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Show HN: A highly opinionated, fully functional Obsidian vault (github.com/bramses)
258 points by _bramses 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 116 comments
A few months ago I noticed that I was quickly approaching my 10GB sync limit for my daily driver vault. I considered deprecating some of the heavier files and images, but I was worried how it would affect the integrity of my vault. Instead, I took the opportunity to think to myself -- what would the perfect vault look like?

I began to write down some of the key philosophies and strategies I use in my driver vault which led to indispensable plugins, which led to more indispensable philosophies and on and on it went.

I've chronicled these results into a fully working vault template that includes templates, dataviews, macros, scripts, and powerful but simple and intuitive structural elements.

This vault is truly a condensation of all of my knowledge pertaining to Obsidian (the README is very long), so please do give it a go! I promise you'll like what you see!

Hypothesis: people who use these “second brain” knowledge systems spend more time writing about using them, then actually using them.

Disclaimer: I use obsidian myself

After using several of these "second brain" apps & systems and ultimately creating my own "second brain" app, I agree with this, and the general sentiment behind it. This space is just a rebranded subset of self-help. It's the productivity porn market. Roam Research was the first to realize the cash gains to be made in this space. Their marketing hook took off, they got their VC handout, and they haven't been heard from since.

People who use these things are fooling themselves. I used to fool myself. We're not really achieving or producing and we're certainly not "assimilating knowledge." What we're doing is procrastinating. We're wasting time. We're struggling at our current, real endeavors, and we turn to a scapegoat: "oh darn, it's my knowledge management system that needs work; oh, it's just my productivity system that's just not efficient enough". So we find a nice game, a tool game [1], to: (1) distract ourselves (2) give us the feeling of accomplishment - "I'm taking second brain notes in a fun new app - I'm learning!".

For me, the first step to actually getting things done wasn't to optimize my productivity workflow, it wasn't to find the perfect knowledge management app/system, it was to...get things done. When I became dissatisfied with my work, when I hit a difficult obstacle with my projects, I felt pain, and procrastinated to avoid that pain. There was no secret cure. I just needed to realize that playing with these tools and systems is not getting things done - it's just procrastination.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=33135227

It's been quite a while since I disagreed with something this intensely.

I built my own "digital notebook" and use it literally every single day for almost everything I do. When I'm in the middle of a project, I use it to take notes, write down questions, organize my thoughts, and save useful web links. It's hard for me to overstate how critical this to is to my day-to-day life. My notes ARE the thing I need most in order to "just get shit done."

Yes, there are "tool fetishists" in this space, just like you'll find in any career or hobby. They get their enjoyment out of tinkering with these apps and cataloging the hell out of their notes. I'm not one of those which is why my app has practically no curation abilities. But I also think it's in extremely bad taste to shame those who apparently enjoy it.

Right but the important part is the notes, not the notebook. It could be notecards, google drive, text files in git, sqlite, whatever. The fact that you take the notes and can find them later when you need them are literally the only two important factors here.

The "fooling themselves" element is in thinking adding sophistication beyond two those things improves the usefulness of the notes themselves. And there's some personal flexibility here too sure; if you truly can't ever find a note when you need it and adding a tagging system gets you there then that's useful additional sophistication.

I think the point they were trying to make, definitely the one I'm making, is that the line between useful system and hobbyist tinkering is a lot lower than people want to think, because they want to ascribe purpose or benefits to their tinkering. Which is where the productivity porn comes in, a framework that only values things if they are or contribute to "productivity" demands everything be productive, demands that you justify it.

But truly and honestly if you have a flat folder of text files and grep you have what you need and beyond that is tinkering. That's what people are fooling themselves about.

Yes, thatis the problem The post mentions over two dozen theories/frameworks/techniques that amount to useless sophistication. Taking notes is the point, you don’t need two dozen theories

> After using several of these "second brain" apps & systems and ultimately creating my own "second brain" app, I agree with this, and the general sentiment behind it. This space is just a rebranded subset of self-help. It's the productivity porn market. Roam Research was the first to realize the cash gains to be made in this space. Their marketing hook took off, they got their VC handout, and they haven't been heard from since.

Honestly, this is probably a good description of your situation, but certainly not everyone's. I use Obsidian every day and nothing you've written resonates with me. I dump things into the tool. I find those things when I need them. I'm much, much more productive as a result. Plus the sync is the best I've ever used. Works flawlessly every time on my Linux desktop, my Surface running Windows, my Chromebook, and my Android phone.

Maybe your work doesn't require these tools?

Did you fuss over the differences between obsidian and one note and google keep or whatever? Or did you just decide one day you need to note things down more and found obsidian and stuck to it?

If there’s any productivity gain to be had here, it’s because you chose to write things down in a system you can search. Maybe the hyperlinking works, maybe it doesn’t. I’ve met a decent number of productive smart people and have seen zero correlation between note taking styles (or even note taking at all) and their outputs.

