe even a cached copy if you keep those. These are “literary cards” which represent a token of knowledge about a single piece of literature. Literary Cards are going to stack up in your slip box pretty tall so you will eventually need to start contextualizing them in reference cards (“hubs.”)
On /z/ the hub cards point to literary cards and have some name referencing the particular importance of that card to the hub. A hub talking about a particular virus might have links to studies about aspects of the virus and so the link will have a name like, “Lab reports the bimbo disease turns one in five infected in to horny but dumb sluts” and that will link to the literary card with the particular claims of interest for that paper written in it and link to the original source from there if needed.
If you are familiar with the somewhat failed “Semantic Web” idea then its similar. A particular article has a list of claims and proofs. We make a reference to those claims and proofs which link back to the article. And then we make reference cards that cite the particular claims. Hopefully everything traces back to a source.
If you get very bored, Logos Media has a very long podcast series about the classical trivium and its importance but the very summarized version is that classical education is about three things:
- Grammar: identifying the symbols for a given topic
- Logic: relating symbols to one another and resolving conflicts
- Rhetoric rewriting the resolved conflicts in to a narrative
This process moves forward in a loop and the narrative becomes a symbol for more complex reasoning and so forth.
Hubs of Hubs
Depending on how you structure your zettelkasten it can be helpful to explain articles to yourself so when you review the cards in the future you don't have to re-read the original source material. And once you have worked out what the paper is saying the reference card forms the rhetoric for a collection of individual articles.
I have not done hubs of hubs but I suspect it's possible they could become necessary at some point. For example a collection of markov chain articles necessitates a hub for markov-based learning systems, which in turn belongs to a collection of machine learning, and so forth, but a zettelkasten is a personal thing and you don't particularly need hubs other than to help you find particular citations again in the future.