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

Last week at the 3rd Dutch language Obsidian meet-up one of the participants showed Excalidraw. This is a browser based sketching tool, that was created early last year (so about as old as Obsidian itself). There is an Obsidian plugin for it, which I first assumed would allow you to embed images made in the browser tool, but I was wrong.

  • The plugin allows you to create sketches with Excalidraw inside Obsidian. Using command+P and typing create, you can select to create a sketch in various ways
  • The sketching is done inside an Obsidian pane
  • You can link text in a sketch to any other note simply by adding a markdown style link [[note name]]
  • You can even embed another note in the sketch by adding the markdown, using ![[note name]]

The files with the sketches are saved inside your Obsidian vault. I took a look in one of the files, and they are JSON descriptions of the sketches. They’re not images, they’re text descriptions and as such small flat text files just like the notes themselves.

I’m impressed. I could even see myself sketchnoting on a tablet right in Obsidian with this.

Exalidraw living inside an Obsidian note, through a plugin. I made a basic sketch, with a link to a note at the red pin.

Opening a sketch in a text editor shows it to be JSON

Yesterday I took part in a quick sketch noting workshop at Re:Publica.
Part of my approach for both the ThingsCon and Re:Publica conferences is to go to sessions I feel not immediately comfortable with. The ones that are a bit more challenging or outside my normal familiar topics. So starting RP14 with a sketchnoting workshop seemed the obvious thing to do, as it was the least obvious.

Sketchnoting is taking more visual notes of the presentations and sessions you are participating in. But it requires you to draw, and that can be a challenge.
The workshop taught some basics on how to draw, and to be pleased with the simple things. As long as they express meaning to you.

Figures, faces and boxes.

The workshop had quick instructions on how to draw figurines, faces and emotions, using symbols, text, boxes to emphasize, lines to connect or divide, depict movement, shadow and effects, as well as structuring or pre-structuring how you are going to take notes. Everyone got to apply the instructions themselves while they were explained. Some 200 people drawing like when they were 5 years old again.

Structure, lines and effects

There is a Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rhode, if you want to explore further. I’m even in it, as one my talks got sketchnoted during SHiFT 2010 in Lisbon by Bauke Schildt. His inner 5 yr old is way more skilled than mine, quite obviously.

My 2010 talk sketchnoted, and how they’re used as example in Sketchnote Handbook

[UPDATE: It turns out that one of the hosts of the workshop Anna Lena, sketchnoted my Cognitive Cities conference talk in 2012.]

[UPDATE 2: The video of the session is now on-line]