Loving right now: Obsidian.md

As a regular consumer of productivity porn I first noticed Personal Knowledge Management Systems last year when they were moving from a niche interest to a full-on internet trend. Sometimes referred to as "a second brain", the idea behind a PKMS is that it is a place where you store all the knowledge and information you gain as you move through the world, via reading, listening, having conversations etc. and saving that information in one location where you can easily retrieve them from.

The benefit of keeping notes of things you have learnt so you can quickly recall them later is obvious. Hardcore Evernote users have been doing this sort of thing for many years. Once you have a PKMS of a considerable size, organisation becomes an issue. There have been entire blog posts dedicated to how to organise your notes. With people creating their own tag-based or notebook-based systems.

2020 was the year that bi-directional linking grabbed everyone's attention. I was enamoured with the promise that the bi-directional link would somehow make my notes easier to navigate, and the information easier to synthesise, my writing better, and so on. The hype had me sign up to an expensive Roam Research subscription. I liked the program a lot and enjoyed being able to link my notes to each other. The writing experience design bothered me though (bullet point on every block) and occasionally it wouldn't load and I couldn't get access to my notes. I wasn't going to keep paying so much money for something that suffered from availability problems, so I looked for an alternative.

I tried out Obsidian.md and am so glad I did. I love this app. Maybe partly because it reminds me a bit of my favourite Code Editor, Visual Studio Code. My favourite things about Obsidian are:

  • It works on local files, so is fast and has no availability issues.

  • You can install themes to change the look, or customize yourself with CSS.

  • Development on the App is happening so fast, it is fun to see how quickly releases and improvements come out.

If you're thinking about trying out Obsidian, this Linking Your Thinking YouTube account has some great videos for getting acquainted with the Software and keeping 'linked' notes.

As for whether bi-directional links have revolutionised my note-taking or thinking process? In short, it hasn't. But I am enjoying myself and do like the reduction of friction caused by deciding where to store notes. Over time, I'm hoping I get more in to the habit of linking my notes to each other and making connections across the subjects I think and write about.

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