Kevin Quirk has started the 512KB club, a list of websites that are under 512 kilobytes in size. It’s a counter to the massively bloated web. There are real costs attached to bloated websites in terms of server, bandwidth and thus energy usage. There are lots of things that can be optimised by lowering the complexity of a website. Low-Tech Magazine has a cool website looking to radically reduce the energy used to provide it. Part of such optimisation is the basic size of the page loaded. And that is what the 512KB club focuses on.

My site isn’t minimalist, one reason being I run WordPress so every page you see here is dynamically rendered each time you look at it. But still, reducing a site’s footprint has been a side interest, as I’m curious about the various dimensions and potential actions for ‘greening’ a website that also provide a better experience to the reader and lower hosting requirements.

At GT Metrix you can analyse your website’s behaviour, and have a look at e.g. its size. My site came in at 980KB about double the limit for the 512KB book club (the mentioned Low Tech magazine comes in at 470KB). Going through the list of files making up that almost 1MB, I noticed that just 2 image files were the main culprits. All it took was optimising those two images (the header image, and a sidebar image), reducing both of them by over 90%. That alone more than halved the size of my site to 487KB.

Image file size optimisation should probably be at the top of my list going forward.

Skype started out as a peer to peer VoIP tool. Microsoft who now own Skype turned it into a centralised thing, with unfettered access for the US intelligence services, and further diluted the Skype name with Skype for Business which isn’t Skype at all (and doesn’t interact with ‘consumer’ Skype).

Today on the back text of a book I just bought I came across an endorsement by one of Skype’s founders, and I thought back to the conversation we once had in his living room. That made me ask myself the question:

Are there currently any VoIP software tools for individuals that work peer to peer as Skype was originally envisioned?

Now it maybe an easy question with an obvious answer, and I know there are standards for it out there. But are there any applications out there that implement P2P VoIP? If not, why not? Shouldn’t there be, as when Microsoft subverted Skype, they left a niche didn’t they?

This is a handy little webclipper that grabs a page and downloads it in markdown. Just yesterday evening I thought about making something that simply grabs the content of a page and stores it to an inbox folder on my laptop. So I don’t have to copy paste things myself. But it already exists. The clipper has settings so you can add things like the URL you clip from is incorporated in the saved markdown file.

Today in a conversation at the IndieWebCamp East 2020 someone mentioned the book Ergodicity by Luca Dellanna. I haven’t decided yet if I would want to read the book, but one thing did stand out: the book is not just available in various e-book formats, but also as a Roam-research graph. This means it’s available as JSON data file, where various parts of the book’s content are interlinked. This allows you to non-linearly explore the book.

This allows you to load the book directly into your note taking environment. If you use Roam research.
I myself wouldn’t want to load someone else’s book sized content directly into my own collection of Notions. Only stuff in my own words goes in there. But I do think it would be a great experience to go through an entire book like that. So I am curious to do something like that, separate from my own vault of notes.

Dellanne claims to have invented the future of e-books, with roam-books, but of course there’s a long history of book hypertexts where links are a key part of the content and experience (Victory Garden an early hypertext novel was published in 1987). Eastgate’s tool Tinderbox also allows multiple types of visualisation to let you navigate through (and automatically manipulate) a chunk of content, and it too is saved and shareable in a XML format. Then again, a Roam-book could be a website just as much, except for the graph view.

He’s now also sending out a newsletter published as a Roam-research file. I can see the appeal, with things like block transclusion and graphical representation. In Obsidian doing something like that would be a collection of small interlinked text files. Which basically is a …. website… you would send in the mail. As both Roam and Obsidian are only viewers. So that might be something, offer a newsletter in e-mail format, as a pdf or as a interlinked collection of notes. Different formats for different viewers. The added benefit is that loading a newsletter into your note-taking tool means you can immediately put it through your own summarisation / processing, throwing out the things you’re not interested in, basing additional stuff on the things you are interested in. Another benefit is that if you use generic link titles (e.g. things like [[Indieweb]]) the newsletter will automatically link to your own mention of that term (and to previous mentions of it in earlier editions of the newsletter). I don’t want to load another project on Frank‘s plate, but it sure does sound like something he might be interested in exploring.

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.