Replied to - Digging the Digital by Frank Meeuwsen (Digging the Digital)
Ik haal de meeste waarde uit hele praktische uitleg met een werkelijke usecase. Dus geen demo-content, geen zoveelste reis die wordt gepland in een app (alsof je nu op reis kunt…) maar echt hoe iemand van dag tot dag Obsidian gebruikt in werk en hobby.

Ik zal je wens ter harte nemen bij het schrijven van mijn ‘100 dagen in Obsidian’ post. 😀

Obsidian is adding block references to its tool in the latest build v0.9.5.. Thanks to Neil for pointing it out as a follow-up to a conversation we had last month on what block references are and how they’re useful. I’m on build v0.9.3 so will have to wait a bit, but Neil’s pointer also led me to read the release note of earlier intermediate releases, such as the version I am currently using.

That in turn made me discover new functionality I wasn’t aware of, but that does cater to something I encountered in my own use of Obsidian: if you search, you can grab the entire search results as a list of links to the notes that contain the search term, and have that as a note. That is very useful to me (would be even greater if I could populate a note with search results dynamically).

Through my feedreader Jane McConnell tells me she’s started using Obsidian to re-organise her notes into a network of information. She points to a 2001 (!) posting by Thomas Vander Wal, a long time connection of mine, about a model of attraction for information. I’ll have to read that 2001 article by Thomas, and think about what I can use from it (attractors, barriers, patterns and boundaries are important elements in looking at complexity, and feature in my own information strategies as well). Then I realised I hadn’t read anything by Thomas recently, only to find out I was subscribed to the wrong RSS feed. Having fixed that, I stumbled upon his recent posting on his own note taking system and the role of Obsidian in it.

All in all a pattern that suggests I really should add my write-up of using Obsidian for 100 days and contribute it to the distributed conversation.

One of the useful features of both the Obsidian and Foam notetaking apps is that they can have a variety of panes in view. Each pane is a different view on your data. Every pane you’re in can be split vertically and horizontally.
Less useful is that you can’t easily save or return to a specific pane ‘mosaic’.

In the image above you see 4 panes: a filefinder in the left sidebar, a markdown cheatsheet in the right sidebar, and in the middle on top a graph view of the files, and a selected file at the bottom.

For planning, in the past months I’ve come to a specific set-up of panes that help me quickly plan my work for different time periods. Panes include the full list of tasks (actually a list of transcluded activity area and project specific taskslists, current goals, day logs, etc. However, while working in such a set-up it’s hard to maintain the set-up. As soon as you click a link or close a note, you break out of the carefully selected set of panes. Worse, the next time I want to use it, I need to create it from scratch.

In short: I want to save a specific pane set-up and be able to easily return to it. At any given time the current pane set-up is recorded in a JSON file called ‘workspace’ in the .obsidian folder.
In the Obsidian support forum, there’s a mention of saving and loading Obsidian workspaces using Keyboard Maestro on Mac.

This points the way to potentially doing the same using Applescript or Alfred:

  • Save the current workspace, with a specific name (copying the workspace file)
  • Open a workspace from a list of saved workspaces (place the saved file back under the name workspace again, reload Obsidian)
  • Delete a workspace (although that is simply done through the file system as well)

This is a brief description of how I make my ‘notions’, which are permanent notes I keep as part of my private digital garden (titled ‘Garden of the Forking Paths‘). I choose a title and type “.nu” which inserts the current timestamp (as shown above in the title), ensuring unique titles. I use Alfred (and previously used TextExpander) for such keyboard shortcuts. This means I don’t have to use e.g. the ‘Zettelkasten’ plugin for my note taking tool Obsidian, or deal with the fact that such plugins never precisely match your personal preferences. It also means I can change my process anytime I like.

If the notion is based on a blogpost or presentation or other material I wrote, then I will change the timestamp (and the tags at the bottom) to reflect the date of that post / presentation / document.

Then I write the content of the notion.

I include at least one link to an existing notion e.g. something like [[Notes input tactics 20200728173504]], but usually more.

If I think it needs more work then I can do now, I add the tag #aanscherpen (Dutch for ‘sharpen’)

Where applicable I include references of one or more of three types:
Ref: something I just directly name here, a person, book, or ‘my presentation 2018 at conference X’
Ref blog: the url to one of my own bloposts
Ref Zotero: something that can be found in my reference library in Zotero.

I add tags of different varieties, either inline or underneath the note’s content:

  • tags naming the reasons and associations why I made the note, what triggered my interest. (An article ‘the 10 biggest tech developments to watch in 2021’ might be tagged ‘prediction’ and ‘2021’ e.g.)
  • tags as the terms with which I think my future self should be able to find them,
  • tags allowing search in different languages (I write notes in 3 language, but have notes with parts in at least 4 other languages which I can read ok enough to keep the original),
  • tags denoting some status or action (urgent, waiting, sharpen etc)
  • tags which look like #2020-, #2020-09, #2020-0913, which represent the year, year and month, and date of the creation of the note. This is done by using a shortcut (“/now”) as well. These tags allow me to search by year, month and exact date, as well as allow me to create timelines if needed. E.g. the screenshot below shows my Notions dated July 2003, found by searching the tag #2003-07

I am coming around to the notion that I may also want to stop using Things for keeping track of tasks, and do it through markdown text files, similarly to getting out of Evernote. There was a time I always did such things in straightforward text files. Being able to do so again but now with a much better way of viewing and navigating such text files and the connections between them (using Obsidian as a viewer for now), makes it easy to ‘revert’ to my old ways so to speak.

(This doesn’t say anything about Things, which is a beautiful tool, that I have been using ever since I became aware of the Cultured Code company in 2008.)