I used to think this way:

> If there’s any productivity gain to be had here, it’s because you chose to write things down in a system you can search. Maybe the hyperlinking works, maybe it doesn’t.

I realized that my system was useless if it didn't do 100% of what I needed. Sure, search usually works, but sometimes I need linking. If I'm taking notes on a paper, search doesn't help - I need a link to the paper and convenient storage.

> I’ve met a decent number of productive smart people and have seen zero correlation between note taking styles (or even note taking at all) and their outputs.

That's because needs vary widely. My father ran a business doing things like installing water and power lines. He didn't have an elaborate notes system, but he had one that was elaborate enough. Some things had to be captured and had to be retrievable with certainty. It had to be something he could do from the inside of the backhoe.

I'm an academic. My needs are vastly different. His system would not have helped me at all.

I'm not denying that some people waste time on these things. I don't see that as an argument that all of these apps and systems are useless though.

Most smart people I know are academics though. Professors. They’re actually notorious for NOT taking notes! Except maybe when they’re writing a book or something.

The Zettelkasten method was created initially by a professor to do his research work.

> Except maybe when they’re writing a book or something.

This may be part of the difference; Luhmann wrote like 70 books or something.

Well, some of the smartest I've known to take notes e.g. Dijkstra and Knuth.

I think I found the easiest solution to this. I only change my knowledge management system at the top of the year. Whatever I decide on for that year, I stick to it, whether I like it or hate it by June.

Some years I use filing cabinets. Some years I use OneNote. Some years I use Markdown. It all depends on the collection of tasks I expect to be doing.

At the end of the year, I make everything (worth saving) a PDF, no matter what system I used - because they're very utilitarian. Then I decide if I'm going to keep using the same system. For the last three years, I've used self-hosted GitLab exclusively, even for non-code stuff.

I doubt I'll adopt Obsidian next year, but if you don't already have a system, it's probably as good as any.

I find archiving them as PDFs inconvenient to grep unlike plain text.

> (1) distract ourselves (2) give us the feeling of accomplishment

I agree. A lot of personal systems like this are indeed unconsciously used to (1) and (2). This is especially the case when you try to implement a very complex+generic one like this vault. I can guarantee 90-99% failure, albeit you may learn something along the way !

Also, it is not a "BRAIN". It is worth stressing that because It is a bad and misleading name (almost as bad as PKM)

But you are generalizing too much. The problem is the "just" in your "it's just procrastination."

The thread is pointing to many benefits. For ME, it is not even about productivity anymore. It is about "healthier" work environment (in research-intensive activities).

More than that, It is not even about "ME" anymore. It about creating better tools and systems in the long term. Obsession and Fooling-ourselves (at the "MICRO" level) is exactly what feeds that larger MACRO evolutionary dynamics.

> We're not really achieving or producing

Speaking of fooling-ourselves, I feel that getting things done itself (at any cost) is also sometimes just a way to distract ourselves and give us the feeling of accomplishment, and also to "avoid that pain" (all three you cited). We may also be fooling ourselves at occasions here too in our rush to “producing” and "“producing” stuff. just saying…

And just like that we've hit infinite regress and the core existential questions to it all, why must we accomplish, is it to be happy? Accomplishments are finite and can die/fade away/stop, so placing your worth and peace of mind on them is subject to eventual failure and maybe even a crisis down the road, you'll keep wanting more, Kiarostami once said, responding to if he feels proud of his work, something to the affect of, 'proud is too big a word for humans'. So what is curation then? Is a PKM just a technology to help us remember? Again, to what end, I suppose it's all just instrumental

a page from Lao Tzu comes to mind

> Those who think to win the world > by doing something to it, > I see them come to grief. >For the world is a sacred object. >Nothing is to be done to it. >To do anything to it is to damage it. > To seize it is to lose it.

That seems like a bit of an overreaction. Sure, tools are not magic and you should not use tools for the tools' sake but because they are useful.

Same with, say, ring binders: Having some is probably better than none, but if you have one hundred you have other problems.

Same for hammers, pans,.... Buying them won't magically teach you skills, but if you want to learn skills tools will help you.

People should start using these apps as simple note-taking apps and extend/adapt them based on their needs, rather than diving head-first into these complicated methods/systems to form a "second brain".

If you go straight into OPs system you'll spend way more time trying to figure out how it works (and it might not even work for you) rather than getting actual work done

Start simple. Write a few notes. Maybe you need to draw things: add Excalidraw. Maybe some note structures are similar: consider Templater.

> People should start using these apps as simple note-taking apps and extend/adapt them based on their needs

This. I'm a hardcore Obsidian user both at work and at home, and I started both vaults from absolutely nothing - no user scripts, no organisation, literally no plan at all. Since then, they've evolved and optimized in radically different ways. Taking someone else's "system" is just a way to fool yourself into thinking you can be more productive than you are; you have to find that for yourself and what works specifically for you.

