2 min read

What Makes a Quality Zettel?

A quality Zettel should include an excerpt/TLDR and dimensionality in order to make it a more substantial artifact and to increase its reach. Dimensionality can be anything, such as a companion video or a featured image, which can give the same piece a different meaning.
What Makes a Quality Zettel?

Audio Companion

Recording 20230225172011

Written Piece

A quality Zettel is:

  • evergreen (not subject to peekaboo news of the day[1])
  • testable (scientific method, can be attacked by other ideas, can defend against other ideas, can evolve thank to external influence of other ideas)
  • idempotent (side-effect free[2])
  • linkable (a link offers non linearity, and dynamic reshaping)


Since publishing this initially, I have new thoughts on what makes a quality Zettel, and how to go about making one. With the last few months focused heavily on publishing,[3] I realized that the above definition is missing a number of key elements. The two that are most important are: excerpt/TLDR and dimensionality.

An excerpt simply put is a summary of what is in the Zettel. The role of the excerpt is to serve as the distillation of the Zettel, to highlight why it is valuable. The excerpt highlights the boundaries of the Zettel, establishing firm edges around an otherwise amorphous object. As a side benefit, this is arguably necessary for publishing as a good excerpt is second only to title in search results on places like Google/Bing/ChatGPT. Don't fight HTML/web spec if you don't have to!

Dimensionality is a bit more complex. Dimensionality is the depth of each individual Zettel. For example, adding an audio track, or a featured image adds detail to the overall piece. Dimensionality can be anything. It can be a companion video, a Codepen, a painting, whatever. Dimensionality is an additive process and makes each Zettel a more substantial artifact. Instead of expanding the idea space outward, you expand it by viewing it from different angles. Same piece, different meaning. Some Zettels will simply have greater reach than others, and by adding dimensionality through media there is a greater likelihood that the Zettel will be able to interop with another down the line.

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For example, this illusion picture has two dimensions. It is both a duck and a rabbit, even though the illustration did not change.

duck or bunny.png

Here's how I would go about making a quality Zettel with these stipulations in mind[4]