Tinderbox Meetup - Sunday, April 23, 2023: What does it mean to use Tinderbox as a Zettelkasten tool (or tool for what ever method we individually might use)?

Looking forward to the meetup.

Time: Sunday, April 23, 2023, 12:00 noon Eastern Time (US and Canada)

9 AM Pacific Time
Noon Eastern time
1300 São Paulo
1600 UTC
1700 London
1800 Paris
2130 Dehli

Zoom link for the meetup: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/8850659900?pwd=ZE9ROUs1czNiK2FTTStjTUJuVkIydz09


There is no set agenda yet. Please comment and suggest some ideas.


I’d be interested in brainstorming about the best ways to use Tinderbox as a slip-box or zettelkasten tool particularly, but not exclusively, in a visual perspective. I say that because, as you know, there are new emerging PKM tools that propose a visual thinking space Mark Bernstein has been offering and patiently building for years now and I think that it would be very very interesting to put that topic in a collective thinking work. What does it mean to use Tinderbox as a zettelkasten tool? And how to achieve that?


Sure, we can do that. In your process above, you infer that Zettelkasten is a process of taking notes and that your preferred method of doing this is visual.

Let’s start next week’s session now by soliciting comments/answers to your question: “What does it mean to use Tinderbox as a zetellkasten tool?”

Here is my answer to this:

The typical definition of Zettelkasten does not define Zettelkasten; rather, it describes how it works instead what it means - Zettel is “card” and kasten is “box”; you codify information on a card and put it in the box. Codifying this information consists of each card having a unique number and then liking other cards to related cards by their individual numbers. Furthermore, as noted by Ahrens, the information you place on the card should be related to one idea, written in your own words, and cited, i…e given provenance, a link to its source.

If the above is the “how” of Zettelkasten, for me, the what of Zettelkasten is “a systematic and systemic way of codifying one’s knowledge in a readily accessible knowledge repositorying so as to create contextually relevant moments of re-discovery that will ultimately streamline one’s ability to readily, delibreately, sustainably, support learning and the production of one’s contributions.”

I don’t think Luhmann created his process to simply collect knowledge; rather, I think he created it to help him be more efficient with the process of learning, insight creation, and the production of his outputs. By the time he died, he was a professor and a recognized contributor, and he produced over 60 cross-disciplinary books. I recall that the process gave him the ability to have joy and be in the moment. His end-game was joy and making a difference (i would think), not collection. I can’t emphasize these later points enough.

Moreover, I don’t think Luhmann’s process was terribly visual, although I suspect he, like many, would often take the cards out and place them on the floor to help him visually see a landscape of relationships. In the end, I think what Luhmann tapped into was a method appropriate for the available technology of his time to create a geo-temporal external data storage system that maps to our neo-cortex and the way our brains recall and apply information. What it did was help him learn and embrace abstraction. It was/is a system that facilitated the execution of deliberate, sustained, timely-corrected learning–basically the practical execution of Ericsson’s approach to becoming an expert

It is so easy to get sucked into a collection for collection’s sake, but what does that really give you? Not much. What you need to do is collect and curate, create and collaborate, and then contribute–make a difference–by getting your knowledge out there. In other words, find ways to collect and process information that facilitates learning and output generation. Tinderbox and accompanying foundational tech (macOS), standards, applications, AI, and processes can help you achieve this. It can be a cornerstone to your being able to make a difference.

So, for the meeting, we can certainly look at the map view as a way of helping facilitate learning; mind mapping and visual associations is a tried and true methods of learning and production. But let us not forget that visual association is just one tool in the toolbox (we all learn in different ways, and different tools are appropriate for different situations). Tinderbox has many views to help you get closer to your data; see this meet: Tinderbox Meetup April 9, 2023 Video: Export, AppleScript, Quantitative Analysis, TBX Views Review. And as discussed in other recent meetups, Tinderbox has capabilities to help you with curation (linking, citing, numbering), creating your own views with templates, and so much more. Personally, I think Tinderbox is the perfect toolset, the only real area I’m struggling with right now is how to effectively use it when collaborating with others–I have many methods I’m trying, and it is getting better, but I’m still missing the silver bullet.

Anyway, in conclusion, yes. Let’s have next week about Zettelkasten.

Ahrens, S. (2017). How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1542866502
Pool, R. (n.d.). Anders Ericsson: Dismantling the 10,000 Hour Rule. Retrieved September 6, 2021, from Anders Ericsson: Dismantling the 10,000 Hour Rule


Talking about a “visual” way, this is what I had in mind: like Luhmann, feeling the sensation of taking paper in my hands while taking notes in Tinderbox: https://youtu.be/qRSCKSPMuDc?t=2246

That’s the way I’m trying to use Tinderbox:

The “gold standard” for information on the internet about the Zettelkasten method (and BTW Michael, you are spelling it incorrectly) seems to be www.zettelkasten.de. If you want a good discussion with the experts, you might think of inviting Sascha and Christian to take part. They have been thinking about the method for at least a dozen years, if not longer. There is probably not much that they haven’t toyed with, or tried.

I haven’t read “How to take smart notes”, but from what I can gather from other sources, the author has a slightly idiosyncratic take on the method.

I dabbled with the method for a while, but in the end I did not find it worked all that well for me. And it is possible that it did not work all that well for Luhmann, either. I have read at least one comment (I can’t remember where) suggesting that his works seem cobbled together from bits and pieces, and lack flow. But I probably ought not to disseminate negative commentary that I can’t verify. However, in my own case I started out with some enthusiasm, which faded over time, partly because I found that atomic notes that were linked together did not really help me. But perhaps that is just me, not the method.

