I just came across Introduction to Luhmann's Zettelkasten-Thinking. I agree with the author, Daniel Luedecke, on many things, but there are also many things I find questionable. Most of these have to do with the parallels between his Luhmann's usage of his card index and the principles behind the software by Luedecke. I still believe that Luedecke over-emphasize the importance of keywords. Under "Luhmann‘s Principle of Organizing his Zettelkasten," he lists "no categories," Linkage/Reference," "Tagging and Register," and then "Arbitrary Branching of Note Sequencing." While Luhamann had a register and sometimes used tags, he used direct linking as the main connecting organizing principle, as Luedecke also admits. In fact, tags were not even of secondary or tertiary importance, as far as I can see. And the register served just as a point of entering the net of links. Furthermore, the arbitrary branching is a direct result of Luhmann's conception of the links. It has nothing to do with registers and tags.
I don't know why Ludecke thinks that ConnectedText, which he lists under "Principles of Managing Notes: Links / References," has two problems, namely "Selective or specific retrieval of notes difficult" and "Limited scope of linkage, or at least impractical workflow for “multiple storage” and connections. ConnectedText has a very powerful search engine that allows you to drill down easily from a set of more than 10,000 notes to just two or three. And there is no limitation as to how many links you can create in any one page or the totality of the notes. I can only say I am baffled by these claims, as his "problems" are actually strengths of the program.
But, perhaps more importantly, it appears that Luedecke's Zettelkasten slows down considerably after just 1200 notes. As the author of this blog post says: "I am here with over 1200 Zettel and I am captured in this software. ... I want to change the software because searching became very slow." Daniel Luedecke answered: "I must admit that searching the database (Zettelkasten) is not extreme fast. One
reason is that I don’t use an underlying SQL database. But even with plain text search, performance might be increased. I’ll dig into this when I find some time."
I wonder what the performance would be with more than 10,000 notes, or even with 90,000 (which is sometimes claimed was Luhmann's number of notes). I am too old to ever reach 90,000 notes, but some people who read this won't be. Whatever other strengths Daniel Luedecke's software has--and I must say I find it intriguing--it does not come even close to replacing Luhmann's partner of communication because 1,200 notes are not even enough for the "critical mass" needed for fortuitous discoveries. On the basis of this alone, I would disqualify it as a serious contender in the note-taking field.
It might be said that even the best applications of today won't be around in, say ten or twenty years. I agree that this is probably true. Therefore, the ability of exporting one's notes from any program is important. Luedecke's program can do that. It "includes several plain text formats like CSV, Markdown or plain Text (or even LaTex, XML and HTML)." There are other popular note-taking programs that are woefully inadequate in this regard.
I really hope that Luedecke will be able to implement a database solution. Oh ... and the set of slides is interesting, not just for some of the copies of Luhmann's slips.
1. I have said nothing about the notion of "Zettelkasten-thinking," as I don't think there is such a thing. I have written before about "Zettelkasten-writing." It is not considered to be a good thing. See here. My thesis advisor used to criticize books and articles, in which he (you) could tell where one index card ended and another one started.