A case for MOCs

You can even use the Shrimp recipes MOC as a working draft of the unifying theory of Shrimp recipes. Basically anything (literature review, unifying theory, a large narrative, how features tie to product vision, etc) that requires drawing from various sources.

Personally, I think using MOC as an index is rather limiting, but it’s a valid usage. Furthermore, I don’t think you should try to implement MOC up-front, but rather consider it as a solution to an emerging need of organizing/sense-making a bunch of notes relating to a certain topic.


Good points.

I’m curious to learn in what way you find it limiting? I might be overlooking things in my approach. Thanks.

I mean when the number of things you need to index become sufficiently large, a MOC won’t be much different from a detailed table of content. Instead I recommend thinking about a MOC as one grand narrative about the things that the MOC index. You can both have an index and a narrative in a MOC if you so choose.

It’s not the grand narrative, but it’s one of many. It doesn’t even have to be a completely comprehensive narrative, since the nature of knowledge is constant change. It’s just a narrative that pieces things together.

This way, when you want to add another piece into the MOC, you have a narrative structure that you have to fit the piece into. The narrative structure forces you to clarify and relate the new piece in a way that produces much more friction than adding another entry to an index.

This friction can be thought of as the tension between the existing narrative and the new piece of information, and a new narrative (which is equivalent to a new knowledge representation) is the result of resolving this tension.


Great thanks for your explanation. Very clear!

Viewing a MOC “as a narrative” has clarified the concept for me and made my day. Thanks a lot!


I’m just getting started with Obsidian. But this kind of thing is precisely what draws me.

As I see it, a decentralized MOC shares an organizational structure with folders—which I’ve been using my whole life—or hierarchical tags—though I’ve never used tags much until recently. But there’s the added value that you can have context and additional information in your MOC, which you can’t have as easily in a listing of folders and documents.

Klaas nails it in this use case

Or, in my case, with project management: Have an MOC for each project, with links to every document, which can include notes, PDF, Microsoft Office Documents, email messages, etc. The MOC and each item in the MOC can contain a line or two of description or summary—not easily accomplished in the Finder/File Explorer/File Manager.

I’m calling my MOCs “Dashboards” because I dunno I just like how that sounds.


I don’t know why, but your simplistic example and response just made this all click for me. :slight_smile: Thank you!


Simplistic is good. Sometimes. :sunglasses:

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So…is a MOC Obsidians answer to Luhmans’ Hub Note as seen here -

or perhaps more granular as seen here -

Also, curious how Obsidian users are tracking bibliographic data as seen here

Are you creating a file with multiple pages for each reference or perhaps tracking it all in a single note, its own MOC, or something else?


Hey, thanks for sharing this post @kai

I have a question regarding the decentralized approach, is It against Zettelkasten approach?
in the book “How to Take Smart Notes […]” I’ve stumbled across a statement that says that organizing notes into different Projects OR Folders OR segments ruins the whole idea of Zettelkasten (Because no one connects ideas by the date, folder).

I know I shouldn’t treat everything in this book as the holy truth. But it bothers me. That’s why I ask

To be honest, I think I prefer a visual approach anyway. I prefer mindmapping and corkboarding. Is there any mindmapping first software that integrates with Obsidian?

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Dear @Cloufish,

In that book, Ahrens said that Niklas Luhman uses a Note as an Index for the topic to easily surf the relevant note within that topic is similar to the MOC from my perspective.
And for the Projects, he also mentions in step 6 from Writing paper step by step from that book

  1. After a while, you will have developed ideas far enough to decide on a
    topic to write about. Your topic is now based on what you have, not based on
    an unfounded idea about what the literature you are about to read might
    provide. Look through the connections and collect all the relevant notes on
    this topic (most of the relevant notes will already be in partial order), copy
    them onto your “desktop”[6] and bring them in order. Look for what is
    missing and what is redundant. Don’t wait until you have everything
    together. Rather, try ideas out and give yourself enough time to go back to
    reading and note-taking to improve your ideas, arguments and their structure

I think what he means is first you write the note and then you decide to combine the note into 1 new specific topic or improve the existing one, I think MOC is the desktop he mention.
The idea of Zettelkasten is to remove the time wasted in finding a note in different places and mimic the brain by connecting the note (which by Principle of Atomic is 1 permanent note = 1 thought) to easily trace back the path of your thinking to that specific project (It cost less time than research that topic again or combine the note one more time when you need it after a long time)

That my point of view of the first half of the book hope my reply gives you answer

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You know, I also have been struggling with this subject. I just found Obsidian recently, and I cannot fathom how I have not found it sooner! I have spent years taking notes in various apps and trying different systems. Obsidian appeared on the surface to be a very difficult program to use until I realized it is basically a notepad app on steroids?

So I am now trying to find a better methodology to take notes, manage my knowledge, and keep up with everything else that passes through my awareness and needs cataloguing or storing.

If I am understanding MOC’s correctly, my impression is that they are more like smaller indexes to information that branch off others, which in turn perhaps branch off a master MOC?

I also seem to be struggling with the nuts and bolts of applying MOC’s to my own data. I have a few root folders with category names, and under them further folders with notes. So Should I have everything come from one Master MOC in my root directory that links to all the folders in the root directory and then branch from there?

If any of these questions is answered in the documentation, I am still working my way through it. I keep getting distracted by great information and articles, so it’s a slow journey so far. :smiley:

@TaraUnscripted , I think of MOCs as Luhman’s hub note. Your second image looks like a literature note with some hub-like content included. Hard to tell. Since May have you worked out more of Luhman’s system in Obsidian?

I think of MOC as just Table of Contents. TOC. Only it’s not just one TOC, it’s one per topic.

If you have a bunch of notes about X that you want organized, list the main notes in your X TOC. All the minor notes don’t need to be in the TOC, they will be found by following links. This way it’s clear what the main notes on a subject are and you can follow them.

I understand the concept for MOCs, though is there a reason for calling it “Shrimp Recipes MOC” rather than just “Shrimp Recipes”?

Personally I prefer calling my MOCs by that as a distinguishing factor - I may want a note about “Shrimp Recipes” that shares some history on where they came from, or something like that. And then I have my MOC as the table of contents for all the Shrimp Recipes things.

My example is;
[[Lord of the Rings]] has information about the book series, contains my citation information, a brief overview, some good critics, some interesting trivia
[[LotR MOC]] contains links to my notes (or the main notes at least) about Lord of the Rings. I have links to the individual books, my notes on the languages used.
The first is an overview, the second is a more direct Index / “look here for notes on this thing”

I have created a plugin that automatically generates an MOC for any note you visit: see here