Visual/Spatial Note Taking - Whiteboard - Mind Map - Concept Map

What I’ve been wanting for some time, and am now finally working towards actually implementing is maintaining a set of markdown file/nodes with automation that monitors changes to them to maintain a visual graph of various types of linkages. This way that visual graph doesn’t (almost immediately) bit rot. Importantly, in the other direction editing of the graph visualization would automatically modify the corresponding hooks in the files. I’ve been expecting to start really thinking about labelled links, but have been pushing that off to a “version 2”.

Once I’m generating very large graphs, I intend to next evolve “new” mechanisms to quickly navigate them by incrementally discovering and inventing things that work and sifting them from the haystack of things that actually don’t work. Sorry, I don’t know how that will turn out yet, but I’ve done that sort of thing successfully in the past on a number of occasions, so I’m optimistic.

Skimming this thread, it seemed like most people were expecting to have to “manually” maintain the graph views (ala excalidraw?), and I’m trying to object to that here because of my experience of those views almost immediately becoming obsolete.

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@Perry Sounds very interesting. If you get your system up and running, I am sure people would love to hear about it. Maybe you could share it here on the forum.


I understand what you mean, but sometimes these creations aren’t being built for the long haul, and obsolete doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t serve a purpose. Regardless, point well taken. Are you talking about the upcoming plugin?

On a side note, with the name Corkboard / Whiteboard, it will be interesting to see how pinning the notes/blocks/headings/files is implemented. It will also be interesting to see how the plugin will assist in keeping the view from being too overwhelming. I was imagining the usefulness of Local Graph View showing node previews complete with the ability to rearrange, pin, stack. But perhaps you could also add manual non linked connections. There could be a toggle for viewing these. There are so many directions to go with a feature/plugin like this.

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I think I’m talking about what the upcoming plugin just might address. Or maybe I’m confused and/or confusing things.

For my old gitit wiki, I used graphviz on 4 different 3 day sessions to diagram the dependencies between a fair number of “projectlets” where those dependencies were a directed acyclic graph. Those nodes were fairly complex, and contained lists of what obsidian is calling internal AND external links. It took me a great deal of time to figure out how to both sort-of replicate that with mermaid, while (whenever I splatted against yet another brick wall) flipping back and forth to trying to render graphviz in obsidian.

I seem now to have succeeded in getting graphviz to work as a plugin in obsidian, modulo the fact that graphviz sortof does SVG version 1, while I need it to use some version 2 to talk to obsidian’s renderer. So I have my own kludged version of graphviz. But to do that, I needed to hack kroki as a separate server to run graphviz locally on my notebook, a solution I find ugly. I’ve tried to get the alternate version that runs graphviz-compiled-to-webasm, but I haven’t made it over the impedance mismatch between d3 expecting (demanding) it be run from html, and my needing to run it from a plugin. Hours of googling got nowhere, so I took a break from that head-bashing. It will soon be time to try again.

Finally finding a proof-of-concept that I could render at-least my old graphviz let me now invest in getting everything else to work (and then automatically generate the graphviz by using dataview (or the equivalent) to monitor the annotations and first maintain the dependency diagrams.

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As a separate major concern of mine is that hierarchies / outlines / mindmaps are utter poison to me. I’ve never been able to think in those straitjackets. I always have a dozen reasons to do anything. I utterly require DAGs. After years of futility sifting through endless tree-based tyrannies-of-the-dominant-hierarchies apps, I find it … exhausting … to watch people keep referring to mindmaps as a reasonable solution. Now, finally, DAGs are a thing!

I jumped in here to try to support the talk of agreeing with me about DAGs, and push back against the hierarchy-thinking I think I was seeing people ponder.

Concept maps for the win!

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PS. My weird wording above is my attempt to be (mildly) humorous.

For many of us long form writers, we’ve used the corkboard concept in Scrivener. It offers another way of not only viewing the existing document outline, but also adding new levels in the outline (new cards), reordering them, and even updating the contents. Because of the goodness of linking, the corkboard (from my vantive anyway) could be a useful and powerful way creating and modifying notes and their contents. Looking forward to what the thoughtful and creative minds of our developers do with this.
And it maybe something entirely different than anything in this thread:)

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I may be wrong but I think what you see in e.g. Scrintal or Heptabase is not merely a ‘corkboard’ but a huge evolution in PKM or CKM (collaborative KM) and the impact it will have in the long run can’t be overstated.
It will be like adding a 3D layer where you didn’t notice that you’ve been in 2D. Windows PocketPC (anyone?) to iPhone.
(and, augmented reality will add an actual 3d… but let’s not get too far ahead).
I really hope that the core whiteboard/ corkboard will emulate Scrintal and Heptabase. And if not, I hope that Dharam Kapila will have made an amazing plugin like that.

Nick Milo had Ece Kural, the founder of Scrintal in his Idea Exchange recently. This gave a good first insight into how this changes PKM. I’ll post the link when it’s live.

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legendapp, xtiles, and wallingapp all have a kind of card based thing going on, and I could see Obsidian having a canvas view where you could work with notes like this.

