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

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 839 7312 2854
Passcode: 967475

In het past weeks I struggled to get to action. I didn’t have the sense that I was in the pilot seat. Too many little things budding in, not being able to get started on bigger things, and no sense of overview. Or rather, a too overwhelming overview, and no easy way for myself to bring the scope of that view down to something manageable for the day.

I have about 35 areas of activity, this includes projects, general tasks, both business, volunteer work and personal. For each of those 35 or so activities I keep a running list of things to do. Some lists have a few items, others have a few dozen. If on average they hold 10 tasks each, it means a tasklist of 300 to 400 items to choose from. That makes for an overwhelming overview. It gets better if I dive into the scope of a specific project or activity area, but then I don’t see the small things I can do to keep the other activities rolling. When I was still using Things I had the same effect, so this isn’t something particular to my current use of Obsidian for tasks.

The result has been that, because the overall list is too overwhelming, I haven’t been using it much. Which means I have even less sense of overview or being on top of my stuff.

In an attempt to regain that sense, I’m now trying to each morning go through the entire list and pick a handful of things for the day. That small curated list has a more manageable scope, without being limited to a single activity.

I don’t want to copy tasks from one place to another. I want them to stay on their respective project or activity list, but marked and summarised on my daily list. I’m aware there are various task oriented plugins for Obsidian, but they will prescribe me a certain mode of working, and it isn’t certain that in their absence the same information will be as usable / findable (a type of functional lock-in or dependency I always want to avoid)

What I came up with is I mark every task I choose for the day with ‘t::’, in whichever line of whichever file I want. This can be an existing tasklist, but I can do the same while making meeting notes, to quickly mark something as a task resulting from the meeting. The Dataview plugin I already use sees ‘t::’ as an inline datafield and is able to extract them into a list using the following brief piece of code:

TABLE t as Vandaag
SORT File asc

I display that at the top of my daily note. It allows me to quickly jump into a task list or other note to delete it when done, and to copy it over into my daily note in the ‘done’ list.

In the coming days I will test if this improves my days and activities.

A brief list of selected tasks from other files. Also note that at the top t:: is mentioned inline twice, and both show up as task items in the list.

Favorited Sketch noting for PKM by Zsolt Viczián

Multiple elegant ideas (and practices) in that post, about the use of Excalidraw within Obsidian (which I previously described):
1) creating icons from basic forms (such as sketch noting teaches as well) and iterate each time you use them
2) keep your icons in a library in Excalidraw for various forms of re-use and for iteration
3) add #keywords to your icon, because in Excalidraw/Obsidian these behave as active searches for those keywords just like regular # in a text.

I came across this post by Zsolt Viczián through a list of PKM system examples by Elizabeth Butler, in which she also linked to my PKM description. Naturally I explored the other examples in that list, and this one stood out for me.

Because I couldn’t even get past the level of drawing stick figures, I have always felt intimidated by friends who could draw well. The idea of developing my visual vocabulary was a game-changer for me…… I added hashtags to each icon because, this way, if you add them to your sketch in the Obsidian-Excalidraw plugin, your drawing will be tagged with the relevant keywords.

Zsolt Viczián