Thanks for calling out the spelling error. I fixed it. I love the idea of bringing in guest speakers, @TomD and I were on the phone earlier today, and he suggested the exact same thing. Do you know them? Can you help encourage them to join one of our meetups? In regards to one method working vs. another method, one approach being better than the other, in the end, I think it takes a village. In fact, taken to its extreme. think we’ll find that there are as many methods and approaches as there are people; that all get highly personalized. Thanks again for your comments; this should turn out to be a fun discussion.

I’ve interacted with them on their forums (https://forum.zettelkasten.de) and with regard to The Archive (The Archive (macOS) • Zettelkasten Method).

They are both very approachable and generally interested in talking about PKM. Christian can be found on his page: About Christian • Zettelkasten Method and Sascha on his: About Sascha • Zettelkasten Method.

Their blog is a very mine of ideas about PKM: Blog Post Archive • Zettelkasten Method, with posts going back to 2013. If you’ve never looked at it, you’ve missed something.

Christian actually made a short post about Tinderbox back in 2018: Zettelkasten Method and Tinderbox (macOS) • Zettelkasten Method. He might conceivably be interested to be brought up to date about recent developments.

Edit: I posted on their forums: Using Tinderbox for a Zettelkasten — Zettelkasten Forum

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Cool, I’m pretty swamped. It would be cool if someone could help make the connection and invite them to one of our meetups.

I’m afraid I only speak English, Italian and some French, so that statement is a mystery to me :slight_smile:

Sorry, I meant to say I am “swamped,” auto-correct got the best of me (fixed the error). It means that I’m VERY busy–as I suspect generally most of us are–and I could use some assistance with introductions and the weekly meetups: ideas, contributions, and content suggestions would be most welcome.

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Ah, auto-correct! The first thing I disable on any device I own :wink:

@satikusala Sascha Fast has expressed a willingness to take part: Using Tinderbox for a Zettelkasten — Zettelkasten Forum.

I suggest you contact him.

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I sent him an email.

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If I might suggest - it would be useful for members to do a bit of pre-reading on Zettelkasten; whether it be Ahrens’ book or the zettelkasten.de website. The meetup might be benefited by our being on the same page vis-a-vis basic concepts and terminology. Particularly interest on Luhmann’s expansion of the concept might be illuminating, such as the flow that data takes through fleeting/permanent/project note stages.


Wikipedia has an interesting history

From Zettelkasten.de, concepts:



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I love this idea. The big question I have is whether the idea is to simply transfer the “process” to a TBX environment or is the idea to take key objectives (independent of the process) and try to replicate the ability to create cross-functional insight and output, or some combination of both?

Personally I feel it would be the last option, a combination. I feel that many of us who’ve been using Tbx for a while have already developed our own systems that synthesize various aspects of traditional note organization with that “something very extra” Tinderbox provides. Others may not be using any specific organizational system, still others may be trying to faithfully reproduce zettels using Tbx as a constructor set.

In reality, just one aspect sticks out at me in Zetteling; which is the high importance placed on writing and re-writing one’s notes and note structure(s) until they actually become ingrained. Very different approach from computer-based “Find”.

It should be an interesting discussion.

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I always found this distinction irritating. To me, a note was a note, and I always thought that these categories created problems. A lot of people seemed to agonise about what kind of note they were writing, when a note turned from being “fleeting” to being “permanent”, and so forth. Others seemed to think that if they didn’t follow the “procedure” correctly the method would not work. I’ve never read Ahrens’ book, but I get the impression that some people take away the wrong lessons from it. In short, I considered the note categories a hindrance and never used them. Some people might find the conceptualisation useful, but I felt it added nothing to my work. I needed something a lot looser and more spontaneous.

I always found this distinction irritating. To me, a note was a note, and I always thought that these categories created problems. A lot of people seemed to agonise about what kind of note they were writing, when a note turned from being “fleeting” to being “permanent”, and so forth. Others seemed to think that if they didn’t follow the “procedure” correctly the method would not work. I’ve never read Ahrens’ book, but I get the impression that some people take away the wrong lessons from it.

I’m completely agree with you: « a note is a note » and a note with its attributes can be easily read and put to work with the help of the Attribute Browser so there is no necessity to categorize one’s notes in the perspective of being « more (and more and more…) productive ». That’s the modern tendency and I’m not OK at all with that view. In my field of research — philosophy and sciences of education and training —, I sometimes wonder if being productive, particularly in philosophy, wouldn’t mean writing articles « by the yard » (in French, we say « au kilomètre » and it is not flattering at all!). In my field — a clinical approach psychoanalytically oriented —, it’s so hard to write and rewrite incessantly and patiently a « good » article to a journal with a review panel that my work does not consist in making a difference between fleeting notes and permanent notes. I read and write everyday. That’s all. But, I tend to think that this categorization clarifies and delimitates a significant part of my research process: given that one simple reading is equal to an impressive amount of thoughts, associations, fleeting ideas, memories and so on, this categorization helps me to identify what must be elaborated. For instance, an impression is not a statement, an idea on the fly is not the thorough wording of a problem and several « permanent » notes whose statements are close could be a part of a structured note (1., 1.1, 1.1.1…), namely a fragment of an emergent article. Regarding this and in my experience, comparing my feelings of user when I try to examine what tool works as I do, Tinderbox seems to me a very good « companion in research ». But, it is like research, you don’t get it easy. You have to work and learn. Therefore, it seems to me that the Zettelkasten topic is not only about Luhmann’s methodology. It means to me: what do you do with your notes while using Tinderbox? Incidentally, does the slip-box methodology help you with your writing and research process? What kind of functional metaphor does it signify for you?

How do you define a “note category”?