Why I wont build obvious features for my Zettelkasten note-taking app

Here are the key reasons why I wont build the most obvious features for my Zettelkasten note-taking app

Why I wont build obvious features for my Zettelkasten note-taking app

At the moment, I'm currently building an app called Flowtelic. It's a passion project to solve a need that I have myself: I take lots of notes from books I read, but I have no workflow to store these into a sensible place.

Last year, I discovered the Zettelkasten method that helps you store your notes organically, focus on interconnections between other notes, and provides a high degree of discoverability. The existing apps in this space are pretty good, but failed my first need—developing the daily habit to process my literature notes so that I can build up my knowledge system over time.

So, I've decided to build my own.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

MVP of Flowtelic

I set out to build a minimum viable product to answer the following question:

What is the minimum set of features to prove that Flowtelic allows me to build a habit around my note taking

In a nutshell, I refer to Flowtelic as Zettelkasten meets Zero-Inbox. I want to apply the same thinking that we have with managing the influx of emails and focusing on creating high quality replies in a distraction free, focus mode.

What it doesn't do, but probably should

I have created the foundation of the app: a fast and effective Zettelkasten note-taking app. It is feature light and doesn't do a lot that the competition does. This is deliberate. At the time of writing, it doesn't do the following:

  1. Sync across devices
  2. Fully robust editor (e.g. copy and paste needs work)
  3. Import from other systems
  4. Full markdown formatting
  5. Image support
  6. Hashtag support

The list can go on.

Why I am not working on these

If I dedicate my attention to these features, then we'll only get what we already have. We'll only start competing on equivalence with the competition, and will fail at solving the original problem—to develop the habit of processing notes.

The important thing to note however, all these features are simply a box ticking exercise. Flowtelic must first prove itself as an alternative approach to the Zettelkasten note-taking system that challenges the status quo and provides an order of magnitude difference in benefits—that's when you start the box ticking exercise.

I want to create a product that my users are demanding that to improve because they love it so much

What I will focus on building

The next phrase of the MVP is to prove the habit forming aspect so that I can build up my knowledge system on a daily basis, rather than as a best effort in sporadic moments.

This means I need to enter back into Research and Development mode and create something truly transformative. While I'm desperate to fully launch and grow the product, it's a false truth if I believe that what I have is sufficient when compared with other apps on the market. It's not yet transformative.

Here is a list of what I believe will make Flowtelic an order of magnitude better than the competition:

  1. Organising fleeting and literature notes into small units of work
  2. Applying an Inbox-Zero style approach to sort these notes, then have a dedicated focus mode to organise them into the slip-box
  3. Create workspaces of notes so you can organise your thinking through the lens of a particular problem or question—fantastic for outlining blog posts
  4. Feedback loop to show the ratio of inbound notes vs outbound (stored in your slipbox) so you can make sure you're not spending too much time reading and creating notes and too little time processing them so they can be useful

Does that mean you can't use Flowtelic now?

You can absolutely use Flowtelic now! I've build just the number of key features required so that you can explore and start to record your notes. As an early adopter you'll become part of the community, you'll be able to learn and have a front row seat to improving your note taking journey.

You can use the application here:


All content is stored in your browser but you can export them.

My recommended approach for using it right now is to:

  1. Create collections for distinct areas of your learning
  2. Keep your notes small and mostly plain-text text only
  3. Link your notes with the `[[ link ]]` notation
  4. Export your collection (right-click the collection) often to have a safe and secure zip file containing your notes as markdown files—this is crucial so you can trust it and start adding your valuable notes
  5. Provide your feedback by Tweeting to me at https://twitter.com/Martin_Adams

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