In my recent post about bringing slides home to my own server and domain, I mentioned Speakerstack.net. On their site they mention completely hosting everything yourself, but the site afaik never points to anything explaining that. It does provide as I described the means to upload your presentations there.

During the weekend I reached out to Cliff, the developer behind Speakerstack. He gave me the link to the WordPress plugin (in beta) he created, which allows you to do everything yourself in a WP instance.

I took a look at the code and what it does, while providing an admin console to do so from within WP, is:

  1. Take a PDF and send it to ConvertAPI (provided by the Lithuanian company Baltsoft), to convert the PDF into jpg images, one per slide
  2. Take those jpg images and put them in a slider, using Kevin Wheeler’s Slick Slider

You need a ConvertAPI key to approach it, which is easy to arrange.

I will probably test drive this plugin in a separate WP instance, and if I’m ok with it I will use that as my personal ‘Slideshare’ place. I may also consider going with just the conversion and the slider bits, as uploading my presentation PDFs through WordPress and managing everything there seems a bit overdoing it, if I also have direct access to the back-end of the hosting package and could upload everything in bulk. Then again, bulk is only a consideration at the start, having my Slideshare history to migrate.

I added a WP instance on a domain I have (tonz.nl) and installed the plugin, created an API key for the PDF conversion. It takes a number of minutes for the conversion to happen, and it works.

If you check the embedded presentation above, you’ll see that the download link and the full screen link are pointing to my tonz.nl domain. The download link is in the WP uploads folder, which is logical, but I probably want to change. Likely I will put a Yourls instance in front of it to have shortened urls that cloack the folder the files are actually in, and which lets me count the number of downloads as well.

Replied to Weeknote - 25 October 2020 :: Off the Top :: vanderwal.net ( )
I’m finding with what Obsidian offers I’m able to really get a lot of crosswalks between ideas, sources, authors / creators, and structures that I just didn’t have access to before. Already it feels a bit like I have a James Burke long transfer system in the works that is part of the structure of his Connections series.

Thank you for mentioning the James Burke and Connections in your week notes Thomas! And using it as a metaphor for your Obsidian usage. Some timely serendipity while working out some notes related to theories of change in my own Obsidian vault.
Btw, I’ve been documenting some of my Obsidian experiences in the past week or so, the first of which describes my pkm system, and how Obsidian supports parts of it.

I have used Cultured Code’s todo-application Things a long time, since the end of 2008. I attended a presentation then where Cultured Code explained how they translated their intentions and values into the design of the app, and used their software ever since. It is a beautiful software tool and it has been very useful to me for almost 12 years. And then, since the end of August, I have not used it at all. Before 2008 and Things, I used my employer’s tools (Outlook mostly) and privately used text files. Back in the late 1980’s and in the 1990s I only used text files to keep track of tasks. And that is what I’m doing now again, using Obsidian to create markdown text files.

Important elements to me in using text files for tasks effectively are:

  • being able to link between text files both directly and through tags
  • being able to quickly switch between the task list and the resources needed for a task
  • having the task lists as part of my overall system, not an island

Things is good at using tags for tasks (allowing me to e.g. filter tasks on context or needed amount of focus through tasks). I was also able do some linking between Things tasks and e.g. Evernote notes, links that I manually copied between the two, and copied into Tinderbox which I use as a dashboard map for various things. I also used a script at the start of project to create the right first tasks, and corresponding notes in those applications. That way there is consistency between how areas, projects and project tags are used across those applications. It worked but it meant a lot of switching between applications during the day. In my set-up of Things/Evernote and now in Obsidian, I roughly follow the Getting Things Done method (areas, projects, inbox, and marking things as someday or waiting etc.)

