Zen of Obsidian

Shida Li, co-creator of Obsidian, includes a picture of himself with Guido van Rossum , the creator of the extremely popular and accessible python programming language on the About - Obsidian web page. Both creators of Obsidian, also draw parallels between Obsidian and IDEs on the same web page.

This got me thinking of how most of the aphorisms in The Zen of Python aptly apply to Obsidian itself. I can see a place for a similar Zen in the future of Obsidian.

The Zen of python was not created by Guido himself but by an influential member of the community. It was adopted by the community and later assimilated in the language itself with “import this”.

Zen became a north star for the community when trade-offs were necessary to ensure python remained true to its values; a powerful yet accessible programming language.

Indeed, the about page includes 3 key “directions” for Obsidian which can be considered the core Zen of Obsidian which can be carefully expanded upon:

  • Local-first and plain text;
  • Link as first-class citizen;
  • Make it super extensible.

Do you think there should be Zen of Obsidian? Why or Why not?


Hmm…my ideas…probably phased badly…and maybe not universally accepted ideas…but heres some…

  • Cross-compatibility and readability count.
    • Documents are saved in markdown for a reason. It’s essentially plain text, with minimal formatting codes. This isn’t a print publishing app like Microsoft Word or OneNote. Resist the temptation to make you .md files hard to read with massive json and svg arrays and megabytes of html wrapped around your text. Do your styling in the CSS.
  • Obsidian is a tool, the Operating System is a toolbox. It’s okay to use and integrate other apps that are better tools at certain things.
    • Don’t make Obsidian your entire Operating System. You don’t need a plugin to do spreadsheet math when Microsoft Excel is already installed on your computer. Find a way to link and embed efficiently between apps, rather than re-inventing every app.
  • Curating data means deleting the unessential.
    • If you are only adding and adding - you’ll just end up with a horde of data. KonMari method doesn’t just apply to your home.

My 2 cents:

  • Elegant tools facilitate insight
  • We seek simplicity at the far side of complexity
  • Linking should be easy because thinking is already hard
  • Insight is at the intersection of usability and usefulness
  • Simple systems can still be comprehensive and must always be beautiful
  • Comprehensive systems should be as easy as possible, but no easier
  • Thinkers can’t help but love what helps them think


As applied to organization and utility the discussion of about PKM is far reaching indeed. Obsidian and it’s excellent forum fosters a fresh and maturing conversation of PKM ideas.

Application of PKM is just as exciting when one considers utility of imposing your own PKM template over Web browser bookmarks as well as information stores on other mediums: file shares, local drives etc.

Agreed. Cross compatibility counts! If one can maintain discipline to arrive at an easily transported PKM to be applied across all our platforms the benefits are large. To steal from Internet scholar Clay Sharkey “There’s no such thing as information overload. There’s only filter failure.” Deric’s Mindblog 2015

To the creators of Obsidian, @pivic , @nickmilo , Jason and all the others thank you for promoting and discussing this tool. Yes, Obsidian is a tool of outsized importance because of it’s quality of implementation and utility of design. Good job all. Thank you!



Well Said :+1:

To this I would add something putting emphasis on the importance of the Obsidian community, which I think is uniquely helpful and friendly.

I also think the commercial model of Obsidian feels very open and much less nefarious than many other closed-source productivity tools.

The wording should reflect the importance of the community to the company/product that is Obsidian.

Community is a feature, not a presumption

Community over commercialism


A very salient point. Much of the attractiveness of Obsidian originates from its community. I personally make heavy use of many plugins, themes, and ideas from my fellow “Obsidians”. This interdependence makes for something greater than the tool itself.

I think you put it wonderfully, the “Community is a feature” of Obsidian.