My personal vault is geared much more toward organizing creativity, with a little bit of task-oriented stuff and technical documentation, while my corporate vault is heavily schedule based and contains mostly tactical information, meeting notes and thoughts, etc. For it to be a "second brain", you need it to model your brain - and I work very modally. I have a "work mode" and a "non-work mode" that order things pretty differently, and it shows in the hierarchies and organization of both vaults.

Interesting that you have so few vaults. I have dozens of them, each for a different project, or for different aspects of the same project. The way folders work in Obsidian is quite bad, when I am creating a new note it insists in putting it into the top folder instead of in the folder where I am currently in, so I prefer to keep it flat. I am just using the default setup and cannot be bothered much with plugins. There is no proper API documentation either.

You can choose the default location for new notes: Settings -> Files & Links -> Default location for new notes. This doesn't even require a plugin.

Thank you, works great! Any idea how I can make this the default setting, instead of needing to set it for each vault?

Looks like I am not the only one who would like that: https://forum.obsidian.md/t/custom-default-vault-settings/66...

Exactly. At its core Obsidian and similar apps allow you to make notes, connect them easily _and search for them_ using GUI. That's it. That is how I try to explain what it does to someone interested. These modern apps are a huge step forward, if someone prefers emacs or vim/fzf - no problem.

This is the same advice any greybeard gives newcomers to Emacs. Just start small.

“Let structure emerge” is my rule of thumb any time I pitch Obsidian.

This is the note-taking version of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) in practically any hobby, e.g. camera bodies and lenses for photography, instruments and software for music. After the initial honeymoon phase, you realize that achieving that idyllic lifestyle advertised by the new gear actually requires work instead of purchase or download. The only antidote is to actually start using the damn thing.

Nothing wrong with that imo. Lots of great skills are picked up from trying to organize thoughts like this.

Hypothesis: people who've obsessed over "knowledge gardens" tend to be great at sustaining documentation

I've dubbed this "theoretical productivity"[1] and also fall into this trap. I keep thinking that just moving to a different app/system with X feature will make this 100x better for me. That goldilocks app/system doesn't exist and is always a moving target. Spending time on solving these problems mean I'm not thinking/writing/completing the things I really want to, hence the "theoretical" nature.

1: There's a good chance this is already a term with a different meaning. If that's the case I don't mean to rip it off, it's just what sounded good at the time.

I think I historically suffered from a form of this: I loooooved setting up for a project but didn’t really like doing the project. Whether it was downloading the resources and setting up a workspace for a code project or setting up a physical work area for some electronics work.

Same! And that's why I'm now a DevOps engineer. In my role, DevOps primarily means automation and pipeline creation, working with teams to build and release their apps reliably and effectively. For me, it really scratches the itch of "setting things up".

Gosh I love dev ops. Smaller company so I have many hats. I saved a whole week of “clean up CI/CD and make the integration tests 3x faster” as a “treat” for the last week before vacation this year.

Wow I'm glad to hear such people exist. I dread doing DevOps though I really value good DevOps setups. I just want to write my code.

People like you are heroes in the workplace to me. I hate anything devops related because I feel like it takes time away from the stuff I'm trying to do, so I appreciate anyone who does it!

It is also simply called procrastination, bike shedding, yak shaving, fear of success, fear of failure, Forest of the Infinite [0], list goes on... depending on the context.

On the other side, as we are already using computers, we might sometimes want to explore and get lost in this forest of problems and possible solutions and have some fun.

After all, as Douglas Adams put it:

“(..) a nerd is a person who uses the telephone to talk to other people about telephones. And a computer nerd therefore is somebody who uses a computer in order to use a computer.”

[0] https://gameweld.medium.com/fractal-tasks-and-the-journey-th...

I've really only dipped my toe into what Obsidian is capable of (very few plugins), but I took it up a month or two ago as a sort of minimal-resistance place to do simple but interlinked text mind dumps, and for that use case I've come to enjoy it more than I thought I would.

Thoughts that were dissipating into the ether now increasingly get written down there, which frees up mental bandwidth for other things, which has translated in increased motivation to actually do the things I'm writing about.

I'd tried doing similar things with Apple Notes and Bear in the past, but it never stuck very well and I didn't find myself revisiting notes too often. Something about Obsidian has worked better so for though and I'm not sure what it is.

That said, I could see easily getting lost in the weeds and "overmanaging".

Hmmm! Please don't discourage them. I actually feel I should write a lot and just put it out. What I have learnt the most are from other people, comparing them, "stealing" from them and modifying them. There should be more opinions, and ideas.

I like it when people feel good about what they do, spend a few minutes each weekend and then in months or even years, they publish it. Or just publish as you go on. I also like "work-in-progress" in the wild.

