Organising read & unread articles in Obsidian

Hey all, I’m wondering how to best integrate both read & unread articles into my Obsidian knowledge base.

Usually, every interesting link I find goes into Pocket. Some articles may be read right away, others on the weekend when I go through the accumulated queue. But most articles just sit there – reading them feels like a distraction, but I don’t want to lose information that seems useful. The links (essays, videos, podcasts) come from many different sources including Twitter, newsletters, or mentions from other things I read.

For insightful articles, I paste the URL into an Obsidian page and add a few bullet points & page refs as literature notes. This information is then easily available when I return to the topic in the future and links into existing thoughts.

My problem is that I only read a tiny fraction of the interesting and worthwhile things I see. That’s good because we only have so much time, but it also feels like wasted potential. Other people’s created content is the refined version of their best thoughts, and I want this to have a place in (or at least a link from) my own knowledge base.

Right now, I don’t ever search my Pocket list because it’s so separate from notes in Obsidian. In the spirit of having an “anti-library” of topics yet to explore, knowledge yet to acquire (see The Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are The Most Important - Farnam Street): Has anyone found a lightweight way to organize worthwhile unread articles?

Do you know what I mean?

Doesn’t this work for you?

Not entirely – the plugin helps to create notes for specific Pocket items, but not to organize the links or integrate them all into Obisidian. You have to click on each item separately to create an Obsidian page. But maybe this can be extended.

Example of the list it shows (which is not an actual saved page):

Pocket seems to be down atm anyway. :rofl:

I treat Pocket as a hoard - might be worth looking at closer in the future, but not now.
I have one Obsidian vault of collected, pages and documents which might be useful in the future, worth reading now and collecting but not fully processing.
If I’m researching something I’ll check both collections before looking wider.
My notes are comments on sources that I have processed.
I use Instapaper as deferred reading.

At the end of the day, you have to read the pages before they can be useful. It’s a question of when it’s worth spending that time, and how they will come to your attention when you need them.

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Yep I agree, it’s a question of when to spend the time reading something. Most often that’s not when we come across a link, hence I’m wondering how to best prioritize.

You have an interesting system. If I understand you correctly, you put articles you come across in one of these increasing buckets?

  1. Read now, write notes in Obsidian
  2. Put link into Obsidian vault of collected pages per specific topic
  3. Instapaper to read in the near future (e.g. on the weekend)
  4. Pocket to not miss the link but without a concrete plan to read

And if you’re thinking about a topic later you also search sources in that order (notes first, pocket last)? Does it work well for you? I was wondering how to do the whole prioritization in Obsidian – but seems like your process also works.

1 is Store, Read now, write notes in Obsidian
1.5 is Store, tag in Obsidian; maybe put in a specific topic vault
2 is Store in Obsidian - in an Unprocessed Store vault
4 is Save in Pocket (to ensure I have a copy of the actual page rather than a link to a page that might change).

3 Is out of the process. Only goes in Instapaper if I think I might be interested to read it, but have no expectation of ever wanting to use it.

I may have other numbers too :wink:

Yes. As you observe, it’s a selection of filters. It’s designed to save me wasting time unnecessarily but also not to discard any time already spent.

There’s a fashion saying there’s no point in having a hoard. But I’d argue that there’s also no point in wasting time already spent in reading or noticing an article and no point in making notes on something you doubt will ever be of use to you.

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Agreed. Of some use, but limited. For me, it really needs the ability to import the Pocket page, else it’s just as easy to do the work with Pocket directly.

Hi,
What I understand is that you use an other tool (Pocket) apart from Obsidian to capture “read it later” articles, do I understand correctly ?

I can understand the problem with “read it later”. Sometimes you just need time to read later something, because you are not able to read it with a clear mind right away, so taking good notes is impossible.

I noticed that the more tools I use, the least lucky I am to find the information or remember to do something. So I stock in my Obsidian Vault markdown page that I extract with a Firefox addon (which works fine with Chrome and Safari as well) : GitHub - deathau/markdownload: A Firefox and Google Chrome extension to clip websites and download them into a readable markdown file.
It converts a webpage into a markdown file. I stock it in my “articles to read” folder for later. Working notes within my Obsidian vault is easier than using an other tool.

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Yes exactly. I’m thinking about how to make my hoard of articles (which I already spend time on curating) more accessible, so it’s not just a black hole. Maybe I just need to have more consistency to check multiple parts of my content filter, like you describe.

Thank you for your replies!

Yep, and I wonder how I can do more of the read-it-later filtering workflow in Obsidian. Too many tools can become overwhelming and fragmented as you said, and I’m already doing organization of thoughts (but not articles) in Obsidian.

