A useful tip from Nicole van der Hoeven that I adopted in the past days: using the title of a note also as a linked heading inside the note. Especially since the change in Obsidian that de-emphasizes the title of a note in the interface. My note titles are meaningful, Andy Matuschak style, and usually result from writing the note or from writing another note from which it branches off. (My titles also contain a timestamp ensuring they’re unique and providing the ability to place a note in time. Example: “Optimal unfamiliarity 20040107122600”) Having it as primary header in the note itself means I will more likely think about improving the title when I develop the note over time.

Personally, I put the filename as a heading, but I also put it as a link. When I rename the file, the link (which is also the heading), automatically updates.
Nicole van der Hoeven

Screenshot of what that looks like in practice:


Screenshot of a note title optimal unfamaliarity with its title as a header linking to the note itself

Web pages are predictably untrustworthy to remain online as they were when you dropped by to see them. They can change while their address remains the same, can redirect an address to someplace else entirely, and entire websites can disappear meaning there’s no response when attempting to visit an address.

This means that when I link to something here, there’s no guarantee at all that when you click such a link that you actually get to see what I thought I’ve linked to. And no, screenshots don’t help: fake is easy and we need to back up our words with hyperlinks.

The same is true for stuff I don’t link to here, but save to my archive. That’s why I don’t just save URLs but the entire article for future reference to my markdown notes. That still means the actual source might disappear, without me having a way of proving what I saved is what I saw. This not only is relevant to the content itself, but also for instance for licensing information. There are photos in this blog that were openly licensed when I used them, but no longer, leaving it impossible for me to prove I still can use the image because of the license at the time.

This makes an archiving service useful, like Archive.org. I can use that to store URLs I find interesting and I do that with some regularity. It is why I am a monthly donor to the Web Archive, I’d like it to remain a more robust reference point on the web.

Currently I have one way of adding web pages to an archive, using the Wayback Machine add-on in my browser. The same add-on helps me find previous versions of a page already archived, tweets about that page, and annotations made by others. Very useful, during browsing.


The Web Archive browser add-on bookmarklet

Writing blogposts and saving webpages as markdown in my local notes, or starting to annotate a page in Hypothes.is are another matter however. There I’d like to automate getting or creating an archive link.

In all cases it would need to be an archive link next to the original. If I link to something in a blogpost here I want to still send WebMentions to the linked site, and that requires the link to the original to be in my posting. Similarly for my notes, I want to have the original url as well, although it would be reconstructable from the archive link. For online social annotations in Hypothes.is, the original link is needed because that is how you find other people’s annotations alongside your own. The last one is probably easiest, by using the browser add-on manually and adding the result as a first annotation for instance.


An archive link as first Hypothes.is annotation

On the page in the IndieWeb wiki about using the Internet Archive there are some code snippets to be found to use with the Archive’s API, or using the basic string to save something https://web.archive.org/save/urlhere. It also mentions bloggers who either send the URLs they mention, or their own postings, or both (e.g. when sending a WebMention) to the Internet Archive.
When posting to my blog from my local markdown notes I could potentially add a function to the markdown-to-html parser I use where it detects external links, runs them through the Archive and writes the html for both the direct and the archived link.

For saving web articles as local notes in markdown there are several options to explore:

  • When saving from the browser using the Markdownload add-on, first saving and copying the saved url using the Achive add-on, then pasting that archive link in the dialog box.
  • Adding [Opslaan in Internet Archive](https://web.archive.org/save/{baseURI}) to the Markdownload template so I can directly save a URL from within the local note later, if wanted. I added this experimentally, to see if I would actually use it like this.
  • When saving to notes from my microsub feedreader I could add a function to the html-to-markdown parser I use there to run external links through the Archive and write the Archive link in markdown after the original link.

I extended the capabilities of my microsub feed reader with the option to save web articles directly from the reader to my Obsidian notes in markdown format.

Until now if I wanted to save an entire article I found in my feed reader, I would open it in the browser and then use the markdownclipper browser add-on to add some context and then save the article in markdown in my notes. I wanted to cut out that step of opening it in the feed reader, by saving it directly to my markdown notes. In my feedreader I already have a response form to e.g. post a reply to a posting on my own site. Posting it to my notes means adding a path to how I process that form.