I think there is an ultimate unproductive productivity local minima there somewhere. I suspect if someone kept a knowledge base of productivity hacks it would tend towards recursive collapse.

That's definitely a bias. Lots of people use Obsidian or other solutions, and most of those people don't write about it.

This happens a lot :)

- Look at the endless threads in /r/fitness discussing the 0.01% gain of getting the exact rep range right vs likely just going to the gym.

- you can browse /r/language for days and prepare yourself fully for the day you actually begin ... learning a language

It's a type of productivity illusion, I think there is just a greater overlap of this community with HN.

That being said, I highly recommend obsidian to anyone, it's a great place to journal, and capture ideas. But just start typing, and don't worry too much about organization (ironically this is the biggest benefit of the tool).

I agree with you. I take a hell lot of notes and I still don't fully understand what the OP's post is really about. I don't understand the second brain philosophy at all.

I disagree in terms of my own actual usage, after the initial excitement, but that is a real danger. That said, the most beneficial usage of my notes system has been the flat "tech notes" directory of tagged files on how to do various twiddly computer things (steps and commands to "get X to work"). I used Obsidian briefly but find abandoned it for just the markdown, vim, and a helper python script to search tags.

Thats funny to me because my main gripe with Obsidian et al is this Reductio ad absurdum down to unformatted text as the central organizing principle of modern knowledge. Rich text, screenshots, video snips, audio, etc are shoehorned in and don't quite fit. Give me a better organized system of Infinate canvases of whatever I want to throw in there over a souped up html file any day.

I get by with links - either URLs or just file paths (and I have a vim short cut which passes the file name to "open" on OS X). Not great for everything - inline math for example. I just write raw LaTeX and pretend some tool will eventually come along and render things nicely if I want.

So, a file system?

If all the files are open at the same time in the same canvas with multilayer deep linking , easy search, great graph summary and diagnostics and tools like local OCR and speech to text etc then sure yes a file system sounds fine.

I disagree personally, but I don't use Obsidian like most people. The majority of my notes just have a couple sentences. I mainly make notes about new project ideas, cool things I find online (eg. a note for each new programming language I discover), and cheatsheets (eg. a bash scripting cheatsheet).

I probably spend 15 minutes total writing in Obsidian each week. I'm not writing down things that I don't have difficulty remembering or things that are very easy to search for online. Obsidian is a place for me to store info that I might want later but would have difficulty finding/remembering again.

I am inclined to agree. I have switched to simple journaling, and so far it's been better. Basically I just journal every day with one file for every day, no branching out into other files. Then I have a "timeline view" which let's me quickly see what I journaled in the past. This helps me focus on actually writing something down instead of thinking about naming things etc. So far it's great. And I can still use ripgrep to find all notes/occurrences with e.g. some specific word quickly.

It's almost the Noguchi filing system, in a way. Since you typically need to access things closer to the top/front which will be the most recent.

Exactly! It actually has helped me because I've quickly seen things I wanted to do e.g. last week but somehow forgot. But I still can rest knowing that everything is archived.

I use it, I don't write stuff outside hn comments lol. Obsidian is very cool, like onenote but more siliconvalley-ish and smarter.

I hate that I needed to install flatpack for it but that is literally my only complaint. Sadly, it can't replace a text/code editor lime sublime which is where I dumped a lot of non-note knowledge. If only sublimetext copied some of this stuff for markdown.

In school,I never, ever took notes unless threatened. I mention that to show you how even someone like me liked Obsidian.

> people who use these “second brain” knowledge systems spend more time writing about using them, then actually using them.

All people is far too strong of a claim I think, though if you'd said (or in fact mean) many I might agree.

Is systems attract people who feel they need a better system surprising though? Or is it surprising we hear most from those who go on to spend much of their time talking about systems?

I think there are many who have and use a second brain effectively, but perhaps most don't know that term.

Apple notes is good enough for me. Can Obsidian users defend why not simply use Apple notes ? Learning curve and friction way lower

I don't use a Mac, so Apple Notes is not available to me.

Some people are several times better at configuring these things in the same amount of time.

Anyone organized enough to leverage such a system doesn’t need it!

This was really fun to read without know what "obsidian" is and I can happily report that by the time I got to the end I still had no idea what it is.

A ha, found it on another website:

> Obsidian is a Markdown-based note-taking and knowledge base app.


I created a PR to add a note similar to that, and a link to the Obsidian web page.

I thought it was going to be about Fallout New Vegas.

I was a little disappointed, as I thought it would be instructions on how to make actual, physical vault from obsidian. I made a knife from obsidian. It’s brittle but very sharp. I only really use it to open envelopes.

Ok - I want details, youtube video and how to guide :-)

How about jello, paper and bismuth?


(not all at once)

I thought it was a new Minecraft block ;)

The founder of Obsidian is a former Minecraft modder.

