Tinderbox Meetup - Sunday, May 7, 2023: Connect with Sönke Ahrens live, the author of How to Take Smart Notes

Looking forward to the meetup.

Time: Sunday, May 7, 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


This one is going to be fun! Sönke Ahrens, the author of How to Take Smart Notes will join our meetup on May 7th. Let’s start a thread on what we’d like to review with him. The meetup is not for a couple of weeks. If you have the time, I highly suggest you grab a copy and give it a read.

1 Like

And the crucial question is … how many anglophones are going to be able to pronounce his name correctly? :wink:


In the Appendix of his book (2022, p. 149), Sönke Ahrens gives an example of a series of Luhmann’s notes. On a note numbered 9/8,3, Luhmann would have written: “Spirit in the box?” (p. 150) And on note 9/8, he would have noticed: “Zettelkasten as a cybernetic system.” (p. 151) Given that, my question could be: “What should be a slip-box if it must be able to resolve the “productivity problem” Luhmann was thinking about in his 9/8a (p. 152) when he writes about communication between a user with his or her notes?” Or, “What should be a digital slip-box to embrace such a complexity, I mean: what should be the interface between a user and notes in order to see the spirit in a box?” That’s exactly what the Tinderbox Attribute Browser helps me to resolve.


I have two questions.

  1. How does one avoid overwhelm? After a while, the Slip Box becomes massive and for me, it starts to become hard to wrap my head around all of the notes accumulated over several years.

  2. How does one catalyse revision? To give some context, I am not a formal student studying towards any specific qualification. I simply enjoy learning for the sake of learning, which is what drives me to read a lot of books. However, I find that it’s really useful to have some kind of practice that forces one to revise what one’s written in the past. For instance, for those familiar with Bullet Journalling, the process of migration “forces” this revision to happen. For me it’s been a game-changer. Migration happens when your journal gets full. You go through it, and transfer any useful insights into your new journal and discard the rest… It’s all by hand, and it sparks meaning-making and seeing the big picture like no one’s business (for me, at least)…Could there be a similar thing for a digital slip box, which, in a sense, can never ever get full? What could the revision catalyst be, in the absence of looming exams or papers to be written?

… I find that it’s really useful to have some kind of practice that forces one to revise what one’s written in the past. For instance, for those familiar with Bullet Journalling, the process of migration “forces” this revision to happen.

The Attribute Browser is your best friend! On this picture below, for example, the notes I take for my journal are sorted by dates.

I can also sort them by any attributes system or personal attributes I need. For instance, on the second screenshot, my notes are sorted by a user attribute I created: “Projet”. This attribute consists of several specific kind of journals I use daily: a professional journal, a research journal, and so on.

In this way, I can easily review my notes over the weeks from that angle, that changing perspectives, attributes: created, modified, tags, authors…

Thank you.

Looking at your process, I also suspect that part of the revision process, that helps plant things in memory and unearth relationships between notes, is the process of going through the notes and adding attributes. For instance, if this were my Zettelkasten, I know I wouldn’t add $Project as I create fleeting notes, for example. My focus in Step one would be - capture as quickly as possible. Step 2 would be - fill in attributes such as $Project, for example.
Am I right?

I want to borrow / steal ( :blush:) this idea from you. Other than professional and research, what are the other categories of journals that you use? It’s a great categorisation to have…If you don’t mind sharing …Thanks.

You’re free to create as many attributes as you need. For instance, you could create a $Fleeting attribute to sort your notes by “fleeting notes” or a $Review one to see what notes are to be reelaborated. Take a look at the Inspector too: you’ll find a lot of system suggestions.

1 Like

That is a useful side point there—adding metadata (i.e. an attribute value) fr sorting as well as for description.

Let’s assume you two types for notes (could be more), “fleeting” and “rev iew” and that a note is only of one type at any given time). Using string attribute $NoteType, you can easily seasrch/sort by a single note type.

If notes have multiple meanings you could use a Set-type attribute $NoteTypes. That’s find for display, especially in AB view or Displayed Attributes but less useful for sorting. If you want sorting as well, consider using both attributes and storing the primary type in the String attribute. Happily AB view, when showing a List or Set, lists a note under every category banner (discrete single value in list) where the note uses that category. So, a note with two values in its Set would list twice in the view, once under each discrete value.


No joke, I have over 500 attributes in one of my files. They all serve different purposes and evolve over time; some stay, some merge, and some go away; some are permanent and others are temporary (variables).


Is there a video of the discussion? Super-interested, as I invested in Tinderbox specifically to generate a Second Brain based largely on Ahren’s work.

Yup, there sure is: Tinderbox Meetup - Sunday, May 7, 2023 Video: Connect with Sönke Ahrens live, the author of How to Take Smart Notes.

Note, this session did not go into the specifics of Tinderbox, it was a deeper dive into the general approach to note-taking and what a “second brain” really means. It was pretty awesome. Nearly the end, I gave an example of how I’m using TBX not just as a “second brain” to manage people, events, concepts, terms, thought-leadership quotes, etc., but also as an output too, in this case producing social media posts. I’ll be hosting a call with my All Access patrons on Friday, https://www.patreon.com/tinderboxcourses.

1 Like