note taking to note making

From note taking to note making to communicating with your zettelkasten

Niklas Luhmann focused his Zettelkasten on his work as a scientist. Writing and publishing were an essential part of his work, and therefore the note box is very much focused on the writing process.
I work in IT. Writing and publishing have more of a secondary role in my work. But understanding ever-changing IT architectures, development tools, infrastructures, and the concepts and objectives behind each is crucial to me. For me, arriving at the proper assessments here is primarily a learning process. For me, the slip box is a central learning tool for penetrating complex concepts and developing new solutions.
In doing so, the process of decomposing, i.e., breaking down a construct into individual components, is very important to me. I keep the original construct by ordering or hierarchy of the elements in my box of notes. I then either trace the individual elements back to what is already known to me or identify it as something originally new.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff has presented in an excellent article [1] the difference between "note-taking" and "note-making." It is essential for the understanding of complicated contexts to summarize the contents of a foreign text in one's own words.
In books and longer texts in general, key ideas are examined several times from different points of view and in other contexts. Then the notes mustn't be just simple (linear) summaries of the foreign text. Instead, each note should only contain one thought. Thus a text is "decomposed" into individual notes. These notes are then put into context and linked to other existing notes. We should continue to pay attention to good referencing to do a correct citation if this is necessary.
Eva Keiffenheim describes the process through three levels of generated notes: Fleeting Notes, Literature Notes, and Permanent Notes. [2] In any case, there has to be a very careful quality filtering of all notes that we add to the note box. Otherwise, there will be a flood of notes. These notes might contain a lot of information but are not accessible due to their poor quality.
After note-taking, it must be possible to communicate with the Zettelkasten. One has to look at the notes (relevant in the respective work context) again and again. Here I am currently experimenting with special notes with guiding questions. I try to answer these questions in "trains of thought" (linear arrangements of notes).
It is necessary to build rather local structures in the Zettelkasten with relatively few far-reaching, cross-topic links. Eva Thomas has elaborated this in a remarkable article. [3]

We need to enable cliques in a knowledge graph in a mathematical sense. I want to form these structures in my Zettelkasten, which has led me to work with Tools4Zettelkasten  on my solutions for building a simple plain-text-oriented system.

[1] Anne-Laure Le Cunff, ‘From Note-Taking to Note-Making’, Ness Labs <>.
[2] Eva Keiffenheim, ‘Zettelkasten’s 3 Note-Taking Levels Help You Harvest Your Thoughts’, BetterHumans <>.
[3] Eva Thomas, ‘Understanding Zettelkasten — What Does It Mean to Communicate with the Slip-Box’, Medium, 2020 <>.

Hierarchy vs. links

Hierarchy vs. emergent structures through links between notes

The tool Obsidian makes it very easy to create links between notes. The graphical mode in Obsidian also displays only those links that the user in the text explicitly created.
Niklas Luhmann also linked his notes to each other. But that wasn't the only way he brought structure to his note box. Luhmann organized the notes and devised a system especially for this. He could insert further notes between two notes, even whole subhierarchies of notes.
It was important to him to jump between topics and thus find surprising associations or thematic links. But it was at least as vital for him to put his notes in good order. In this way, he built up arguments, documented "trains of thought," and critically reviewed them repeatedly.
In German, "Train of Thoughts" is also called "Gedankengang," which means "walk of thoughts." These trains of thought are not just arbitrary paths through a network of notes but well-considered and repeatedly revised steps to test and present an idea.

This way of dealing with trains of thought is fundamental to me. That's why I'm working with the "Tools4Zettelkasten" on a system that enables simple networking and structure building via sequence and hierarchy of notes.