Obsidian is a TiddlyWiki[1] alternative ;)

While TiddlyWiki is both a Wiki and a personal knowledge database, I am also using it as a basis for my personal website about ADHD[2].



Main feature of Obsidian is that unlike TidlyWiki it can save.

Of course Tiddly Wiki can save.

Otherwise, how would one edit it?

Aside from the HTML quine saving mechanism, there's a Node.JS auto saving version, Tiddly Desktop, and multiple other versions tailored to specific needs

This is wild. I use Obsidian.. as a bunch of folders with text notes. The simplicity of the system is what works for me. But awesome to see somebody take the exact opposite approach.

i used to try to create obsidian workflows, but i found them very challenging to keep up. i used to think i wanted configuration for my note taking so I could capture all the ways I wanted to interact with the information i stored. Even though i initially rejected it, i have ended up embracing logseq and it’s seemingly odd way of working. I have grown to love the daily journal being front and center as I find it removes mental overhead when it comes to figuring out what to take notes about. I just put everything in there! I don’t think, i just take notes. When i store information, i write some contextual information to help me retrieve it the next time i look for it. When i search and can’t find it right away, i add more context to the note to help me find it faster next time. I think it works for me because i don’t like the pressure of writing a structured note, but when I do take the time to write, it’s because i am excited about it and I end up streaming my consciousness in an almost blog like post (as I am doing now, i love writing about note taking). I work at an OSS company so fortunately all my notes I publish online: https://breadchris.com and i find it so freaking liberating to be able to share my haphazard ideas with others lol.

having spent a decent amount of time looking at this stuff, my biggest recommendation is to try things out for a bit, and find habits that stick. I found a way to make note taking addicting, and other people i’ve got on the band wagon have found it addicting as well so I think logseq is a worthwhile thing to try out. I haven’t put it together yet, but I would like to put together the workflow (more like a mindset, less workflow) that I follow.

Good luck to those looking for a way that works for them for taking notes! I would love to hear about what people have tried, I have a lot of ideas to share.

Tried your website on Chrome 108.0.5359.125 (Win 64-bit), and it displayed nothing but a teal background, until I turned off the Decentraleyes 2.0.17 extension (which was reporting and blocking 542 locally-injected resources). FYI.

life well lived is a series of personal obsessions shared without expectation of an audience.

well done.

may an audience manifest around your knowledge of knowledge.

Yes, I love this. I have started to just share openly and since the last few years, I have even removed all comments, analytics, social-shits from most of my websites. I just don't worry about what others think. However, some people went out of their ways to find how to contact and there is always that trickle of emails thanking, or in most cases offering to sell something. :-)

Let's help and propagate more of this idea -- share your personal obsessions -- I might just get inspired.

I saved this quote, thanks (couldn't find an original reference as someone else notes). This resonated pretty well with the hours I've put into side projects, and the philosophy I try to maintain to keep moving forward.

> life well lived is a series of personal obsessions shared without expectation of an audience

I like that. Is that a quote or original?

I really like seeing how others use Obsidian. As an Obsidian user and a (neo)vim user, I think there's a lot of overlap in why you should invest just-enough-time to make it work for you.

Disclaimer: after 10+ years of vim and too much time customizing it, I ended up with LunarVim an I'm very happy with it.

TIL: https://github.com/IdreesInc/Waypoint

I feel like there's a huge amount I don't know about Obsidian after reading just a few files in this repo.

One thing I miss after switching from macos to Linux is Alfred. It seems like this setup eliminates a ton of friction, but it might be difficult to replicate when using Android + Linux

I'm obviously still going to try because this looks amazing. Great work!

This is indeed highly opinionated, but one choice in particular may block half the potential userbase — stopping to think on capture:

Zettelkasten "Unique Note Creator"

- Is this note atomic?

- What will I link it to?

Stopping to ask yourself where to file things is likely to cause half of users to not capture them at all.

- - -


The philosophy overview examples suggest this is using ISO8601 as the unique filename, which can be great, as then the notes are connected by time which will tend to group things with things worked on at the same time.

But the default workflow suggests author is using Luhman plugin for Zettelkasten Luhman IDs (effectively a `1a2b3c` nested outline numbering scheme) which require a conscious organization at capture time:


This delights one class of filer, while breaking train of thought during capture for another class of filer.

I have not tested this vault myself, as I have my own "highly opininated workflow". The main thing I do is try to make capture and self-organization frictionless, then rely on a minimal structure (auto topic categories + time) to find or "garden" them later.

- - -


Very roughly, I capture any manual notes of interest using Daily Notes, while capturing any web reading of interest using Markdownload extension that slurps the original page into Obsidian as a stripped down Markdown `.md` file, where filename is ISO8601 + URL Title.

I classify those using Google topic classifier v2, and recently am working on adding summaries with GPT-3 text-davinci-003, but recursively, where for articles more than 3500 tokens I'll summarize each subsection then summarize the summaries for an overall summary.

