Linking to people (friends, acquaintances etc.) you meet during your life

I am using Obsidian heavily as a journal and want to keep track of the people I meet and the friends I make during my life. People I know well and are a part if my life get their own pages, while casual acquaintances just stay links to unexciting files.

Since I can’t tell beforehand who actually becomes a friend later on, I create links for people from the very first meeting on, even if I might actually know that we probably never meet again. I found that by looking at my journal graph view, seeing all those names of people there, sparks a lot of memories, even if I just met someone once (In general I think I often remember experiences I had with others better, than the ones I had alone). And if the noise is too loud, I toggle off the unexciting files in the graph and just see the important people in my life.

However, linking to everyone you get to know during your life leads to problems in Obsidian, since first names are usually not unique (and right now I am actually living in a country which has a very small variety of first names). Of course, I could write people’s surnames for the ones I know well, but I would like to avoid that for privacy reasons, just in case somebody gets access to my vault somehow.

So for now, this is my workflow for linking to people:

  1. I am using a specific identifier @ for new people/acquaintances and a number as a unique identifier for them.
  2. As soon as someone becomes closer to me, I remove the @ and also change the identifier number to a new identifier number, if I already have a close person with this name in my life.

Here is an example of this:

  • On some party, I’m getting to know John. I write about him in my journal, and he gets the link [[@John 1]]. He and I actually never meet again.

  • Weeks later, I’ll meet another John. Since I’ve already linked to a [[@John 1]], the new one becomes [[@John 2]]. I will mention [[@John 2]] maybe once or twice later on in my journal but eventual, we will not meet anymore.

  • Months later, I meet another John, [[@John 3]]. [[@John 3]] and I often meet and become good friends. He gets a page in Obsidian and I change his file name to [[John]]

  • Years later, I meet a different John. He gets the link [[@John 3]] (which is now available again and is the next identifier after [[@John 1]] and [[@John 2]] who are still as links in the database). [[@John 3]] and I don’t become friends.

  • Later in the future, I’ll meet another John again. He gets the link [[@John 4]]. We become friends. He gets a page in Obsidian and, since he is the second John I became friends with, I change his file name to [[John 2]].

Since Obsidian shows you which links you’ve created already, you can easily apply the identifier numbers without mixing things up (unless you forgot that you have met someone before in your life already and the other person forgot as well :slight_smile: ). It is not a perfect system, but it’s the most frictionless workflow I came up with and hopefully future-proof.

What systems do you use to manage the people in your life?

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That’s an interesting system. Just thinking of Icelandic names, where it can get really difficult …

Anyway, I currently use the system “First name, middle initial, surname” but as you say, the first duplicates appear.

I have 4 folders currently, each with a separate TOC:

Auswahl_127

People get map locations (if they’re willing to share—just love visualizing where in the world I know people) and differently colored map markers for the four categories.

Simple YAML metadata looks like this:

location: [51.133333,10.416667]
mapmarker: Friends
nearby: 25 km
birthday: 1970-07-11
tags: friends

This can be picked up by Obsidian Leaflet maps, and also allows me using Dataview to show what or who is “nearby”, or when their next birthday will be.

Also, I have a set of links to Google Maps created, so I can easily click in a note to get a routing, and—in Google Maps—then send the route to my smartphone for navigation. Just one more click.

[[-Friends & Family TOC]] [[-Map]] `= elink("https://www.google.com/maps/search/?api=1&query=" + this.location[0] + "," + this.location[1], "Google Maps")` `= elink("https://www.google.com/maps/@?api=1&map_action=pano&viewpoint=" + this.location[0] + "," + this.location[1], "Street View")` `= elink("https://www.google.com/maps/dir/?api=1&dir_action=navigate&destination=" + this.location[0] + "," + this.location[1], "Route")`

(Each person note links to its TOC, the overall map, a Google Maps location, a Street View, and a Route.)

The (auto-generated from people, location & events notes) map looks like this:

(The lower “Nearby” map is created from an auto-updating note that shows my current location. Ideal not to miss anything while traveling.)

