Note status: :seedling:

In Brief

Thoughts on starting to use Obsidian, an app for linked notes.

What is Obsidian?

Well, it’s complicated.

And so are my feelings.

The simple version is that Obsidian is an app that lets you write linked notes, mostly in Markdown format, and can render dynamically-updated sections of those notes.

This last piece—the dynamic updating—is what makes it compelling and complicated.

The best example, and the one that’s made me largely move my digital bullet journal away from VSCode & Dendron (see Task Tracking in Dendron for more info) is the Tasks plugin. With this plugin, you can set up queries in your notes that will dynamically search from & render info stored in other notes. This is really substantial for Markdown notes, which are effectively just plain text. (Plain text is the cicada of file formats; files in plain text will still be around long after any of us.)

However, Tasks is a volunteer-run plugin. It’s already on its second (and, frankly, amazing) maintainer.

Getting the queries to show up in new notes the way I want them to (i.e. in daily, weekly, monthly, etc. files) requires another couple plugins, one of which is actively maintained and the other of which isn’t.

Even though Obsidian has taken off so rapidly that there’s an enticingly-slash-infuriatingly fertile ecosystem of boosters and people writing paywalled guides, I’ve already run into concerns about whether the plugins that make it thrive will be maintained long-term.

Will Obsidian’s main developers take on the task of maintaining the most-used plugins, if and when these plugins’ individual maintainers can’t continue? That’s my largest question—and it grows more crucial the longer that Obsidian’s fire consumes the oxygen found in the “Markdown, with extra features” space.

For now, Obsidian solves the biggest hurdle I’ve found with VSCode. I’m happy with my current set-up, and extremely happy with the fact that the various third-party plugins have finally helped me make smooth the sharpest edges off my long-running attempts to handle tasks with text files.

So I’ll detail my approach in a few notes here, and refine or augment these notes as I keep learning more. But please regard this more as ongoing experimentation rather than enthusiastic endorsement. I want to love Obsidian as much as its many acolytes do, but I’m approaching it cautiously.

  • :seedling: = emerging note
  • :herb: = established note
  • :evergreen_tree: = evergreen note
  • open access = open access
  • :closed_lock_with_key: = paywalled
  • general web link = general web link

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