More fodder for the Folgzettel debate

Thanks @osgav
Question about PARA. Imagine you have different legal entities. This might be YOU, YOURWIFE, YOURCOMPANY. So PARA would just say create those 4 categories for each entity, right? So now imagine you always filed taxes for just YOU. Then, you decided to jointly file for you and your wife. Should the joint taxes be duplicated under the YOU entity and the YOURWIFE entity? Or maybe you create a joint entity: YOU&YOURWIFE and create PARA categories under that. This YOU&YOURWIFE would be a bit like the junction table approach first mentioned.

I’m still noodling about this but it seems the obsidian and zettel crowd are not the only communities to tackle the issue of organizational schemes.

Here are other topic areas that seem to have some relevance.

In game design, there is an idea called Data Oriented Design. Describes a process for managing all your data and the methods on that data.

Generally, the literature on “namespaces” tackles organizational issues and methods.

In relational database management, model schemas are often premised on an organizational principal. Specifically, as previously mentioned, Junction or Bridge Tables deal with many to many relationships without hierarchy.

One of the unspoken issues here is computer based search v. human based search. The power most people get from the linking system and graph in Obsidian is it aids human based search. UUIDs are great for computer based search but often bad for human based search. Links help with human based search and perhaps computer based search in something like a graph database (for example NEO4J). Tags help with human based search. Folders help with human based search. MOCs are for human based search. Dewey decimal is for human based search. If you look at database design literature, the various organization schemes are ment for optimizing computer based search (e.g. decreasing the latencies of queries). There is a certain rhyming to the human based methods and the computer based methods. For example, in human based search, Folgzettel or other numbering schemes and alphabetizing schemes seem to play a role that indexing does for a database in computer based search.

Collectively, it might be interesting to draw on the wisdom of crowds in this forum and think about the search optimizations used by computer based systems and their analogues in human based search. There might even be new ideas for human analogues waiting to be discovered…

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@Finessest ~ As a new Obsidian user, I am very grateful for the insights and perspective you’ve shared in this discussion (see excerpted highlights below).

You have beautifully articulated the brilliant organizational flexibility that Obsidian provides. This is, in fact, what drew me to Obsidian in the first place: the opportunity to create a discovery engine, or a “browser of knowledge” which I look forward to sharing with others, using Obsidian’s publish feature.

Thank you for mirroring my own natural instincts to rely on links and MOCs to build out the structure of my collection. This is a delightful confirmation of the value of allowing an organizational structure to emerge by growing your note collection organically and building connections as you go . . . .

If you’re asking me, what is the best file structure you can build in Obsidian then I’ll probably answer: “none”. It’s an endless fight against order and disorder, and any energy you putting in, the more likely it is to result in chaos in the long run.

Instead of using folders, use notes (.md files) as the first hierarchy. . . .The cool thing about it is you use full advantage of Obsidian flexibility.

My personal vault in Obsidian should be a replica of my brain, and as far as I know, I don’t think I store my knowledge in my brain in the form of folder storage. An unknown person taking over my vault would have no idea where to start searching. But as soon as I reveal my system, the connections, and relations between the dots, suddenly everything makes sense again and the disorder is no longer a disorder, but pure order.

That’s why, I don’t consider Obsidian only as a note-taking app, but also a browser of knowledge.

. . . . I recommend every newcomer to first write as many notes as possible, make connections, and create a cluster (MOC) after natural collisions between the notes have occurred. The structure arises by itself when you produce content. That’s the beauty of Obsidian.

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what about other media? Take the example of Luhmann. He had books and papers that he read to generate the notes. He had to physically place those books and papers somewhere. I doubt he simply put all books on a shelf in no order whatsoever (the equivalent of a heap). I doubt he stuffed all the papers he read into a file cabinet with no organizing principle. The same with your electronic files. All electronic files need to be saved somewhere. Should they all be in a single folder with the file naming convention and search doing the work of organizing them or is there value in introducing levels of abstraction by create some sort of directory file folder system? With Obsidian and your notes, you can have everything in a single folder and use the powerful search, linking and tagging to find things but what about with everything else?

For almost a decade now, I’ve been using TheBrain as the central hub of my digital life. This application allows users to track and organize notes along with “everything else” mentioned above (files, media, books, bookmarks, research projects, financial records, household inventories, etc.) using an interactive graph which can also be displayed in an outline view.

However, the published (online) view of TheBrain leaves quite a bit to be desired for my purposes, so I’m here now exploring Obsidian. As a new user, my experience with Obsidian is limited, but I suspect an organic organizational strategy (similar to what I’ve used in TheBrain) could also be achieved in Obsidian using @Finessest’s “folderless” organization strategy along with MOCs and tags.

For example: you might want to consider using MOCs instead of folders (think of MOCs like categories), and then use tags to ID various types of content and/or status of the content. As you continue working with the growing body of notes in your collection, it will probably become increasingly clear how best to use MOCs and tags to provide the structure and accessibility you need.

In fact, I’ve even seen a suggestion here in the forum that tags themselves can be replaced by pages (perhaps another type of MOC?), which is an option I plan to explore further in the days ahead. [Later] Just now stumbled on a related discussion that might be of interest: Tags vs Pages/Links

In any case, do keep us posted on how you eventually decide to manage “everything else”. I’ll be looking forward to your updates.


In my vault I just keep a bibliography folder with notes titled in the APA format. Then I can use standard windows search if I need to pull up a file. Otherwise I also have Calibre, which is a book management software that organizes all my books.

Pictures I keep in Obsidian attachment folder. Academic papers I just keep in a single folder on my desktop. I’m not sure what other media you are wondering about?