YouTube as Zettelkasten

February 6, 2021

Is YouTube usable as a Zettelkasten of sorts? Is it being used that way? Similar to what I looked at for the social networks when asking whether they fit the model of a perceptron based neural network, this comes entirely down to whether the capabilities provided can be mapped, or naturally do map, to those required for the described workflow.

The ‘note’ here is the individual video. They aren’t restricted to being a sensible size, but they can be one. For instance, before it became huge, how Khan Academy used to be organized—playlist after playlist of single topic, short presentations, inter-linked to form coherent wholes. At the time the interlink was largely that he’d mention the title of a video when referencing it in the video itself, but later those links were added underneath.

Now, of course, we have the automated recommendation system, which creates linkages of a sort. Unstable ones that depend greatly on user action over time. But there is also some means by which video uploaders add links to related videos directly into the end of their video—and that is far more like a Zettelkasten in its idea of subsequent notes. Following these trails, one obtains creator curated journeys through their material.

Additionally, there are a semi-equivalent of indexed topics, in the form of content hashtags. Nor are either of these limited to a single creator. With vloggers and reply vlogs, etc., these take off and become the stage for entire works, fiction or otherwise. Some of those I’ve stumbled across were to my dismay, but the structure they use of heavily cross-linking with both hashtags and curated suggestions is enviable.

I’ve seen a lot of jokes about using YouTube to ‘download’ knowledge, Matrix-style, and there is so very much to that. I’ve used it myself to learn household repairs or electronics disassembly techniques, to familiarize myself with internal parts of mechanisms, etc. It’s not the same feeling as journeying through a Zettelkasten of words; the chunks are larger for one thing, and the engagement of mind differs. But I feel there are enough parallels to keep an eye on.

YouTube as Zettelkasten - February 6, 2021 - Kim Reece