Trying to find Obsidian's purpose

I’ve spent a week or two trying to understand if this software can help me. I’ve read the “Quick Start Vault”, I’ve watched videos on YouTube, I briefly joined a Reddit channel. I even followed a tutorial to create a personal vault and setup daily notes. What I haven’t done is actually create anything in the software.

I have about 1000 markdown and HTML documents that are the documentation for a complex software product that I provided technical support for over the last 20 years. I figured that I could use Obsidian to create links between these documents, run them through a headless CMS like HUGO and publish it on the web. That would allow me to consolidate this information into a central location. Right now this information is in many locations online. Right now I am trying to manage this in Github and Visual Studio Code which isn’t really working. Over on Reddit, I was told not to use Github Markdown for links because the Obsidian format of linking is used by many sites and therefore better. I’ve actually never seen the [[…]] format used anywhere else. I need the links to work outside Obsidian.

However, all the information that I have looked at is about personal notes, journals, knowledge systems to run your lives and such. It all seems very much like school, which I hated. The last time I was in a classroom, my PC had a 120 Mhz CPU and a 20 MB hard drive. It was okay for the time but didn’t run Windows 95 very well. A lot has changed since then. I never went to more than a semester of college and that seems what this program is geared towards instead of a general productivity tool. I don’t highlight passages in books, view webinars that I need to take notes on, or do research for school.

I do like the idea of notes but not even sure on where to start or how this will make life better.

Hmmm I’m not using it for knowledge structure either. So I guess I don’t highlight passages or write papers with it. I have been using it for two weeks now and I am having some good time with it.

The purposes I use it for is:

  1. to track my work - daily goals, some code snippets, whatever I like to get done today and tomorrow (I always like to plan my life ahead).
  2. to write anything done work-related, reports, teaching materials, some ideas with coding (but I also don’t think Obsidian is suitable for beginner coders to learn coding, hope i’m wrong). Before using Obsidian, I use overleaf and online blogs, which are not exactly convenient as you can see. Templates make my life easier indeed.
  3. to track the health, diet, and everything of my 24 birds (main purpose of my using Obsidian). It’s surprisingly helpful to keep a records of prescription history and what they eat and who is looking ill. I’m using to together with Apple Notes. When I read on avian medicine I copy them down for future references with Zotero and PDFexpert (they have a nice workflow enabled by plug-ins).
  4. to track the progress of my application. I’m applying for multiple Master programs and I write the drafts of my CV, LOR, PS in it.

Things waiting to be included:

  1. records of my family’s health
  2. music production (not sure if it’s suitable.)

Hope this gives you some ideas for how obsidian can work for people who are neither researching nor in classroom.

But I do stare at my PC long enough to make all of this happen. I forgeth to open the app on weekends TBH when I’m not working. If I’m not working I won’t even think of using this app at all. If you can’t find its purpose, maybe it’s simply that this app doesn’t suit your lifestyle.

I also don’t think you need to include all your previous work in it. It’ll be too time consuming and defy the idea of boosting productivity with it.

You could drag all your markdown documents into the “content” folder of Hugo (and organize them by subfolders).

Then, to link them, you could edit your links to use the internal-linking format of Hugo…

[Specs]({{< ref "/page/specs" >}} "Specs")

or the external-linking format of Hugo…

[Link text](URL "Link title")

To convert all your your old links to new links, you could use TextWrangler to “Find and Replace”

Having worked with Obsidian for about a year, my observation is that Obsidian itself is trying to arrive at an answer to the question “what is obsidian’s purpose?”. In Obsidian’s early days, it was inspired by Roam Research, a tool that prides itself on offering “networked thought” to users via links between notes. It was clear that Obsidian’s clearest differentiating feature compared to other markdown-ish, note-taking-ish tools is supporting of links between notes. Since then, Obsidian has tried to offer features to cater to diverse workflow – publish blog posts, track productivity, find connections between notes (research), etc.

My observation is that Obsidian has not developed its clearest differentiating feature – links between notes – as much as it has other features.

Personally, Obsidian has been a real step up from previous note-taking apps. However, the “ideal” second brain workflow: create note in isolation → note is automatically linked to other notes → have powerful querying/exploring fuctionality on graph of notes, has not been realized and has not had as much development work compared to the amount of work given to other workflows.

Obsidian is, at the moment, trying to find Obsidian’s purpose.

1 Like

I think its easy to dream up the ideal note taking app and find ways that Obsidian is not currently meeting those needs, but what I think is far better than that ideal app is a very basic fast note taking/linking app, and that is exactly what Obsidian already is.

I find the barrier to entry extremely low for jotting down a few atomic notes and quickly linking to other Related existing notes or yet-to-exist note links. The app doesn’t get in your way. Its simple. In the best possible way.

1 Like

The purpose I’ve ascribed to obsidian is to be a memory bank of my projects (AKA PARA) and all the multiple years of my experience. I use it to pay it forward to my future self.

This thread on ycombinator about how writing is thinking is very helpful. Your purpose in obsidian for the most part is found in how and what you write. When I come back to my vault, graph, or any other page and have a realization or epiphany about either the knowledge or yourself, I stop thinking of obsidian as just another tool for capture and instead think of it as a way to augment and improve how I think, which is the best future return I think we can give to ourselves.

Obsidian for me is and should be a multi pronged tool that allows me freestyle my thought process without having too much hierarchy or friction. The low friction, low hierarchy, and atomic nature of obsidian is where it shines. I ascribe it’s purpose as tool for active recall and to really supplant multiple large domains of thought.

If you get bogged down in the hierarchy too much it’s easy to get lost on which level of contexts you are writing for. Sort of like a house of cards. There is always a ridiculous amount of information in major project that can be remembered on a whim by just quick capturing and having snappy access to multiple levels of context with a low friction environment.

Some books about writing I think are the best tools for expanding what’s capable with obsidian. In the end it likely does end up just being another tool for storing lots of old information, I am always taking a bet or a risk on which old information is going to give returns into the future.

Writing for me in obsidian is a way to push the boundaries of my thought, but it’s not always apparent that’s what I’m doing. So if you feel stuck and are evaluating the purpose, I’d say that’s a very good place to be, because you want to be in uncharted waters to explore new boundaries of thought.

I find my memory to be finicky even when I try to be deliberate about what I do and how I specialize.

It’s not that I find it hard to get stuff done, my memory is just not always 100% at saving the contexts I associate with my experience and how I approach my projects.

This topic was automatically closed 30 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.