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I personally would use that canvas as a post-it, kanban, timeline, topic organization view. In addition of placing and connecting notes on it i really hope we can do simple things like draw lines/areas in the background to also have some visual partition. It can then replace a lot of plugins.

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Has nobody tried to use Excalidraw as a corkboard for notes?

I have tried it and found it not to be totally satisfactory. Maybe if Excalidraw is optimised to serve this function then the outcome will be better.

I have found it helps if you follow the atomic notes principle religiously. Then the size of the embedded notes is post it size and you can see the complete note in a glance. Add to this all the other functionality that Excalidraw provides - commenting, drawing relationship lines etc.

The disappointing part is that Excalidraw does not allow easy wiki linking of notes. Also, the links are not styled by the Supercharged links plugin.

I wonder if I set the background color of a note will it be reflected in the embedded note within an Excalidraw drawing?

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Yeah, there’s a busy trend in this mind mapping, cork board, visualization space right now as it relates to PKM.

I mentioned Scrivener above, but have to qualify its use there; it shreds an existing hierarchical outline (the table of contents of a book). That is a use case for cork board functionality in Obsidian although I’m not sure how we’d create the toc that would bind it. It is the single biggest factor that keeps me crafting longform in Scrivener and I have no problem with that. I craft a missive in Scrivener but research and ponder it in Obsidian. Separation is good, for me; the former is focus, the latter is free range.

Where I see this useful for me in Obsidian is the use case when I’m in pondering mode with notes, making connections and enriching with my own thoughts. I would like the ability to toss these notes (some of them may not be linked) onto a surface. Maybe show a sidebar that shows links (incoming and outgoing), tags, maybe folders & mentions. We can do that now with panes, tabs, and windows, but being able to persist a cork board and use it as a workspace for a given domain under scrutiny, showing relationships, and being able to interact with the contained notes is something I fantasize about.

Excitement builds …

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Yes, I'm getting close to ready :)

— Dharam Kapila (@DharamKapila) September 21, 2022
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I thought the longform plugin was going to solve the “longform” problem, which is basically manuscript management. Scrivener like. It hasn’t fully developed that way.

The local graph view can be helpful if you use links to organize a work, but the graph has a mind of it’s own. If it was possible to pin nodes in place it could be more functional as a cork board.

I mentioned the Xtiles card view thing, because more than anything Obsidian needs to maintain the plain text file simplicity. So each card would be a note tossed on the surface. Not a surface view of a note’s content like the kanban plugin. Probably would need some view options, like file name only, first 200 characters, whole note, folded up headings. Something to help keep the board cleaner, more manageable, and make room.

Also if it can function as an infinite canvas as heptabase seems to do than that leads to the ability to “fold the map”.

Map folding meaning you don’t have to see the whole thing at once, just what is relevant to your local area and open it up as you get to the edges, because when you are on the ground you can’t see your final destination, you can only see reference points in your field of vision. So you pick a real physical reference point, mark it on the map and get moving, then repeat. I don’t suppose people do orienteering anymore but that was a thing. Anyway, the map folding metaphor clicked with me the first time I heard it. It’s a way of managing information overload, concentration/distraction, direction, decision making.

It doesn’t get in the way of pondering because at any time you can unfold the map entirely, big picture, and rethink.

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Now there is what it seems to be the official name with a description of the plugin!

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I just discovered a free alternative to anyone who wants to or who uses Scrivner. It is called Wavemaker:

and some YouTube videos:

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Muse App Team launched a really nice website that shows infinite canvas apps and their history.

Really excited for this, infinite canvas based on md files… Rendering awesome community plugins… Hope to see Obsidian on the list soon.

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That is an extraordinary list of very nice tools that do many great things. The visualization space around PKM is getting confusing and fuzzy. Am sorta glad that hibernation time is upon me…

Heptabase just announced an integration to Readwise. On the surface that is great - I have a lot of unlinked highlights in Readwise and the idea of tossing them on a whiteboard in Heptabase is cool…

However, all my linked highlights, thoughts, and personal time reside in Obsidian. The thought of creating links in another environment(s) is a wasteful duplicity. And I see that Reader has a new undeveloped command called “Links”. Sigh…

The race in the PKM space means alot of churn. I grow weary of chasing new stuff and moving data to and fro; the chase reduces creative time.

I hold optimism that Obsidian will persist… I might not dwell on this topic until I awake in the spring and the visualization dust settles.

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I assume that the plugins in development will address these needs, at least to some extent.
Heptabase will do it, but then doesn’t seem to be set up for an interactive relationship with the Obsidian vault(s).
Neither Heptabase nor Scrintal will export groups of notes, but I’m sure that will come with both.
Apart from that, Scrintal seems well set up to work with Obsidian format notes. And compatible syntax is the key to any interaction. I can take Scrintal exports and work with them with no tidying up - use of wikilinks won’t suit everyone, of course.

This would be enough for me to use Scrintal at points where I’d otherwise want to use a mindmap.