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

I added chatGPT to Obsidian following these steps to install an experimental plugin. I also set up a pay as you go account for OpenAI as I’ve used up my trial period for both Dall-E and GPT-3.

At first glance using the GPT3 plugin works fine, although what seems to be missing is the actual chat part, the back and forth where you build on a response with further prompts. The power of chatGPT as a tool is in that iterative prompting I think.
You can still iterate by prompting the chatGPT with the entirety of the previous exchange but that is slightly cumbersome (it means you’d go into a note delete the previous exchange, and then have the plugin re-add it plus the next generated part).

I think it will be more fruitful to do the entire exchange with chatGPT in the browser and manually grab the content if I want to use it in Obsidian. The MarkDownload browser extension capably grabs the entire exchange with chatGPT and stores it as markdown in my Obsidian notes as well.

I just watched this video about using the Map View plugin in Obsidian, which allows you to visualise the existence of notes grouped by geo-location on a map. The Map View plugin allows viewing and organising notes along a dimension that is currently missing in my notes, geographic location. I do have an overview of all my travel since the late eighties in my notes. The creator of the video, Zsolt is the creator of both the Obisidian Excalidraw and Brain plug-ins, which I both enjoy using and recommend. So when he suggests a plugin by someone else, it piques my curiosity.

Now I am of course thinking about integrating that with my check-in forms for this site enabling individualised Plazes. Specifically it may play a role in determining venue or location.

Would it be doable to, like I’m already posting from my notes to the site, automatically create an optional check-in record here when I create a geolocated note in Obsidian? Or the other way around, to have a check-in made through the webform also create a note in Obsidian?

Newton in 1675 famously said about his work, that if he was seeing further it was by standing on the shoulders of giants.*

Doing so he acknowledged the lineage of the things he worked on, which he added his own combinatory creativity to, gaining us all very considerable new insights.

This weekend reading Chris Aldrich’s essay about the often actively ignored history of the things that make up the current wave of note making methods and tools, Newton’s turn of phrase crossed my mind again. Chris Aldrich showcases the history of something that currently is mostly discussed as building on a single person’s practice in the 1950s to 1990s, as an actually very widely used set of practices going back many centuries.

I think it is a common pattern. Repeating endlessly in bigger and smaller forms, because we’re human.
I also think the often re-used ‘shoulders of giants’ metaphor makes it worse, actively hiding any useful history of most things.

Every output is the result of processes, and building blocks that go beyond the person making the output. And most of those inputs and earlier practices are of a mundane origin. There aren’t that many giants around, that we all can stand on their shoulders for all we come up with.

Everything has a lineage, and all those lineages have something to tell you about the current state of things you’re working on. Along all those lineages knowledge and experience has been lost, not because it wasn’t useful moving forward, but because it wasn’t transferred well enough. Going back in such lineage, to use as feedback in your current practice can be tremendously valuable.
It’s something actively used as a tool of exploration in e.g. ‘the future, backwards’ exercises. In PKM, the example that triggered this posting, it is common to use your old self in that way (talking about how you’re learning from ‘previous me’ and as ‘current me’ write notes for ‘future me’) It’s even what makes Earth’s tree of life special.

It takes looking for that lineage as a first step. Yet if then all we do is scanning history’s horizon for giants that stand out, we may find none, several, or usually one nearer that will have to do as big enough and simply assume that’s where the horizon is, while overlooking everyone else that any giants and we are always building on.

Everything has a deep lineage with a story to tell. Everyone stands on everyones shoulders, of all sizes. It is shoulders all the way down.


If I have seen further it is by knowingly standing on the shoulders of Giants everyone.

Photo ‘Santa Teresa, feria del Vendrell 2019’ by Joan Grífols, license CC BY NC SA

* Most of us may recognise Newton’s 1675 phrase in a letter he wrote. Newton probably knew it was much older. But do we individually generally acknowledge it was at least 500 years old when he wrote it down, or usually attribute it to Newton?

Nicole van der Hoeven published one of her videos on using Obsidian on the topic of the ExcaliBrain plugin. The plugin is made by Zsolt Viczián, the same creator as the Excalidraw plugin which brings easy visualisation to Obsidian. I use Excalidraw within Obsidian with some regularity (I’m mostly text oriented).

It’s not mentioned in the video, but the ExcaliBrain plugin is clearly inspired by The Brain software, both in terms of types of links between notes, and how it shows them (even the placement of the little circles where links attach). The name suggests so too, and the plugin author names The Brain as source of inspiration in the github reposository. I used The Brain as desktop interface from 1997 until 2004-ish, and this plugin seems to bring The Brain as a visualisation layer to my notes. That alone is enough to try it out.

The plugin can both infer relationships between notes, through existing links, much as the general graph view in Obsidian does, but does so in a more navigable style. This I hope allows it to be used as a visual navigation interface to notes, something the graph view does not meaningfully, as The Brain so usefully did for me for a number of years.

You can also set explicit relationships by adding named links to your notes, for which it uses the inline data fields (yourfieldname::) that the DataView plugin makes possible. I already use that plugin so that’s not an extra step for me.
I disagree with Nicole van der Hoeven on her suggestion to comment out explicit relationships so that the plugin will visualise them but the note won’t show the links, except in edit mode.
The notes should always show all links I explicitly set, that’s the whole point of links.
Machine inferred links are a different matter, which deserve a toggle as they are suggestions made to me.
Links are my own and real work in my notes.

Setting explicit links (parent, child, friends ExcaliBrain calls them) is similar to how I already create links. When I write a new note I aim to link other notes in the way Soren Bjornstadt describes in a video of his touring his Zettelkasten. I make three links, if possible, from a new note. One to a higher level of abstraction note, one to a lower level of abstraction but more concrete note, and one to a related note at the same level. This creates ‘chains’ of 4 notes with a content-based implied order.

For example: a note on the role of public transport might link to urban mobility and the liveability of car-free city centers as higher abstration concepts, to a note on urban rail systems or bus networks as a lower abstraction level, to the German 2022 summer reduced fare scheme as an example, and to another communal public service like urban public internet as a same level but different type of note.

I strongly dislike the parent-child-sibling(-friend) vocabulary Excalibrain introduces though, as it implies an order of creation. Parents exist first, children from parents. This means for the way I described creating links in notes that abstract concepts come first. This is not how it mostly works for me. Abstract notions are often created from, intuited from, less abstratct ones. The scaffolding created by less abstract notes and concrete examples is what leads to them. Overarching concepts and insights emerge from linking lower level items. Thankfully the terms you actually use to denote such connections between notes can be freely chosen in the plugin settings. That is a design choice by Zsolt Viczián I greatly appreciate.

Nicole van der Hoeven in her run-through of ExcaliBrain also talks about this implied hierarchy, and mentions a higher level type of use, which is adding more semantics to links using the renaming options in the plugin settings. For instance to express lines of argumentation, and how material reflects on eachother (e.g. Note A reinforces / contradicts Note B). This is the type of linking that Tinderbox allows you to do visually too, which I’ve used a lot. She hasn’t used it that way herself yet she says, but suggests it’s likely the most valuable use case. I think that rings true. It’s where linking becomes the work you have to do yourself again, as opposed to lazy or automatic linking between notes.

I very much want to experiment with the ExcaliBrain plugin.


A screenshot after activating ExcaliBrain of the vicinity of a single note