I had to find a suitable script for converting HTML to MarkDown first. Which I found in PHP League’s HTML-to-Markdown, as suggested by Jan Boddez. It requires Composer which I already had installed on my laptop.

I tweaked my feed reader’s response form to also (as a hidden field) include the original HTML of a posting (using htmlentities to stuff it into a form field value). The script that processes the form I altered to both have a path for posting to websites (using micropub) and a new path to make a note in Obsidian, which is then saved as a .md file to the folder I store all clipped articles in.
To make a note I shape the available input the same way I template clipping things from the browser. At the top is my rationale for clipping something and reference to the source, followed by the original posting after which I add some keywords as tags and again the reference to the source.

In the images below you see the corresponding elements marked both as they appear in the reader as well as the resulting note.

The article as shown in my feed reader:

1: the original HTML content from a feed
2: title of the article (prefilled by my feed reader)
3: name of the author (prefilled by my feed reader)
4: original article’s URL (prefilled by my feed reader)
5: the reason and context why I am saving this to notes (also used to write a reply to a post, or the reason for bookmarking something if it will be posted on my site)
6: a quote I want to highlight
7: keywords that will become tags or categories on my site, and tags in my notes
8: selector for which site to post to (zyl is my blog), or ‘obs’ for making a note in Obsidian

Except for that last one those numbers are marked on the image of the resulting markdown note.

The resulting note in Obsidian:

1: the original HTML content from a feed shown in Markdown as the main body of the note
2: title of the article, both shown as part of the content of the note, as well as the title of the note (where a timestamp is added)
3: name of the author (mentioned with the source both at the top and bottom)
4: original article’s URL (mentioned with the author both at the top and bottom)
5: the reason and context why I am saving this, always at the top as it helps me process the content better
6: a quote I wanted to highlight
7: keywords that have become hashtags

(This posting was also written in my notes and, except for the images, posted directly from Obsidian to my site. Meaning I can both automatically move material into Obsidian, as well as automatically move material out of Obsidian. I quite enjoy the feeling of using that ‘magic’.)

Part of the conversations in the Micro.blog Republic of Readers group, are about what we do with what we read. I was invited to share a bit about how I (try to) process what I’m reading into something I can re-use over time in last weekend’s meeting. I couldn’t make it, but will do so in the next meet-up early April. As a first step I made a sketch of what my current flow and set-up looks like.

That’s not to say this is frictionless, and I’m not making claims as to its effectiveness. It’s what it is, warts and all. Also, any way you approach it, processing what I read, finding the bits that provide informational surprise, tying it to things I’ve written earlier, connecting it to the things currently relevant to me and hence to outputs, is intensive work. It is the work, and while I can strive to reduce friction on the interfaces between steps in my workflow, that work will always remain. Only through the work does reading gain meaning at all, because it is how you think things through.


Reading processing flow sketch. Click to enlarge. Image by Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY NC SA

Most of the removable friction in the reading-to-used-notes process is towards the left in the image. I use multiple devices, and getting notes in and out of them requires some jumping through hoops. It all ends up in Obsidian as my current note making tool of choice.

Only there the actual work starts: adding associations to highlights, lifting out bits and pieces from source texts and rephrasing them, creating the jumping off points for newly resulting notions. This is never a smooth process, and I usually struggle to allocate time for myself to think and write.

Output is a recombination of those notions into something that can be shared again, and if I have my notes in order it is a step that is less daunting than writing something from scratch. In the past months I have created several tools to make publishing something from my notes as frictionless as possible again.

Op zaterdag 12 maart vanaf 20:00 vindt weer een online Nederlandstalige Obsidian meet-up plaats. In een goed gesprek elkaars werkwijzen vergelijken, tips & tricks delen, en over het waarom en nut van persoonlijk kennismanagement met een tool als Obsidian. Iedereen is welkom. De link wordt op 12 maart hier, en in de Obsidian discord #nederlands aangekondigd.

Iedereen die Obsidian gebruikt of geïnteresseerd is in persoonlijk kennismanagement is van harte welkom.

Topic: Vierde Obsidian Meet-up
Time: Mar 12, 2022 08:00 PM Amsterdam

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