Interesting, so you do the entire reading in Obsidian then? How do you take notes about an article – do you edit the imported text? Do you tag / link the articles you import before reading them?

What works for me is file naming. It has to contain the subject, the source and the priority “AAA.Zettlekasten method - Linking strong.Site xyg”. No tag, nothing. I read, I keep or note and I suppress the article. Everything in the “Read it later” folder is meant to be read and destroy. That’s a todo list by itself :wink:

Yeap I read it on Obsidian. Much smoother to my eyes, to begin with and allow me to transform a reading into an zettle right away. The import folder is a temporary one. Extract something to a source is to work on it and transform it so the file don’t stay “as it” for long.

While reading, I create one Note per citation/ideas, and a main note to present the article and the source in my Litterature Note with every Notes linked to it.

I work with a side by side view just like this :

The left one is the main article, the right one is a temporary litterature note. I have already put my templates of note into it and begin to take my note. The blue lines are my own questions to further research.

I work almost the same with PDF : I put my reader to the left, and write to the right. I rewrite everything and copy-paste quotes direct in my markdown notes, their is nothing left of the initial extract (poor thing ahah).

If I want to keep some parts (for example I really like to cite Homer, Ovide or Pratchett), I cut and create a new document in Obsidian for individual citations and link it into a Litterature Note.

"# Homer

Note :

(Littérature Note here)

Citation

  • [[Homer.Illyade.Chant 1.Trucmuche]]
  • [[Homer.Odyssée.Chant4.Machinchose]]"

And so on.
I hope it can help you to create your own system :slight_smile: The less is the best from my point of view. I relate to your feeling very well and it took time to find something that works for me. I hope you’ll find it quicker than me :slight_smile:

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  1. I deliberately keep everything out of Obsidian unless I expect to be able to work on it soon.
  2. Pocket contains pages that might be useful in the future. I don’t want to spend time on them now, but don’t want to lose them either. Pocket is easy to search when i need to.
  3. Instapaper is my ‘read it later’. I doubt I will ever find anything I put in it useful, but might be interested in reading. Much like a newspaper or magazine, except I’ve done the curating. If it turns out to have a use, I will move it later.
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I use the markdown webclipper to clip articles to a folder NewClippings in my Obsidian vault. The markdown clipper allows you to define a template with front and after sections. At the top when clipping I add my motivation for saving it, what caught my eye, where I think it might connect to. When I later search for something I will also find clipped articles that might be relevant to it. I may then take one of them read them in earnest, starting from my original motivation, and take something from it to keep in my own notes. If not, that’s fine, then it’s just a list of potential resources. But adding the context for saving them is key to me, otherwise it’s just a random collection of articles, where each time I encounter them I would need to re-evaluate why it might be in my collection of clippings.

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Interesting, how many articles do you import this way? I imagine it might only be for the articles that seem obviously useful in the near future? Do you still keep a Pocket / Instapaper account for other various content?

Thank you all for the great ideas to try!

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The workflow I use is that I start mostly from my feed reader, scanning for interesting bits (in comparison to my current list of interests), and using the surprise I feel as antenna. Sometimes I save the posting that’s in my reader itself, but more often I save the article / paper the posting links to / discusses. When saving I add my rationale for doing so. I started using that markdown clipper to an Obsidian folder last year November and now have just under 700 articles clipped (plus a much lower number of scientific articles / pdfs saved to Zotero).

I don’t use Instapaper et al anymore (years ago I used to be a paying customer). Mostly because I found I wasn’t using it usefully.
I should be doing triage, meaning scanning the content of an article or reading it quickly once, briefly thinking about its meaning to me, and deciding to save it or not, and when saving adding my reasons to it so future-me has some info to go on. My current set-up does that. With Instapaper I found that I did not actually triage, I did headline scanning and then saved it. But usually never bothered to go back. I was not triaging, I was postponing triage. So it fell into the collectors fallacy.

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I developped the same problem than yours, back in time. My reading list was a huge mess and I never found any pieces of informations inside it. If I think something is valuable enough to keep it, I keep it and extract the important part right away before making a deep reading later. “The collector fallacy” is the good way to define it.

I read someone who just sends himself articles he finds on Telegram with tags, whatever he is on PC or phone, like " # important" “# project 1”. What I find interesting here is that he has an active approach of the picking article process. An other one use Joplin to clip articles, and uses this software as a clipper organizer. It is a really interesting method as well as you can use “books” and “tags” in Joplin.

At the end, I think the method has to be convenient and aligned with the goals we set for oursleves. If curation is an important part of our work, maybe an other tool would be more adequate than this or this. But if you feel overhelmed by a lot of noises without being able to say “this article is important to work” and “this article is interesting but I will not work it” or “gosh why did I keep this thing in the first place ?” then it worths to try an other approach.