Evergreen note titles are like APIs

When Evergreen notes are factored and titled well, those titles become an abstraction for the note itself. The entire note’s ideas can then be referenced using that handle (see Concept handles, after Alexander). In fact, this property itself functions as a kind of litmus: as you develops ideas in notes over time and improve the “APIs,” you’ll be able to write individual notes which abstract over increasingly large subtrees (e.g. Enacted experiences have incredible potential as a mass medium, Evergreen note-writing as fundamental unit of knowledge work).

Some effective note “API design” techniques: separation of concerns (Evergreen notes should be atomic), sharp titles (Prefer note titles with complete phrases to sharpen claims), and positive framings (Prefer positive note titles to promote systematic theory).

Related: Grounded claims, after Qian et al


Frederick, M. (2007). 101 things I learned in architecture school. MIT Press.

Conversation with Michael Nielsen, 2019-12-16

Similarities and differences between evergreen note-writing and Zettelkasten

My practice of writing Evergreen notes is heavily inspired by Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten practice and its contemporary advocates. I use a different term both because there are some distinctions and because I want to give myself space to explore ideas in this space apart from the culture surrounding Zettelkasten, which has its own prior values and proclivities.

Key similarities:

Key differences:

One final difference, this one a touch pointy: the primary purpose of my system is to develop ideas in my core creative projects. Most people in the contemporary Zettelkasten culture seem to use their systems primarily to write notes about others’ ideas. If they’re developing their own ideas with them, those ideas are an interesting hobby, not their core creative work. All this falls afoul of the issues around People who write extensively about note-writing rarely have a serious context of use. I don’t know how, exactly, but my context of use substantially shapes the note-writing practice.