As a side note: I do not use my mobile to look at or add tasks, or mark them completed. I basically always work laptop-first. This means that the availability of my tasks lists on mobile, and the capability to edit them there, is not important to me. In fact, Things is an Apple-only product, and I use an Android phone, so I never have been able to use Things on mobile (I did have Things on my 1st gen iPad back in 2010, but tablets are another thing that never really found a niche in my workflow). In that sense using text files are an improvement: I can read them and edit them, because I synchronise my Obsidian notes to my Nextcloud instance, which my mobile can access (there’s no mobile Obsidian app, and there’s no need for it either, any plain text editor will do after all.)

As I mentioned in earlier posts, going back to text files feels very comfortable to me. Obsidians features make it rather frictionless even, with transclusion, tagging and with linking.

The task management set-up

As described in my previous post on my use of Obsidian, I have a hierarchical folder structure of areas of activity, with project folders within them.
Each project folder contains a file titled ‘0 [project name] things to do’, where I keep the list of actions currently relevant for that project. If there are sub projects, then each of those has a similar own list of tasks, which are transcluded into the general project list.

In the 1GTD12WY folder, where I keep the general material w.r.t. future goals and my 3 month planning cycle, I also have two general tasklists. One is the root of all tasklists (called ‘0 root list things to do’), the other is a list of general tasks for the current month (‘0 this month things to do’). The leading zero ensures that tasklist are always the first file in a (project) folder.


The root and month task list in the general ‘getting things done’ folder.

The ‘this month’ list is filled at the start of each month, from whatever is in the ticklerfile for that month (it might be quarterly recurrent things like, ‘file VAT returns by the 30th’, or ‘check out the book that is scheduled to be published the 21st [link]’), and from general things not tied to any particular project that came up while making my month map (see previous posting).

The root list contains all the areas of activity, and for each project within an area the project’s task lists is transcluded. Every project task list links to the root list, so even when I forget to add it to the root list, it will show up as a backlink. As projects in turn may have sub projects with their own tasklist, you get multilevel transclusion. Obsidian allows you to go 5 layers deep so that is more than enough for my set-up. This way a task is only ever in one single list.

I use tags like #waiting and #urgent to mark task status.


My root task list with the month list and a project list embedded through transclusion

At the start of each project I run a script that creates all the necessities for a project. This includes automatically making the task list for a new project, adding a handful of common tasks to it, and adding the link to the root list.

Task management process

Daily
On a daily basis I work with the task lists, in multiple ways.
I browse through the task root list at the start of the day, and specifically the projects I will be spending time on that day. I look at what is marked #urgent. Both the root task list and the #urgent search filter I have pinned as starred searches, so I can directly go to them from the Obsidian interface. I do not add existing daily habits onto my task list, I might add them for habits I’m trying to develop.


Above: a project task list, in a project folder. Below: the starred searches to quickly switch between e.g. the root list, the month list, the monthly map and urgent tasks

Whenever I am in a meeting on a project, I have the existing corresponding task list in front of me, right next to the notes I am making during the meeting. After, or during a meeting I update the tasklist, through adding, splitting, deleting or rephrasing.
When I add a task to a list, I also add links to notes that are relevant to it, e.g. the meeting notes where the task originates, or the note that contains the rough notes and current status of a task. I link/mention the things I need for the task. This lowers the threshold to start doing a task.

While adding a task I may add tags that help me select which ones are fitting for the current context (e.g. level of energy/focus likely needed, or specific context in which to do them). As I’m only working from home due to the pandemic I currently don’t use contextual tasks yet (in Things I’d tag things with #train e.g. if it something I can well do while commuting to a client’s office).

When a task is done, I copy and delete it from the task list, and paste it into the day log (see previous post). That way the day log contains all the things I’ve completed that day, plus anything else that came along and wasn’t on the task lists. (I use the day log for time sheets and the weekly review).

Weekly
During my weekly review, for each ongoing project I remove no longer relevant or finished tasks, add things I realise will be needed in the coming week(s), and scan the horizon for anything that will become #urgent in the next 3 weeks to mark them as such. I also review the #waiting things to see if anything has slipped my mind.

