Open Sourcing of Obsidian

@aarmn @Nico please avoid turning this into a personal debate/argument. If there is any more ad-hominem bickering, or escalation, it will be flagged and removed.

There are some fine points raised. But as an argument thermometer, count the number of times the word “you” shows up in the most recent posts in this thread, and consider ignoring/disengaging.

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Your points are mostly valid in my opinion, specially the fact that community of these note-taking apps are not great at fixing issues, but there are many flaws:

  1. obsidian team (which makes money out of this tool) shouldn’t obviously let all to open-source community to drive the development, they can focus their expertise into community management, smth corporations are often quite good at compared to purely free organized projects, they are still head of development, I think the problem here is more about “stealing our magic sauce”, which is valid in a co-operation view, but arguing other points, like forks is quite dishonest, as forks can be gently ignored, because obsidian will hold the biggest chunk of userbase anyways, as the initial user-base is seeded there. unless they do some seriously suspicious, often people use google chrome and not chromium, often people use firefox and not librefox, this argument of going opensource causes forks to cause serious trouble is just a lie, or a seriously awful speculation. obsidian has an extension market, so there wont be no petty I lack this small feature fork out there, and if there be it would go by the wind.
  2. dendron seems dead, but there is an alive alternative, foam, which had a release a few days ago, and even dendron is still very much usable, I didn’t see dendron repo be archived either, which is weird
  3. I didn’t mention Athens because their repo is archived
  4. I would absolutely do the last paragraph and I think you are right, we are doomed to not have good things because its hard to orchestrate majority of the people to spend some time make them.

Replying to each points:

  1. I think you’re going off on tangent quite a lot here? I’m not arguing anything about forks. The concerns about stealing the “magic sauce” I think is valid. If you don’t agree that there is “magic sauce” that companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Cocacola, and McDonald’s need to keep secret, then we should agree to disagree at a fundamental level.
    You say that Obsidian team should be the head of development, which means that they need to spend time to manage people instead of focusing on coding. And do they need to chase volunteers for deadlines? Does that really offer any benefits over the current ways they operate? Also see my last point below about how complicated the codebase can be.
  2. Foam and Dendron both operate on top of VSCode. Even many developers choose Obsidian over these 2 alternatives, which to me means that Obsidian is better to them. For regular, non-technical users Obsidian is more accessible.
    Dendron isn’t archived because the founder still uses it, and there maybe occasional bug fixes. I believe there’s 1 update since they announced the stop in development in February.
  3. Yep. I just wanted to list some apps that failed.
  4. To me Obsidian is the good thing we have, and it’s best to just leave the team alone. Logseq initially was receptive of users input, which led them into doing things I deem such a waste of time and causes some brawl in the community. Now they’re very resistant and defensive to feedback. As you said, “its hard to orchestrate majority of the people to spend some time make them”, so just let the team stay small and focused in building Obsidian. No need to distract them with things that may or may not bring fruitful results, especially when the current system doesn’t break, let alone that it’s working very well.

Oh btw, regarding this point

Logseq codebase is already too complicated that each of their engineer usually operate only within their responsibility. That’s from a statement from Logseq team. I’m speculating here, but that to me helps explain why there’s lots of breakage and regression after each update.

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Wow, what a thread! I’m new to Obsidian and LOVING IT. I like the principles of open source and think what’s in the Obsidian manifesto matches a lot of those, so this convo caught my attention.

I’m not an open source absolutist though. My primary hope is that eventually something formal gets added to the manifesto re: not selling the company to a corporate giant & open sourcing if the company ever dissolves. That way we know the app can continue to survive so long as there’s a community around it.

I asked Kepano about this on Twitter today and appreciated he took the time to respond: https://twitter.com/swarajadhikary/status/1701345334453268873

I feel like I’m maybe missing something though - has there been a promise explicitly made that they’ll open source if the company disappears? I see the Ericax post in the Hacker News thread from 2020 but not sure if that ever translated to something “formal”?

Mostly I’m just glad this fantastic app exists and support whatever the devs feel they need to do to keep making it. They’ve clearly earned a bit of trust here - something is working well over there! And my guess is having a small, tight team with a sustainable income stream is a big part of it.

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Just to make it public, I’ve sent this message to Silver on discord (here the discussion seems quite inactive). Let me know wdyt

Hey Silver!

