How do you measure whether a system is good?

Speaking personally, there is a goal to all my obsidian notes and information gathering. It’s to allow me to research and implement a system I am working on. It has a lot of concepts and its object oriented so I have to create notes that document my discovery process and the analysis process. I find the ability to organise my notes with properties and tags helps me to get a clearer picture of the big jigsaw puzzle as more of the pieces become clearer. With a vault containing hundreds of notes, that organisational task gets harder each day but i think Obsidian is a good system because it’s allowed me to do that so far. I found when i first started to use Obsidian that my creativity and productivity increased greatly. The tool didn’t get in the way very much, which cannot always be said of other systems.

Of all the features of obsidian however i found the graphs to be of no help whatsoever. That might be the way i think but normally i am a very visual thinker with lots of diagrams and images so you would think the graphs would be useful. But i’m not sure what i am doing wrong or maybe it’s just not implemented in a useful way for me.

Did you measure your productivity? Studies that compared the self-report of subjects taking amphetamines with the actual performance measured by psychological tests found that the subjective experience of increased concentration and performance was not accompanied by a real improvement in performance. This observation corresponds to experiences with other drugs, which give their users the illusion of a wealth of ideas and unusual sharpness of thought, whereas people under the influence of drugs actually fall into stereotypes, redundancy and a pathological loosening of logical thought connections.

I came to this as drugs are what creates joy. You experience joy when sorting knowledge using obsidian, so this effect applies to you.

I’m just chiming in because I want to follow this post. The questions you pose are often in my mind as somebody who has spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to organize my Obsidian files and then trialling a number of different configurations.

The result is that now it’s a sort of hobby, where trialling different organizational systems somehow makes me happy. I would not describe this as productive and I wouldn’t describe any of these organizational systems as “good”.

However, I would say that there has been at least one major benefit: it has helped me to think more about how to effectively organize information, documents, knowledge, etc. As a researcher and consultant, I think this is a beneficial exercise even just from the standpoint of digital de-cluttering and bringing some semblance of sanity to how I manage digital documents and projects. This doesn’t really bring me joy per se but it does help me to feel like if I need to find something in the future, I’ll be able to do so without much difficulty.

Where I struggle is the knowledge management aspect and the various ways to build a knowledge management system. Zettelkasten? Atomic notes? MOCs? Tags? Links? Properties? All of this creates a lot of noise and I find the decision fatigue resulting from my attempts to “optimize” to be debilitating.

I never use recreational pharmacuticals and find it insulting to be accused of it! My productivity increased because i didn’t want to use the system i had before and so i did very little work on my project but using Obsidian i have been doing a lot of work. Drugs may well create joy but at a heavy price, but a lot of other things create joy too. You might want to be careful what you accuse people of.

What is effective for you?

Using file names which are descriptive yet structured lets me effectively use search to find specific documents.

Using folders for “inputs and outputs” makes sense for my brain. You can see my comments on this here: A folder hierarchy for "thinking spaces" based on input/output types - #6 by jstu

I have made only very minor changes since then, namely, I’ve removed the b series sub folders.

The reason this feels efficient to me is because, in terms of knowledge building, consulting, and creative writing, I consume and create a lot of material, so folders based on inputs and outputs is functionally efficient in that it creates a mental organization of sorts.

First of all, I apologize for my bad English…

A system is “good” if the result solves more issues then new one builts. It belongs to the order.

I am using obsidian to built up a knowledge base in “system thinking, cybernetic, complex systems”. I read many books and sometimes I don’t know in which book I read a thing I remember. The result should be a searchable collection of articles from different authors. I started with the first book. It contains different parts: articles, graphs, lexicon, footnotes, bibliography; enriched with links, tags… Every chapter is a single note, accessable over a sitemap or direct search. A note contains sometimes only one sentence, sometimes 1000 words. I hope, that obsidian is able to handle 10.000 or more notes. I am not technical enough where are the limits of obsidian.

Until now obsidian reacts without any delay, operates in “real time” :slight_smile:
so thanks a lot to the founder and supporters, also the active community

Why do you build that elaborate connection? Which of your problems does it solve? Who benefits from knowing what about those topics.

That is too abstract for me. Why don’t you share some real world applications you used this for? Real world meaning not just a new way of thinking, but a product(other than information products)?

  1. it gives me the possibility to get more descriptions from different point of views
  2. for me it is not possible to get all the information into my brain. It helps to understand it in a better way
  3. every, who wants to know more about the basics of “thinking in systems”

I don’t know any application which is able to do that. Do you have an advice for me? I don’t have access to a digital libary which allows to compare articles, expressions and so on

  1. How does that help you?
  2. Why do you need them in your brain?
  3. Why is thinking in systems useful for me instead of the next person?

It seems that you summarize because order gives you joy and a feeling of safety, just like others play empire-building strategy games. Nothing bad about that.

PS: Ich bin auch Deutscher, wir können das per pn auf Deutsch fortsetzen.

@anon19141675 asked:
How do you measure whether a system is good?

Thank you for your challenging question. My first thought:

  • If we had set a clear goal for using our Zettelkasten, it should be possible to measure whether the system is good or not.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of a Zettelkasten system is highly subjective and depends on how well it aligns with our personal preferences, workflow, and learning style. Regular reflection on how well the system is meeting our needs can help us make adjustments and improvements over time.

For me, this discussion is a good opportunity for reflection.

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Systems don’t work for all folks. Folks think and behave differently.
In previous note taking apps, I was forever loosing notes; I couldn’t find them - “I remember I had this note…” “Where did I put it?” “What keywords did I use?”

In Obsidian, for many reasons, I don’t have that problem.

You have a point about our tendency towards collecting and capturing … but I can say that with Obsidian, I am spending more time writing (creating) with purpose and intent; less time collecting.

My measure for “good” is how much joy and meaning (value) I derive in a writing project (and those I create them for).

I don’t see the word purpose in your post. For what purpose have you assembled your vault?

A system (I define “system” as the collection of methods, tools and anything I use organizing my knowledge items) is good if, after you have used it for a while, you realize that you reach your goals better than before.
Better could be faster, effective, painless, and so on.

If this doesn’t happen, you can simply use another system, or try to refine it, for example changing some components with others.

I think that the single perfect system for all and forever doesn’t exists.

I’ve discovered Obsidian and similar tools, and Zettelkasten and other methods last year, in these months I’ve changed many times how to write and how to organize notes, tried to merge good ideas I’have discovered with the main couple Obsidian-Zettelkasten.
For example:

  • pure Zettelkasten doesn’t provide a method for task management neither one for an asset management, but I needed something like that, so I’ve tried many methods until I’ve found a good organization for this task.
  • pure Zettelkasten doesn’t use a relevant number of folders, but for some of my notes folder organization is good, so I use it.
  • Obsidian offers a poweful tagging feature and backlinks, but I’ve found that I can obtain better results organizing my notes using manual links rather than using tags and backlink.

How I’ve realized that this works. Before using this stuff, I was overwhelmed by information overload and information collector’s fallacy. Now I process less information (using my system takes a bit of time), but I obtain more If I well process 1 article rather than simply copy and past 20 half-reeaded articles in my vault.

In my experience, there is too much reflection and too little action that follows. A little less conversation, a little more action, please. All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me. A little more bite and a little less bark. A little less fight and a little more spark.

I appreciate your perspective on balancing reflection and action. It’s interesting how different approaches work for different people. How do you find the right balance in your own practice?

I am always striving for imbalance towards action, Herr Stoiber.

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I understand the importance of taking action. It seems we value different balances between reflection and action. Can you share an example of how leaning more towards action has benefited your Zettelkasten practice?