Zettelkasten thoughts

Hi all, if anyone out there is working on developing a personal Zettelkasten system, the following article that Soenke Ahrens just posted on Twitter is worth a look.

Is anyone out here Zettelkasting?

What works for you? What doesn’t?

Do have a system? How do you define its inter relationships?


I’m developing a bit of a process. Thanks for the link, I’ll check this out and then get back once I have something more complete to share.

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I do use a modified version as the foundation to my more “traditional” PARA system.

In Ahrens’ terminology, I capture several “fleeting notes” and “literature notes” (e.g. from meetings, from articles I’m reading, etc.) as blocks in my daily notes page. But converting these into permanent notes seems like a daunting task, and I’m wondering what methods people use?

One thing I couldn’t figure out yet is: what best matches a Zettel in Roam? A block or a page?

Linking in Roam is for pages. So, maybe it would make sense to create one block only pages. But it seems to be killing Roams features!

I’m currently mixing things, creating more generic, topic oriented pages and nesting more specific notes. Sometimes it ends up generating new linked pages.

Trying to keep a natural behavior, not stressing too much about the method…

What are your experiences saying you about your processes? What do you guys think about the above?

I like using blocks for Zettels

Conor is becoming evangelical on exactly this, by the way. At first I think people are used to using pages because maybe that’s the Wikipedia

But blocks are more reconfigurable, their structures more flexible

I use pages as “hubs”, still… but trying to treat blocks as the atomic level on which to Zettelkast feels more powerful.

Possible exception: once something starts to feel like a strong opinion, I might give it a page name


Thank you for your comments, @mattbrockwell!

I noticed Roam doesn’t link pages if only blocks are referenced. This way, the graph overview diagram cannot show the relations between pages/blocks/zettels.

Doesn’t it affect your Zettelkasten implementation? I find the graph overview very useful when I’m navigating through a knowledge chain… but I wanted to know about other people experiences (not) using it.

Got it!

Yes, I can see how if you want to use the graph view to surface the connections more clearly, especially the second order connections, that would give you a fluid window.

I’ll have to think about this some more! thanks for reminding me of the graph view, especially applied to particular pages, seems like it will continue to have a valuable role.

Just keep in mind that using blocks makes it difficult if you ever want to export Roam to another database like Obsidian, which only has “pages”.

I had the same view until I realised that’s the whole point. You need to “chew” your fleeting and literature notes and create permanent notes (including keywords and connections to other notes) from the ones that you find worthy.

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I think the problem with blocks is that they are connected to a page. As zettels, I think they need to be stand-alone notes, “floating” and with multiple connections (keywords), but otherwise uncategorised (not connected to a page).

Maybe put all zettels/permanent notes under a [[permanent notes]] page.

Where did you see/read that? Please share a link if you can, I am curious.

I like the idea of permanent notes as blocks, but since every bracketed reference becomes a page, and you are encouraged to use these references liberally, creating a page for your permanent thoughts does not strike me as an overkill.

Hi, I can’t find the reference tweet where I saw him write about “block level thinking” as being of primary importance, but if you search Twitter with

“From:@Conaw block reference”

You’ll probably get a broad sense of his thinking on this.

Note, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using page titles for Zettels… works fine. I wouldn’t say there’s anything wrong with that… It’s just that careful use of blocks seems to unlock some capabilities that pages don’t have. Especially with the new functionalities around copying them en masse.

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I’ve wound up using a sort of combination in some of the zettels I’ve been making for my current research project. I use declarative statements or questions for each page name, and then try to keep each page relatively short with some metadata for related projects/notes at the top. When I want to refer to an idea, when the reference is a statement I use the page name; when it’s a supporting block for the statement I use the block.

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I like your approach, is really interesting, so “Sonke Ahrens”. Can you please give us some examples of actual pages and blocks madam? Some screenshots would be perfect. I’m trying that same technique to name my pages or zettels or ideas or permanent notes, name them with questions or “article tittles” but is difficult. Can you extend this a little bit more, it would be very valuable for us.

Here’s a screenshot as an example. This is an “evergreen” note that I made recently. When I need to say literally “The starling equation is governed by hydrostatic and oncotic pressures,” I use the page reference. This comes up as part of constructing larger arguments and for an eventual writeup. I also use block references to describe the specific equation (usually by referencing the equation, and then applying the children as well if it makes sense).


Thank you very much, that opened my mind a little bit more. Now I understand how to better implement that kind of naming and structure to my [[ROAM]]. An idea just came to my head, I’m going to try to put a complete zettel in the title, a short one of course, and use it as an embed page reference when writing a permanent note. The title will be the body of the note: interesting.

If you liked this idea I’d check out Andy Matuschak’s notes on this: https://notes.andymatuschak.org/z3XP5GRmd9z1D2qCE7pxUvbeSVeQuMiqz9x1C

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Thank you very much madam, I’m reading his notes and taking mines too, I’ve made a xml site map to be able to click all the links in an easier way.
Already read that note about api evergreen notes but I didn’t understand it quite well, until now, ok until I read your post here, thanks again.

Thank you all for sharing, it is insightful to see how others are using the method.

Here’s my workflow that I’ve iterated on and found has worked well for my personal situation:

  • I write down my fleeting and literature notes on the daily notes page.
  • At the end of the day, I review and process all my notes from the daily notes page. When I’m done, the daily notes page is empty.
  • I treat a page as an atomic concept.
  • I treat a block as a Zettel.
  • I allow multiple blocks (Zettels) to live in a single page (concept). I map this idea to Luhmann’s workflow of placing similar notes physically next to each other and sub-branching their IDs if they built on the same concept.
  • I connect my notes by linking heavily within the content of the note. When revisiting the note in the future, linking within the content helps me understand the context of the related note and where my head was going at the time of making the connection.

A few extra details outside of my main workflow:

  • I plan on using the concept of index pages as a gateway into important ideas where I will explicitly link to pages but I haven’t had the need to implement this yet.
  • I haven’t found a strong need for tagging or any type of metadata yet. I rely on the bi-directional linking for my connections and so far it has served my needs.
  • I’m enjoying the combination of Roam and Zettelkasten :slight_smile:

Keep in mind that the Zettelkasten’s definition has soft-edges and its makeup relies heavily on your context. This is how it organized itself to me after trying it out in Roam over a period of time and it will continue to evolve.