Monthly
Each month I check if any new projects need to be added, or which ones to close down and remove from the root list. While making my month map I add the resulting tasks to the relevant project list, and I add the tasks resulting from things in next month’s tickler file to the task list for this month.

In part 1 I explained how Obsidian is a tool I use in support of the methods I employ that make up my system to process incoming information as well as track and do my work.

I started using Obsidian to make better notes (Notions as I call them), and link them together where I see relevance. This is a networked type of use. For my daily work and for logging that daily activity I use a folder structure, which is a hierarchical approach. My personal knowledge management system is based on the interplay of those networked and hierarchical perspectives, which allows emergent insights and putting those insights to action or keep them until they can be used.

Folder hierarchy

To kick-off my more detailed description of using Obsidian, I will start with that hierarchical perspective: the folder structure. I will also explain how I make daily and week logs, as well as what I call ‘month maps’

Obsidian allows you to use multiple ‘Vaults’. A vault is a folder tree structure that is perceived as a single collection of notes by Obsidian. The tool tracks connections between only those mark down files in that folder tree. I currently have only a single vault, as I want to be able to link between notes from all my areas of activity. I can imagine you might use separate vaults if one of them is meant to be published, or for instance if one is a team effort. As there is no such division for me, I am building a personal system, I have a single vault.

Within that vault I have a folder structure that currently looks like this:


Main folder structue in my Obsidian vault

That list of main folders is a mix of folders for each of the areas I’m active in, some folders that I use to manage my own work, or that I have/had as Notebook in Evernote to keep their contents apart from other things, and the folders that contain the notes and notions that led me to start using Obsidian.

Areas (a component in the GTD method) are things like my company (4TGL), family and health, home, my voluntary board positions, and websites/automation. Within each area there are projects, specific things I’m working on. Some of the projects may have subfolders for projects taking place within the context of a client assignment for instance.

Examples of folders for managing my work are 1GTD12WY which contains things related to my longer term goals and 3 month planning cycle (combining elements from Getting Things Done and the 12 Week Year methods), and the 2Daglogs folder which contains day and week logs, and month maps.

Evernote notebooks like travel related material (bookings, itineraries) en digital tickler files (also part of the GTD method), and Network (where I keep contextual notes about people, as LinkedIn etc e.g. stores nothing about how you met someone) also have their own top level folder at the moment.

The actual folders for notes are Notes (for notes made from information coming in) and 0GardenofForkingPaths (why that title?), which contains my Notions, the conceptual Zettelkasten-style notes. Those two folders internally take a networked perspective and have no subfolders.
Some folder names start with a number to ensure them being shown at the top end of the list. One folder Z-Templates contains, well, templates, and is called Z so it is always last. Templates can be copied into new notes for those notes where you want to keep a specific structure.

Whenever I start a new project I run an Applescript that after asking me the project name, the area it belongs to, the description and project tag, creates the right folders and in them the right notes I need to start a project (albeit a client project, an internal one, or something else). That script used to create those structure, tasks and notes for me in Evernote and Things, but now creates them in the filesystem within my Obsidian folder. Each project e.g. has a ‘main’ note stating the projects planned results, to which goal(s) it contributes, main stakeholders, budget and rough timeline.

Day and week logs, month maps

Within the folder 2Daglogs I keep day logs, week logs, and month maps. Day logs are ordered in monthly folders, all weeks in a year are in one folder, as are all month maps.


Folder structure that keeps day/week/month files

The first thing I do in the morning, is start the Day log. I do this by clicking the ‘tomorrow’ link in the day log of the day before (after glancing at what I did yesterday). Then in the new note I hit the keyboard short cut /dnow which (through Alfred) adds date tags (like #2020- #2020-10 #2020-1025) and links to the day logs of yesterday and the (as yet not existing) one for tomorrow. See the screenshot below. During the day I add activities to the log as I’m doing them. I also mention thoughts or concerns, how I think the day goes etc. I link/mention the notes corresponding to activities, e.g. things I wrote down in a project meeting. I started keeping day logs last April, and they are useful to help me see on days that seem unfocused what I actually did do, even if it felt I didn’t do much. That helps spot patterns as well.


