Making the most of my Knowledge Database

Hi all! I serendipitously stumbled upon Obsidian, Knowledge Databases and Zettelkasten, and though I am completely engrossed and excited, I am also incredibly overwhelmed!

I am sure that I can figure out how to use the software itself through research, but I have a lot of issues relating to the content of my KDB.

For some background: I am a (recent graduate, looking for work) designer (physical products). From my experience, the most creative designers are able to draw on a wide range of knowledge and connect ideas in an interesting way into the functionality of their product.

My goal with my personal KDB is to able to externalise and visualise this process. While I look for a job, I am planning to build a personal DB from all the articles, books, videos and podcasts that I consume. I want to take this personal KDB and duplicate it in another vault where I can interface it with my (future) work projects.

In my research on how best to go about this, I have found a lot of articles and resources but the information is just too much. For the past few weeks I have been reading about KDBs instead of building one. To narrow down my focus I have prepared a list of questions whose answers will help me proceed with more clarity:

  • Does everything I consume go in my KDB? - by this I mean do my recipes and thoughts about music records go in there alongside my learnings from design books and linguistics articles, for example?
  • I’m currently linking articles together at the top of the notes using tags for sources and links for topics. ex: #wired [[linguistics]] [[memory]]. is this an efficient way to link articles? will it get unwieldy as the number of my notes increases?
  • writing notes: i just can’t do atomic notes. I am wordy, and I wonder if making the effort to switch to atomic notes will be worth it?

Thank you for reading through this, I appreciate a the help!

P.S: I am the kind of person that derives a lot of pleasure from maintaining records. Even if the KDB doesn’t help with my creativity at work, maintaining my knowledge database and looking at it grow and interconnect will be really fulfilling for me!

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  • Does everything I consume go in my KDB? - by this I mean do my recipes and thoughts about music records go in there alongside my learnings from design books and linguistics articles, for example?

Entirely up to you. I tend to bung them into the same vault, but I use a little indicator in the file name to show which files are just personal notes (recipes, contact details, etc) and which are related to more substantial knowledge. This indicator makes it easy to filter one or the other when searching. But of course, there’s no reason to do this if you want to keep your KDB specifically for more high-brow idea.

  • writing notes: i just can’t do atomic notes. I am wordy, and I wonder if making the effort to switch to atomic notes will be worth it?

Atomicity isn’t about wordiness, it’s about the number of different concepts in a single note. For example, if you took away five key messages from a book you read, you would put each of the five key messages into their own notes. You could then have a different note that links to all five (with Obsidian, you can even display all five on one page with !links), or link from one idea to the next in a sequence. The idea then is you can link to/from each of those key ideas independently.

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As @sam.c states “atomic” is more about capturing a single idea or concept or principle per note, not about the length of the note.

I have an atomic note that is 10+ printed pages long but captures a single process in detail. It can’t meaningfully be broken up.

I also have other atomic notes that are barely more than a few lines long but still capture a single idea or principle or concept.

In each case they are given meaningful phrase-based titles (a la Andy Matuschak) so they can be combined in various ways in outlines and narratives.