This is brilliant. Thanks for this, I'm going to be looking around to see what I can steal and improve mine. I have crashed Obsidian so many times when I tried to load up everything. Here is my most current implementation;

- Vault (Home / Personal) is about everything for our family, and I. This is a folder inside Dropbox. So, we have everything there. Suddenly at a hospital, and the wife said, bring out the first list of vaccinations when our kid was born -- bam, I got it. :-)

- Vault (Work) is the Google Drive Folder that I have everything about our Company. These days, most of my work is just writing, and more writing. They are good archives and I don't have to re-say or say a little with the writings as a backup for async reference for anyone.

- Vault (dev folder) is usually shared by Sublime Text and Obsidian. These days, I'm left with just writing more and more in MarkDown either as content, documentation, or more contents that gets converted to other outputs.

To maintain sanity, I have very few must-have plugins and the current vaults are all on "Minimal" themes with different color schemes making it easy for me to just toggle my Vaults. I once tried to maintain a common ".obsidian" folder and symlink to it but that was a bad idea - the vaults are better off mostly being unique with shared preferences.

For the notes management I have PARA[0] at the root and everything inside them, with few rules broken to make it easier for sharing, especially with the work content.

0. PARA (Projects, Areas, Resources, Archive) - here is an article with details - https://fortelabs.com/blog/para/

>To maintain sanity, I have very few must-have plugins and the current vaults are all on "Minimal" themes with different color schemes making it easy for me to just toggle my Vaults. I once tried to maintain a common ".obsidian" folder and symlink to it but that was a bad idea - the vaults are better off mostly being unique with shared preferences.

My solution to maintaining seperate vaults for personal/work notes has been to make a sandbox vault where I can test/configure plugins and if I'm happy with the result I run a little script that I can point at a "real" vault that:

* backs up the current config of the target vault incase I screw up

* `rsync`s the sandbox .obsidian and meta folders (containing templater templates etc.) to the target vault

This leaves me free to experiment with plugins without getting in the way of my day-to-day notetaking.

This is indeed a good idea. I think I will make a template with changes to the OP's idea, make it simpler, add mine and I can have it as a starting template for my use.

Great addition! Like others, I find it helpful to review how smart people are using Obsidian and related tools to create a second brain. I know it’s popular to critique these posts as onanism when we should just “get things done”, but Obsidian really has allowed me to accomplish all sorts of productivity flows that I’d have needed custom software for previously. It’s OK to wax about your favorite tools when you’re actually using them :)

One thing I’d note is that language models like Chat GPT really do seem to me to be the next frontier in productivity apps. The author mentions using it to simplify search, but you could also imagine a model that recommends related notes in your Zettelkasten or automatically creates links to relevant Wikipedia pages, etc. It’s an exciting area and I hope the author shares what they uncover next year!!

Thanks for sharing! How long have you been working with it? My biggest issue these days is that many tutorials or guides seem to be written at a point where the setup is still fairly new and not really tested thoroughly. Some drawbacks only materialize over time.

I try hard to take notes, but usually end up with a line or two. Maybe this is me, maybe the noise/information ratio of the meetings I am in - I do not know.

I use and like Obsidian but do not have enough substance to make it big.

One thing that I really, really miss in Obsidian is the ability to tag blocks. Not only lines, but whole blocks. This would be a fantastic solution for my 2/3/4 lines of notes - I would just go for daily notes and tag the blocks, and automatically merge them in a single page (per tag). I so much would like that that I am considering trying to write a plugin myself.

Use Logseq. it supports tagging blocks, and it also supports markdown or org formats.

I use org mode as my format and this has the added advantage of allowing all my source code blocks in my notes to be directly executable from emacs.

All my notes now also double as a Jupyter-like note books, but for any major language. I can even mix and match languages in a single note file.

Would you be so kind and give an example of such a tagged block? I had a look at the documentation and only found https://docs.logseq.com/#/page/how%20to%20create%20pages%20i... that does not addresses blocks.

EDIT: OK, it seems that tagging a bullet point also encompasses sub-bullets. I will look at how to create a page that gather blocks tagged with a particular tag.

Thank you for the pointer!

EDIT 2: this is really a good software from the limited tests I did.

It is oriented towards bullet points (that from blocks) and match much closer my note taking style.

I use Obsidian for things that I can't or don't feel like remembering. Whenever I take notes on subjects, I often find myself forgetting the notes I took quickly. I tried different methods, refreshing methods, and more. But I found that by just doing the homework or practice problems I would remember the information for years. I still use Obsidian for a lot of things, journaling, pictures, etc. But not for recording information that if it was really that important to me I would just remember myself.

I am in the same boat and this is why I have high hopes in tagging as I am more likely to remember a general tag that keywords of notes.

