Backlinks are links on a web page/note that list other web pages/notes which refer to it. Within my Digital garden, backlinks are critical in making connections between ideas. They are important because content does not always flow in one direction and knowing what links to a particular page can create a more informative context or open up new avenues of learning.

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The backlinks I create assist my Personal knowledge management and do a lot of heavy lifting in a Zettelkasten.

Backlinks are not hierarchical

If TopicA links to TopicB, it may not be obvious that there is a connection when looking at TopicB particularly as content in a Digital garden is almost always non-hierarchical. Instead of:

flowchart TD
TopicA --> TopicB
TopicB --> TopicC
TopicB --> TopicD

we have:

flowchart TD
TopicA --> TopicB
TopicB --> TopicA
TopicA --> TopicC
TopicC --> TopicB
TopicD --> TopicB
TopicC --> TopicD

It’s a lot of work to create and maintain all these backlinks and secondly, by simply writing and linking pages, the list of automatically generated backlinks can highlight connections between pages in unexpected ways which generate new ideas and relationships.

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To be useful backlinks must be automatically generated

Creating backlinks by hand gets old, very quickly. There two primary reasons for this are:

  1. Interrupting the Flow of Work has a Tax and the mechanical act of linking pulls you out of your thinking. That disjoint and shift of focus means it takes a moment to get back into the groove.

  2. If you change the name of a note you have to find all the backlinks from other pages and rename them. This makes it hard to be productively lazy.

I use Obsidian to manage my content and it automatically creates the backlinks for each page. It also shows my potential backlinks ie., pages which refer to the name of a page but which have not been explicitly linked yet.

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