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Thanks for sharing that! I will check out that Leaflet plugin since I am also having friends in different countries. Visualizing that on a map would be great! :slight_smile:

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@Moonbase59, you’re quite the data person. :smile:

@Kevzen, I had not thought of tracking everyone I meet, but I like the idea. I am thinking it might be easier to list the name along with the circumstances. If you meet John, you could make it [[Party John]] or even more descriptive such as [[John at Sally’s b-day party]]. Clunky, but could evoke memories better. Just a thought.

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I don’t track everyone, but I try to keep notes on colleagues who I collaborate with. This is mainly to help me jump between projects that are relevant to them.

I use ꆜ as a prefix for those notes so that I can quickly find them in the quick switcher.

That’s a nice idea! As you say, it might look clunky, but I can imagine it could work nicely when meeting new people. I will try that out for some time and see :slight_smile:

I did create a link to a non-existent note for new people on projects, but so many random people show up in and on project meetings, it was tracking too many random people. (I’m in consulting.)

Now, if I think I will want to keep track of interactions with a person, I’ll make a note. Otherwise, I’ll just list the person was in a meeting and include their email address.

Later, I can search by email address if I think I’ve run into someone in the past to see where that was.

For my people notes, I name them [[Lastname, Fname]]. I haven’t had any duplicates after ~8 months, but definitely wondering how I would handle that in a useful way. Maybe their company name? Or their profession?

Eg: [[Lastname, Fname - Project Manager]] versus [[Lastname, Fname - Developer]] .

I’d want the file name to tell me more about them at a glance so I don’t have to click into the file unless I have to.

Any chance you could show how you set up your leaflet maps, and your data view birthdays, I’m trying to do the same but don’t really know what I’m doing.

I have a “People” folder in Obsidian and then 3 folders inside that called “People I Know”, “People I’ve Met”, and “People I Don’t Know Personally”. I try and create notes for all of the “People I Know” and some for the “People I Don’t Know Personally” so that I’ll be able to remember who they are more easily in the future (but that all depends on how much time I have to write a note about someone I may never see again and depends on the day).

  • People I know” links have the format [[@First Last]], and the folder holds people I would say that I know. It leaves the grey area between people I’ve met once or seen twice or three times and then when I would say I know a person well enough to say I know them.
    • “@” signifier
    • Ex. [[@Joe Smith]]
  • The “People I’ve Met” links have the format [[[email protected] --- mutual friend/contact/business, meeting place descriptor]] and it holds the very casual acquaintance/introduced in a meeting/met at a party/etc. If I know their last name I fill it in, but a lot of times I don’t and so I use the --- to show I don’t have their last name.
    • [email protected]” signifier
    • As you mentioned it can get difficult to sort these because you may have met 3 Johns. I take care of this somewhat by with my format [[[email protected] --- mutual friend/contact/business, meeting place descriptor]] and include the fact that John is friends with Joe Smith (who I know) and so in the description portion I would put ‘JS friend, pool party’
    • This doesn’t offer a foolproof method (especially as ‘JS friend’ is kinda vague if I know a lot of people with initials JS), but it does at least give me something to go off of in the future when I’m coming back and saying “This is the same John who is Joe Smith’s friend, let me search ‘John JS friend’ and see if I have anything already to link to.”
    • One final note here is that sometimes if I forget even a person’s first name I’ll us the format [[[email protected] --- *mutual friend/contact, meeting place]] to have a placeholder as I can usually remember at least a first initial (worst cast scenario I just use [[[email protected] --- *mutual friend/contact, meeting place]]) and attempt to use social media or a quick check in with my mutual friend to at least get a first name. I definitely leave these with a tag #lookup to remind myself to come back and see if I can determine at least a first name.
    • Ex. [[[email protected] --- JS friend, pool party]]
  • People I Don’t Know Personally” have the format [[!@First Last]] and would be authors, actors, Joe Smith’s friend who he talks about all the time but I’ve never met, etc.
    • [email protected]” signifier
    • This let’s me link to/from/between things that involve an author/youtuber/etc.
    • It also lets me keep together helpful info if I actually want to create the note for that person
    • Ex. [[[email protected] Woods]]

Hope this is helpful or sparks an idea for you!

You could always use aliases. I have created two notes about Bobs. Bob Loblaw and Bob Seeger and given them both aliases of Bob. Then you can see in the “Bobs” note I have both of them linked already, and what it looks like when searching for them to link.