Raising Obsidian – Your Personal Information Manager

There are a dime a dozen methods for increasing personal efficiency. As for me, the main problem with them is that you have to work yourself. It is perfectly normal to try to avoid making an effort. Even if a good technique is the lever with which they promise to move the Earth, physics knows that we will do all the work ourselves anyway. The main question that tormented me in the matter of choice personal information manager was what he would do instead me. The task was not an easy one. In a short time, to understand a new area – to organize notes, classify reference books and literature on the topic. A sea of ​​open browser tabs (everything is very necessary, it should not hide from the eyes), pdf-files, carefully sent by new colleagues … With all this in my head, I got acquainted with the program Obsidianwho promised to become A second brain, for you, forever.

Overcoming skepticism

In a past post Markdown in Science, I went over some pro et contra of using Markdown format records for researchers. I will briefly list again: plain text, easy to read without any additional programs, wide distribution and support, the ability to use ready-made fragments to fill sites and create presentations.

A knowledge base (in Obsidian terminology – a vault, a vault) is just a folder on disk where you put Markdown notes, multimedia files, illustrations, and already created books and articles (pdf) by someone. Everything that is relevant to the case, you simply drag it into the program window and it will appear in this very folder.

Copied from Wikipedia articles paragraph with formatting and links is automatically converted to Markdown.

It is very simple to start collecting materials – we copy from web pages (markup and links are saved), drag and drop files and sign our comments to what is being generated. The program is free, it is available for different platforms – Linux, Windows, Mac OS.

This is what Obsidian looks like.

Add order

Immediately, as they decided where the storage is and what the name of the storage is, it makes sense to designate entry point into the subject area. It will become the first note (create it by pressing Ctrl-n). A tree of topics, terms, clarifications, etc. will grow from it. It is usually called README, content, annotation, whatever.

“This database contains knowledge about what is quantum dot“. This is the first term. Let’s write it in square brackets.

В этой базе собраны знания о том, что есть [[квантовая точка]]

Obsidian recognizes the term in double square brackets as internal link, as opposed to the standard external Markdown text link.

%% Внутренняя ссылка  %%
%% Внешняя ссылка %%
%% Встраивание документа %%

Embedding a document – killer feature Obsidian.

All of Obsidian’s magic is based on these three whales. Links between notes, links with the outside world and embedding. In addition to the usual hypertext links, i.e. links from the current viewing location, Obsidian shows in the Backlinks panel from which pages there are links to this

Now you can hardly surprise anyone with the opportunity incremental search (in short: you type the beginning of a term – the program gives you a list of familiar continuation options). It’s in stock and Obsidian’s layered hashtags go well with it.

Last but not least. Don’t be afraid to try! If you rename a note (attached resource), drag it to another folder (using the program’s File explorer panel) – all related links will update themselves. Don’t like the structure that was quickly thrown in late in the evening? No problem, drag and drop, rename as you please.

Editing and capabilities

In addition to the fact that Markdown notes are edited, including visually (WYSIWYG principle), the list below shows what the program understands and knows how to do out of the box.

  1. multilevel hashtags #справка/химия/нано;
  2. tables and illustrations;
  3. mathematical formulas MathJax;
  4. embedding multimedia;
  5. highlighting the syntax of programs;
  6. charts Mermaid

Obsidian’s editor is bimodal. This means that while you are in edit mode, you see the Markdown markup. With square brackets and some other auxiliary symbols, which I will write about after. Switching to view mode (Ctrl-e) we see the designed page, with the link quantum dot… The link does not lead anywhere yet, but one click – and we will edit a new note with the title quantum dot

The capabilities of the editor are well studied with examples. You are taking Open another vault (button on the left), select Obsidian help… Here online help… You will see something you like from the design, switch to editing mode, study how it is done and copy it to yourself.

As a little cheat sheet, I created demo storageavailable for download. It describes specific details to help newbies: how to easily create a table (online tools), examples of diagrams and formulas.

What you shouldn’t count on with Obsidian

The world is full of different wiki engines with different capabilities, Markdown dialects and editors. The best use of Obsidian at the moment is wiki notes. for yourself… The entry threshold is minimal for people who do not specialize strictly in IT. So, the program is suitable for you if:

  • notes are kept for yourself
  • no idea how to install and configure wiki engines and / or plugins for them
  • Markdown is new to you
  • no export to other formats is required (export to PDF is unstable so far)

We train your assistant

Why is Obsidian good at learning new knowledge? It implements the necessary functionality to apply the Zettelkasten mental technique. She’s already covered in Zettelkasten’s post: how one German scientist became incredibly productive, so I won’t repeat myself. I think that the Zettelkasten method is simple (no, who am I kidding, it’s not that simple) allows you to deal with procrastination… This is a pernicious irrational tendency to postpone the case under any pretext and do nothing.

Simple advice: write short notes (atomicity is important), move from topic to topic, build connections. Let the logical inconsistency not bother you – you can always correct it later. Each note will become a kind of neuron of the future neural network, it will grow synapses and after some time … Your assistant will gain intelligence, will work together with you. In any case, this is precisely what the creator of his system explained the usefulness of his system – Niklas Luhmann… The evidence is compelling – he has written over 70 books and 400 articles himself. In his time, there was no personal computer and the Internet. He invented his own version of hyperlinks, read more about him here and on LessWrong… It seems surprising that his trained neural network works on cards in boxes, but even that is possible. After all, there is also a Neural Network on matchboxes. How many notes do you need to write before she speaks? Most likely, a lot, maybe thousands, yet it’s worth it. Procrastination will be defeated.

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