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)?

Of course, at one level, I agree. A note is a note. On the surface, this can not be argued. Using a biological analogy, if a note is a note, is that like saying a heart cell is the same thing as a skin cell? They are both the same thing, they are cells, but they perform very different functions.

In Tinderbox land, for me, a new note is a stem cell. The stem cell takes on specialization and uniqueness when I start to use it, e.g., apply a prototype and apply attributes. For instance, a note simply might be some text I’ve written, or it might be a person, entity, figure, video, article, or a container that has several of all of the above, and in their collection, they become an article.

For me, notes take on a special significance when I’m going to reuse them across other projects, e.g., I might use a "media note’ in several articles, and an attribute associated with the media not may further specialize it to let me know that it is an image, video, or audio file. I have thousands of these “atomic” special notes, e.g., term definitions, entity overviews, individual “people” profiles, regulation or technical standards overviews. I use transclusion to reference and access the note in its entirety or to dynamically pull individual value from them to perform my work.

So, simply saying a note is a note does not work for me. It is not, or more aptly put, it depends on context.

Yes, absolutely. As discussed in my videos, I call the “slipbox” a “Resources Folder” or “Backstage” collection. The notes within this category take on special significance. The support function process enables me to incrementally formalize and fine my learning and knowledge, sure, but most important, they help me generate diverse output much faster and with more accuracy and value than I’ve ever been able to do before than at any other time in my life.

I meant the categorisation into fleeting/permanent/project note. I’ve always disliked it. For some reason I’ve always found the idea of a “fleeting note” particularly irritating, and I don’t know why. It is a personal psychological idiosyncrasy. Some people seem to find the categorisation useful, which is good for them – but I have never worked that way. I’m not generally keen on labels or taxonomies. That might be because I have lived in two different countries and worked in two different languages (more, if I count my extremely creaky French) and I am aware that there is often a linguistic and cultural dimension to the labelling which is capable of distorting perceptions of what something is like. I don’t know much about social constructionism, but I know enough to understand how language and culture influence and limit us. (This is the point where @dominiquerenauld could probably educate us about Foucault!)

I was specifically thinking about the context of a Zettelkasten, and my experience of dabbling with one was really limited to The Archive, which I think was built on the model of nvAlt – about the most simple note-taking application you could find. I was not remotely thinking about Tinderbox and all of its features and possibilities.

A confusion for us all is not knowing the context in which a description is read. Someone who’s making a day-book or a to do list likely has a different PoV to a person doing close reading of source texts or writing business reports.

I tend to the view that one can over-categorise. Thinking—consideration before taking action—is he crux. We tend to over-venerate process because we delude ourselves that it is a substitute for engagement with and understanding of our task.

zettelkästen essentially is about atomicity of records and avoidance of needing a complex (hierarchical) indexing system. These things Tinderbox can already do. I’m uncertain giving it a fancy German title makes it any more profound, though I’m happy to be wrong.


Totally agree; you are speaking @DEddy’s language.

Hi Tinderboxers,

to give you a heads-up: I (Sascha from zettelkasten.de) will attend the meeting this Sunday.

So, you can prepare specific questions regarding the Zettelkasten Method.

Regarding the three types of notes (fleeting, literature, permanent): I think it is a translation artifact which resulted in reification. In the German book, the labels for the type of notes are just used to label different steps in a process. But they are not treated as a proper classification of notes, as far as I understood the German book.

The result is that the collective thinking process (due to the popularity of the book by Ahrens) was pushed heavily in the direction of thinking about the workflow that transforms each note type to another.

I think this is a distraction from the real issues that are interesting when you ask yourself the Zettelkasten question: How can I create a system that is extends my ability to deal with ideas (and knowledge in general) in a way that it scales beyond one project.

The questions derived from this line of thinking are for example:

  • How to write a note for longevity?
  • How to access a very big and highly complex note collection (or the network if you connect the notes) to assist with the task at hand (thinking on an issue, writing a text etc.)?
  • How to optimize the effect of creating one note?
  • How to access note collections within a note collection? (Not just notes that share a property, but also note clusters that are more tightly connected to each other than to others)

There are also issues/opportunities that emerge from other lines of thinking. For example: My Zettelkasten is also a training tool for me. I have almost 13k notes at the moment. But yesterday I could demonstrate how to create connections between two notes that I took 8 years apart within 2 minutes. It is possible because of the way I work with my Zettelkasten and the depth of connection between the note content. The connected question is:

  • How can you optimize the training effect on your brain using your note-taking system? (Instead of just letting your tool taking care of tasks, which could lead to atrophy of your specific skill in the worst case)

So, don’t get hung on note definitions if you want to understand the Zettelkasten Method. Instead, focus on the actual challenges you want to attack.

(To give you some starting points to think about the Zettelkasten Method in a way that allows a better exploitation of the Zettelkasten Method for Tinderbox)

Live long and prosper


Excellent points made, thank you. Looking forward to the Meetup :+1:

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Hi all, I have made contact with Sönke Ahrens, author of Smart Notes. He can’t make it this weekend, but I’ll schedule him for a future meetup.


For those prepping for Sunday and interested in some prior art, Beck Tench did a four part series of videos on zettelkasten with Tinderbox about four years ago. The total series runs about 40 minutes and can be found here: Literature Review with Zettelkasten & Tinderbox - YouTube


I classify fleeting notes - notes I need to think and develop because. I don’t know where they fit. Permanent notes - okay I broadly understand the themes and have an idea what to connect to.

An interesting point for the discussion on Sunday - What does Tinderbox
offer ? I like TB as a place to hash out my ideas and connections between ideas. But what does it offer over tagging and linking and backlinkng in Obsidian or TheArchive? Or DevonThinks’s “AI” grouping ?

I suspect the answer lies in a more nuanced analysis of note metadata but I lack the skills and knowledge to develop this further.

An interesting point for the discussion on Sunday - What does Tinderbox
offer ?

Each tool has its own advantages and each of us, it seems to me, sees its own interest in it. For me, this is what Tinderbox offers me: what I cannot build and develop with any other tool: a “thinking space” in a visual “environment”.

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These are also referenced here: Mastering Tinderbox: Training Videos (Complete List).

Today’s chat: meeting_saved_chat.txt.zip (6.0 KB)

And the archived video on YouTube: Tinderbox Meetup April 23, 2023 Video: On ZettelKasten with Sascha Fast from Zettelkasten.de - YouTube

I once wrote about Ahrens’s note categories at zettelkasten.de. An improved version is on GitHub: From Fleeting Notes to Project Notes · flengyel/Zettel Wiki · GitHub.


My notes from the session can be found here: Tinderbox Meetup April 23, 2023 Video: On ZettelKasten with Sascha Fast from Zettelkasten.de

BTW, Ahrens will be our guest contributor on May 7th: Tinderbox Meetup - Sunday, May 7, 2023: Connect with Sönke Ahrens live, the author of How to Take Smart Notes - #4 by dominiquerenauld