I have always relied a lot on memory and on documentation. My approach was that I need to know where to find things rather that always have the information handy.

This means that I look-up a lot (I started before the Google era and the relief digital search brings is insane) and end up remembering the really important things.

I sometimes find on Stack Overflow my own questions I forgot I asked and now have the same problem :) This is also why I like to follow-up on such questions, enhance answers etc.

Maybe try TiddlyWiki? Your block would be a Tiddler with tags, and if you want to see several blocks together, you can transclude them into a "larger" Tiddler.

Thank you for the suggestion, but this is already what I have with Obsidian.

The problem is that my notes, over say a day, are blocks of unrelated information (personal, work, technical, dev, ...) which in that case would go into a page I would need to look for.

What I saw in Logseq (sibling suggestion) is that it works in blocks and sub-blocks that I can tag. I will end with a daily note made of blocks I would have tagged that I would find in an "dynamic" page under the name of the tag.

>Visitors can meander around your thought garden [1], stopping to marvel at the hydrangeas, or beelining straight for the mini pagoda and water feature in the corner.

What good is a thought garden if visitors cannot offer feedback? There should be an ActivityPub interface to collect feedback and links to other gardens. Thoughts should be able to grow on their own. Otherwise, it's not a garden but a sculpture park.

[1] https://publish.obsidian.md/bram

Only did a cursory read and I love it already. I tried sharing my own thoughts a while back but it was a first pass kind of post, this is much more complete. I'll be digging into this later!

I use Obsidian with a few of the mentioned plugins but struggle to get more than a really well organized view of the various projects I work on. Obsidian is great for its flexible ways user can interact. And sometimes I wonder whether thinking too much in those various philosophies makes you think better thoughts, or just makes you bend your thoughts so to fit into the system.

I love how Obsidian has evolved and grown to such an extent that merely showing off what you do with it is enough in itself.e

Obsidian is still closed source, right? I thought they were talking about open sourcing it at some point.

I think they pledged to free it when they stop working on it, but that's about it. One of the developers posted a message[1] on their forums when they were asked about it, and their stance was pretty much "we don't see a good enough value in open sourcing our software". I am unaware of further developments.

[1] https://forum.obsidian.md/t/open-sourcing-of-obsidian/1515/1...

> they pledged to free it when they stop working on it

Source, please? To my knowledge, while this has been mentioned, they have not actually made such a pledge.

Ah, maybe you're right; I skimmed through the thread a long time ago and I think they said they would open-source it and write a privacy policy. I'm pretty sure they did write the privacy policy but I may have remembered incorrectly about the pledge.

It’s all just text files, though. There’s no risk of lock-in.

This is true for every note-taking app with an export functionality. And it really isn't good enough.

The entire reason you use Obsidian or Notion or Anytype or Capacities.io or Logseq, or anything more powerful than a set of markdown files in the first place, is that you care about the relationships between the notes and the rich functionality that comes with them - sorting, search, linking, reminders, etc. None of this is easily exportable into another app. The series of markdown files that make up Obsidian is not a substitute for the Obsidian software, nor are the relationships easily rebuilt in another app.

The difference between all the other Apps you mentioned and Obsidian is that in Obsidian, it it just a layer on top of your text files (Markdown) and do not ingest in its format.

For instance, with Notion, I have to be able to export that and figure out how I fit in to the next Awesome Note App.

What I like about Obsidian is -- I don't have to. The day I want to walk out, I just walk out and use the next tool that can look at my content and do its magic.

The caveat is, I make it my discipline not to use tool-specific features. For instance, Obsidian has a really nice Plugin called "Dataview", I use it at times but don't depend on it. I can walk out and nothing gets lost.

Own the content, then use whatever tool you like on top of your content.

If all you're using Obsidian as is a fancy markdown editor then of course you lose nothing. But the whole point of PKM apps is that they're more than a fancy markdown editor.

Without the tool, a Kanban board that remains as a bunch of scattered markdown files is worthless for its intended purpose, and not easily recreated in another app.

It's like, a Microsoft Word document is perfectly portable if you never use any of its formatting features and always save it as plaintext, but at that point is it really using Microsoft Word?

Obsidian vaults can be converted into formats that work with competing PKM tools. I swapped back and forth between Obsidian and an open source tool based on Visual Studio Code for a while.

If you use a subset of its features and don't rely on any particular plugins, yes, you can seamlessly convert between some tools — because in the end, it's just Markdown and some basic features like tagging and linking are shared.

"But my workflow is portable!" is really not a good response, when a workflow like OP's, or even one that depends on a few key plugins, becomes very much not portable. The more you buy into the ecosystem, the less portable your workflow will be. "Don't buy into the ecosystem" is not a reasonable take at all because that's the entire point of Obsidian over competition, the (mostly open-source) ecosystem that they have with the first-mover advantage.

Being open source doesn't help you much.

