Over the past few weeks I have described how my usage of Obsidian has evolved since I first used in early July. This is the final post in the series. Where the previous posts described my personal knowledge management system, and how I use it for daily project work, task management, note taking, and flow using workspaces in this final post I want to mention a few more general points.

These points concern first my overall attitude towards using Obsidian as a tool, second its current functionality and third its future development of functionality.

First, what is most important to me is that Obsidian is a capable viewer on my filesystem. It lets me work in plain text files. That is my ‘natural’ environment as I was used to doing everything in text files ever since I started using computers. It’s a return of sorts. What Obsidian as a viewer views is the top folder you point it to. The data I create in that folder remains independent from Obsidian. I can interact with that data (mark down text files) through other means than just Obsidian. And I do, I use the filesystem directly to see what are the most recent notes I made. I add images by downloading or copying them directly into a folder within the Obsidian vault. I use Applescript to create new notes and write content to them, without Obsidian playing any role.
Next is that Obsidian allows me to rearrange how I see notes in different workspaces and lets me save both workspaces and searches, which means it can represent different queries on my files. In short Obsidian at this moment satisfies 3 important conditions for decentralised software: I own my own data, the app is a view, interfaces are queries. Had any one of those 3 but especially the first been missing, I would be exchanging one silo (Evernote) for the next. Obsidian after all is not open source. A similar tool Foam is. Foam is currently not far enough along their path of development to my taste, but will get there, and I will certainly explore making the switch.

When it comes to current functionality I am ensuring that I use Obsidian only in the ways that fit with those three conditions. There is some functionality I therefore refuse to use, some I likely won’t use, and some I intend to start using.

I refuse to use any functionality that creates functionality lock-in, and makes me dependent on that particular feature while compromising the 3 key conditions mentioned above. Basically this covers any functionality that determines what my data looks like, and how it is created (naming conventions, automatic lay-outs etc). Functionality that doesn’t stick to being a viewer, but actively shapes the way data looks is a no go.

There are other functions I won’t use because they do not fit my system. For instance it is possible to publish your Obsidian vault publicly online (at publish.obsidian.md, here’s a random example), and some do. To me that is unthinkable: my notes are an extension of my thinking and a personal tool. They are part of my inner space. Publishing is a very different thing, meant for a different audience (you, not me), more product than internal process. At most I can imagine having separate public versions of internal notes, but really anything I publish in a public digital garden is an output of my internal digital garden. Obviously I’d want to publish those through my own site, not through an Obsidian controlled domain.

Other functionality I am interested in exploring to use. For instance Obsidian supports using Mermaid diagrams, a mark-down style language. This is a way to use diagrams that can port to another viewer as well, and doesn’t get in the way if a viewer does not support them.

Mermaid is a way to describe a diagram, and then render it. Seen here both from within Obsidian.

Future functionality I will explore is functionality that increases the capabilities of Obsidian as a viewer. Anything to more intelligently deal with search results for instance, or showing notes on a time line or some other aspect. Being able to store graph settings in a workspace (graphs now all revert to the default when reloading a workspace). And using the API that is forthcoming, which presumably means I can have my scripts talk directly to Obsidian as well as the filesystem.

I’ve now been using Obsidian for 122 days, and it will likely stay that way for some time.

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4 reactions on “100 Days in Obsidian Pt 6: Final Observations

  1. This have been some interesting articles to read, thank you for sharing them.
    In addition I find inspiring to read from a person who has similar thoughts about using proprietary software.
    How did you end up with Evernote btw?

    • Originally you mean? It was similar to how I ended up with Gmail originally: reduction of lots of friction, and cross device seamless availability. The difference with now is that what Gmail offered me in 2004 and Evernote in 2010 have become much more common affordances and modular. Allowing me to rebuild the specific functionality that works for me in different ways. So where four years ago I wasn’t able to readily come up with well working alternatives for both my likes and dislikes w.r.t. Evernote, I can now address most of the bullet points I listed then. I’m now confident that I will have left Evernote (meaning I will have processed my notes archive there, as I am no longer adding anything to it since almost 3 months) by the time my subscription comes up for renewal.

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