Is it better to curate your notes, or bulk import?

Watching an August Bradley video, he suggests that Roam/Obsidian is best used for curated knowledge - the good stuff that you want to build connections between - as opposed to something like Evernote which is more of a dumping ground or archive.

At first this seemed a logical approach to me, but over time I have thought that perhaps this does not best create opportunities for serendipity between ideas. For example, if I choose to bulk upload the book highlights I have, it is possible that one day i will be in a random note, check the unlinked mentions, and find an interesting connection from years before.

Interested to hear others’ take on this.

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I’ve read similar opinions, like “Moving from one system to the other should be done manually“. The indent of that statement is to make you go through the notes and discard what is not needed.

I’m a bit torn. I want to import my 8 years worth of notes from Apple’s notes app in Obsidian so I can discover them with the Random Note plugin, but I also want to go through them and clean up the junk, instead of moving that junk to the vault.

What I started doing is import the notes one by one. It is slow and tedious, but is a process that turned out to generate new notes :smile:

My end goal is to have my vault contain only curated, refined, evergreen notes. But that’s not an absolute. There is a spectrum. The transient, raw, mindless notes from the dumping ground are the soil for the new polished notes. In between the two states there are many levels of polishing and note refinement. (Search the forum for “IMF”)

The question I’m debating is whether I should make the plants in my mind garden stronger, clean them from weeds and then expand or should I dump more soil and seeds and weeds and hope for the best…

Now that I read the above sentence, I guess if I want results now, I should curate and clean up. If I’m not getting enough results—more curation.

If I don’t have anything to curate, maintain and develop, then I would need raw material and my vault will be a dumping ground for a while.

I guess if you make a folder called “dumping ground” or “inbox” you’ll be walking the middle way—you have your dumping ground, a place of contained chaos, and you have your curated notes outside of it.

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So long as you have access to the originator system, curation is better. That’s not the same as bringing everything across manually. It means you do new work and bring old work across when it’s relevant to something you’re doing.

You can bring everything across if you want, but that does mean spending time on stuff that may have no payoff.

Bulk import means that your new shiny efficient system has been filled with grit.

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I just went through this same internal debate a few weeks ago as I was jumping onto the Obsidian train. I had ~10 years worth of notes in Evernote with some reasonable tagging as a starting point, and I had an idea that some number of these tags — perhaps the top 10% by tag count — would naturally form the basis of topics that I would handle as links in Obsidian. I did not like the thought of only exporting a subset of notes, or of manually carrying them over one at a time while converting them to top-quality evergreen notes, simply because I thought I would get bogged down in the process, and wind up forever straddling two systems.

I settled on making a clean break, and took a hybrid approach to the import. I segregated notes into a “Top 10% by Tag Count” group, which was probably 50% of the notes, exported them from Evernote, converted to markdown [with Yarle], search-and-replaced the #tags to [[links]] with VS Code, and dropped into my vault. I then took my remaining half of notes, added an #orphan tag, exported this group and dropped them into an orphan folder in my vault. Now I have everything in one place, it’s reasonably clear which stuff hasn’t been curated, and a search will turn up results across the entire set. With the Obsidian curated-note mindset, I’m trying to rely more on MOCs and links rather than bulk searches, so I’m expecting the organized part of my garden to grow with more thought and attention, and the weeds will slowly become a smaller part of the whole.

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I don’t like having notes over two softwares and like most people, am impatient to see graph and linking results, so what I have done is:
Export journal notes from Evernote into their own folder in Obsidian and export a bulk of my notes in an Inbox folder. That way I have all the notes I need in one place, and can curate them and add links as I go. It has worked well for me – once I have curated a note and added links/data to it, I move it into my main vault. Over time, they will all migrate there, but I’d rather not wonder wether the note is back in Evernote or in Obsidian in the meantime.

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I think this very much depends on how easy it is to get notes from your existing system into Markdown. I built a tool to export my notes from Onenote to markdown, which made it simple to get into Obsidian and VS Code (I use the Markdown Memo extension there, but am looking forward to the development of Foam). Evernote can export to Notion or Joplin, which can go to Markdown. Other apps have other workflows that have been shared in the forums. If you can do it easily, I think the answer is definitely “Bulk Import”, as the curation has to happen one way or another, and it might as well be in the place and format (e.g. wikilinks, tags, headers, etc…) that you want to be using.

The hard part, of course, is actually making sense of it all. I’ve been “curating” (if you can call my paralysis that) my 6 years and million words of “notes” for a couple months now.

I spent a while “refactoring” many monolithic monstrosities into more “atomic” notes, and now have thousands of them. I’m currently setting up some topical Index Pages a la the IMF system and will start cataloging these atomic notes into MOCs, where I’ll then aim to get them to a sort of “Evergreen” status eventually, probably deleting all the excess (while keeping an Archive of it for posterity’s sake).

If I started again, I think I would have set up the MOCs first as I could have been tagging the pages as I refactored them. Not only would I have saved time, but I would have had a better understanding of what goes where and how the MOC categories should be structured.

I hope this is helpful to someone…

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meow thank you, this was helpful for me as i consider transferring my notion kb to obsidian. am new to evergreen note curation, was more of a collector :frowning:

thinking outloud

-export notion to markdown (does this export nested pages too?)
-import these source notes into an obsidian inbox to be processed and refined further
-create MOCs for the recurring themes/major subjects of my notes
-create an index or home page, collect all MOCs in one place
-as notes are curated, plop them in the MOCs they belong to, review where they might fit with existing ideas and link frenzy

can you share more, what do you mean re: topical index pages? is it just alphabetized MOC? I saw @nickmilo webinar recently on LYT but still trying to understand