Example of a day log with the links to other days shown, beneath a bullet list of things I mention during the day

Week logs are notes that collate the day logs of a week. (Since I restarted doing weekly reviews, a week log is accompanied with a note that contains review notes.) Collating is done by transcluding 7 day logs into one note. I add links to the previous and next week on top. I use the week logs in my weekly review on Friday, to write hours in my timesheets at the end of the week, and to write my Week Notes blogpost on Sunday.


A week log is a list of transcluded day logs. Above in edit mode, below in preview mode

Monthmaps are something I make at the start of each month, they are a mindmap of the coming month, hence the name (the Dutch word for month, ‘maand’ sounds a bit like the English mind in mindmap). It’s a habit I started 4 years ago. I list every area (see folder structure above), and within those areas I list every project where I see I might hit a snag, where I have concerns or urgencies are likely to pop up, or where activities are in store I know I usually try to evade or postpone. I add easy actions I can think of that will help me deal with such barriers. It’s a way to confront underlying hesitations or anxieties and prevent negative consequences from them. I refer to it during the week, to see if barriers indeed popped up, or what I had planned to deal with them when they do. I go through it during weekly reviews as well.

In the next part I’ll take a look at how I’ve replaced my todo-list app Things with simple markdown files in Obsidian.

Are there examples of where the Overton window / Trevino scale is used to rank existing theories/proposals on a topic? So as to better understand the spectrum of positions w.r.t. an idea, and how it is currently/historically perceived?

I have deleted my Slideshare account earlier this year (as LinkedIn sold it to Slideshare’s more evil twin Scribd), and today I was also finally able to delete my company’s Scribd account. Having deleted all that, of course the embeds I use here on my blog of my presentations now obviously don’t work.

The key issue with showing slides or documents online is whether you can do so in a suitable viewer. Browsers are all capable of showing PDFs but also all make their own slightly different choices. Ideally you would want to control how your slides are shown, nicely paginated and scrolling horizontally for instance or with some specific control buttons visible and others disabled. Where all default viewers do is showing slides as a long downward scrolling document.

Basically there are three options I can choose:

  1. Find another Slideshare like service
  2. Have browsers use their own viewers
  3. Host the commonly used viewer PDF.js myself

Of these I’m trying out option 1 and 3 in this posting.

By Robert I was pointed to Speakerstack.net by a small US company that has the interesting option of allowing you to set your own canonical and download url, while also uploading your PDF to their server.

In the screenshot above you see how I uploaded my slides for the Dutch Coder Dojo conference last November. You can also see that as a canonical URL I have set the link to my blogpost with the text of the presentation, and the download URL to a short domain name I also control (tonz.nl).

This keeps the URLs and download links for my presentations within my control (so that when, not if, at some point speakerstack.net stops its service, I am in a position to ensure everything keeps working. Unlike what happened now when I closed my Slideshare account, where I broke all the links to my presentations.) It also duplicates the PDFs which seems somewhat wasteful. It’s an interesting approach though.

It results in the embed below, where if you mouse over you can see how the download url indeed points to my domain tonz.nl, and if you would use the Twitter share button it shows the URL to my blogpost.

For the other option I have installed PDF.js on the hosting package where I also have uploaded my Dojo Con slides. So both the viewer and the slides are on the same domain. You can style the PDFjs viewer a little bit, but I think you’re stuck with vertical scrolling. PDF.js is also slow with larger files (which my presentations tend to be as they have many large images. Then again I could probably optimise them in size). Using my self-hosted viewer you get the embed below:

Tips on better self-hosted viewers, or better tweaking of pdf.js are welcome.