What will you do if they stop developing? Start maintaining the code yourself? Wait for others? Very few open source projects thrived after original author lost interest.

You’re moving the goalposts. The “sorting, search, linking, reminders“ features you initially mentioned are all easily available elsewhere. A highly specific Obsidian-specific workflow is harder to replicate, but everything you initially mentioned is pretty basic functionality.

The features may be available in the new app, but your existing setup will break. Your existing relations and notes will break if they used any Obsidian specific feature, of which there are plenty. Any notes you use to dynamically summarize/organize/sort/filter other notes will break, and probably can't be trivially recreated in whatever app you switch to.

The most basic type of links, links to other notes, will generally work fine yes. But what about links to headings? Links to blocks? Links to attachments? Embedded blocks? Embedded files? The more you've used Obsidian's features, the more stuff will break.

Searching by tags is trivial. What about searching by properties? By done/undone status? By note attributes, by tasks, by attachments, by block-level searches? What about filters?

The simplest use-case being, if I simply want to view the list of all undone tasks across a set of notes on a separate app, sorted by priority, as I can now on Obsidian? Not trivially possible, as far as I know.

Reminders and any calendar-like functionality are definitely not carried over across apps, either.

Like I keep saying, if you limit your functionality to just markdown basics, it'll work fine. Start using the exclusive features of the app or even just the tasks plugin and it's no longer so simple. Something like the Kanban plugin is just impossible.

This isn’t necessarily the case if you are back linking blocks.

Not sure I understand your point. There are pros and cons to open sourcing something - should we begrudge the Obsidian team the right to make money from their software, particularly when they’ve taken steps to ensure data portability? And saying that the advanced features the Obsidian team built won’t work without Obsidian is sort of circular, isn’t it? I reckon being able to walk away with your data gets you 90% of the way there.

Nobody owes you an open source text file-based note-taking app with advanced backlinking features, etc. Perhaps you’d like to set up an open source project yourself supporting Obsidian-like advanced functionality?

Open source != Free != Libre, I didn't expect to need to make that distinction. And of course, Obsidian is free to do whatever they want to do.

But primarily, my intention is to to advocate support for and investment in ecosystems/features around open-source alternatives like logseq and AppFlowy, and to discourage investment in the Obsidian ecosystem of plugins, primarily because of lock-in risk.

The investment you put into learning a piece of software isn't free.

This is an example of what I came to call a PKM Docker. Easily replicable setups for others. I have a feeling stuff like this could be useful for students where they use a per subject setup of sorts. Probably a terrible idea though.

I get more done in Emacs and org-mode, at this point.

I have to say that there is a strong ngmi energy in this kind of obsession.

What's ngmi?

Not Gonna Make It

At one point I tried creating what is Notion/Obsidian style system in 2013. I called it "living documents".

here's one of the last surviving screenshots of living documents version 1.


The system accepted RDF N3 triples and it queried Jena Fuseki database to render graphs with d3. You could introduce facts into the system with the three boxes at the top. if you changed them, they would autocomplete and change the graph view. You could insert references or links into the document by typing them. (not shown in the screenshot)

I have the code trapped in a JSBIN SQLite file. It's somewhere in here https://github.com/samsquire/jsbin It uses KnockoutJS.

Living documents v2 has a screen cast of it here https://github.com/samsquire/live-interface/blob/master/scre... I believe the shareable and transcluding features of Notion or Obsidian are similar. The screencast shows transclusion and programming language syntax detection with a beyesian classifier - the arbitrary insertion of documents into other documents and they all update in real time. It uses Pouch (and CouchDB) to synchronize data between tabs. It's written in AngularJs 1 so it's legacy and I couldn't get it working when I tried to get the code working.

Similar to this long README.md, my note keeping strategy is similarly to create GitHub repositories and edit README.md. In the top right of a GitHub README.md is a table of contents button which is only displayed as an icon. You can even search the headings. When I get to 100-500 entries I create a new repository and add a number to the repository name. This means I can share my journal whenever I get to a milestone and people can check for updates since my last journal by going to the next numbered journal. (For example, I shared "ideas" on HN in 2013 but shares of ideas2 ideas3 and ideas4 are yet to be shared around properly. The titles are all pretty similar.)

I keep my notes and journal in the open and public. My old wikidpad based wiki (samsquire/idea-wiki) is publically accessible on GitHub and my journal of 700 entries is available on GitHub.

I write in the open to add value. I am deeply interested in the mechanism of doing things and when it comes to code I am more interested in the structure of the code than the types. I write about futuristic software, architecture and desktop features, multithreading, parallelism, asynchrony and concurrency. I am currently working on a multithreaded programming language which has its own compiler that targets my switch based interpreter. It is a toy at this time but that's what my journal is filled with inspiration from.

I write about what I'm doing and what I plan to do and any thoughts I have along the way.

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