I saw ur message on the open sourcing obsidian thread (Open Sourcing of Obsidian - #10 by Dor), and I would like to give my two cents on it since I have been working a lot with open-source companies during the past years (might be a bit biased due to that). First of all i would like to give you a huge props for all the work that you and your team have been doing!

My argument for open-source here is not because of distrusting what the team have built and possible privacy issues, since usually does issues can go unnoticed easily on open-source projects, you need proper audits to detect that (the common user won’t do that).
My biggest argument stands for letting people fix the problems that they find. I recently opened an issue in the forum regarding the publish feature, and I have no clue if that will be in the development pipeline ever, while for me it’s really important to have that feature implemented. Since I have a software engineering background, I don’t mind do it myself

This leads to the argument that you pinpointed: “Honestly in some cases, doing a good code review will take us more time than actually fixing it ourselves”. This is totally true, and it will stand true the few months after open sourcing the project. During the first months, the important thing to find is the contributors that don’t mind doing code reviews (that are any good), and that u feel confident reviewing the review (trust levels). I can ensure you that there are some people that don’t mind doing it for free. Other way to do it is reviewing things that are relevant. If an issue has 1000 reactions and has an open PR to fix it, it might be worth reviewing it, otherwise you just leave the PR open for some time (even if you have 1k open PRs), that will pressure the community to do the code reviews to accelerate the process

There’s also the forking and business side. People forking a project is normal, but i never saw a fork that have successfully surpassed the official project, without the official project being dead, or doing poor management decisions (e.g. open sourcing and then putting a super restrictive license). Competitors also might arrive, where you have two cases:

  • Too small: they can’t do much, since you already have the community and a pretty fast development
  • Too big: where licensing comes in hand
    “Too big” are the ones that you should worry, but it’s really rare for them to do that. While you still outpace them, with the same argument in the “too small”

Right now, I think you are in the perfect spot to open source obsidian, since you have a big and strong community. But would love to discuss other concerns or questions that you might have

Last but not least, u don’t need to have everything perfect from day

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I messaged droak about this directly and they were perfectly reasonable, but a public reminder as well: DMing folks on Discord unsolicited is against the CoC. Thanks!

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After reading almost three years worth of posts I would suggest to close this thread.
I think everything that had to be said was said multiple times.

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Probably everything has been said that can be, but the thread gives people who feel really passionate about it a place to say their piece.

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The only reason to be open source is to show that your code is secure and that there is nothing nefarious going on. A note talking app (Obsidian) doesn’t need to be open source…

I think there is a lot of open source dogma around, but that doesn’t mean it should apply to every piece of code. If Obsidian open sourced, there would be 10 copies of obsidian in a week creating confusion and possible nefarious impersonation issues.

I think that open sourcing the user interface is particularly stupid. There was a case recently where a cryptocurrency hardware wallet had all its code open sourced and someone created a duplicate app and then began trying to redirect legitimate users to the fake app to download an update that hacked their coins.

In a perfect world, everything could be open source, but we do not live in a perfect world.

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While I follow and agree with both sides of the discussion in this forum, I have to politely disagree. Open sourcing a project is NOT just to show code is secure. There are several other strong (and even stronger) arguments for opensource which have been covered as far back as the beginning of this thread (so I won’t waste time repeating them here years later). I think there has even been good argument for why security isn’t a good reason to opensource, as there are other ways to achieve the same/similar result.

While I would also like open source since I can then use the tool more freely how I choose and even fork it if I find a design decision I dislike (or to fix an issue like how tag completion appears to be case sensitive and being able to search configuration options either in the UI or in the codebase), I understand why Silver might not be a fan.

Anyway this topic has been going back and forth for years. Eventually, I’ll try Dendron, and see what else is out there if I really want Open Source, and I think that is likely the best path for anyone stuck on this still. I don’t feel like Obsidian is going to budge any time soon (though I do hope they do as there are good ways to do this and still maintain revenue.)

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putting my hat in the ring hoping for an open-source commitment from obsidian if they were to cease operation/development. It’s very hard for me to feel comfortable committing to an obsidian workflow knowing that some day i will have no choice but to shift my entire workflow elsewhere in a way that will not be compatible with the plugins ive grown accustomed to

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I don’t want to participate in the discussion, I just found Notesnook post about open sourcing their software and thought it could be a relevant text for this thread:

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