A tour to my Zettelkasten note clusters

(Thanks for the attention from Hacker News; Can you kindly please follow me on Medium? I’m still way behind my goal of reaching 200 followers :D )

With the Zettelkasten method, your notes can naturally cluster. Not only are they visually appealing, these clusters also serve as an inspiration of creativity as they bump into each other.

I’ve been using Obsidian for 2 years. Here’s the graph view of my personal notes today:

May I take you for a tour?

The biggest cluster centers at one huge note, “Journal”. Every day, I append an entry that answers 3 questions:

  • What did I learn/achieve today?
  • Who did I talk to today?
  • How is today special?

These questions nudge me to notice the bright sides of each day, making COVID lockdowns more bearable.

If the day has witnessed something spectacular and I’d write a lot, it usually warrants a separate file.

A good habit I picked up from workplace is to keep notes for one-on-one conversations, which resulting into this huge cluster of “Chat with people”. Unless you write some scripts, text itself can’t jump out spontaneously and remind you to catch up with individuals. For this reason, I’d recommend using a “personal CRM” tool for managing relationships. A good starting point is this Notion template.

The “distinguishing between” tag marks notes where I learn concepts by comparison. These notes are generally disambiguation pages (or comparison tables) between synonyms. Exact themes vary from day-to-day topics (like lager-v.s.-ale) to technical concepts (like dummies-v.s.-mocks).

As a software engineer by training and by profession, I dig into the niche differences between many terminologies in tech. Therefore, the cluster of computer science is heavily entangled with “distinguishing between”. Prominent subcategories include DevOps, system design, DBMS, and computer network.

There are a lot of areas of research besides computer science, and I categorize these notes under the tag of knowledge. Some articles are about music theory, some are on nutritions, and yet some others deal with the topic of social psychology.

Knowledge regarding nutrition, exercise, and firearms are usually gathered on a curiosity basis as I bump into them living my real-world life. For this topic, I have a tag called “worldly matters”. Obviously, this is usually the tag that generates most practical value to others. interesting items include a list of services for which I need to update my address upon moving, a checklist of documents to gather for every tax season, and a collection of all my referral links.

Major slices of my life are devoted to the Chinese Comedy at Silicon Valley. Administrative duties and scripts I perform as a stand-up comedian compose separate clusters. In particular, the latter one overlaps significantly with the tag of humor, which I assign to jokes that are not yet forming coherent stories.

Ideas can be interesting but not funny. I called these mental sparks “shower ideas”. My recent blog post, Human tail is like tech debt, is a shower-time brain-child. By the way, I keep a waterproof notepad in my bathroom for quick reminders. The doorway effect apparently applies to shower curtains, too.

The last cluster I’d like to present is for reflections. It can be an article of retrospection, a strong opinion that I’d like to preach, or simply distilled conversations from chatting with people. This cluster shares many nodes with that of book reviews, which are usually published elsewhere.

I hope the ride has been entertaining! Hope to see yours someday.

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Tech writer with creative analogies. Website: https://myli.page | Donate: https://ko-fi.com/mingyli

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