Obsidian Aside

Obsidian was created for smart-noting. It’s a program that manages a folder of markdown files (which are just text marked up in a way that an interpreter can quickly turn into html, but a human can read, e.g. **surrounding text with two stars** makes it bold). I have a paper ZettelKasten on playing cards, which I am slowly transferring into Obsidian. But the nice thing, then, about Smart Noting in a folder of text files, is the links between notes are links. I can click on them and go to the note. I can embed a series of notes in a note to create a larger document.

I have been trying to decide how best to make my notes, on the Piqha especially, available to the Mad⳩ team. I copy and paste my log entries out of my Obsidian vault and onto the blog every week, so I’ve tried doing that. It works, but it’s cumbersome in high-context, low-data-per-note setting like my regular smart notes. A note about a character or setting may be a single paragraph, and half the words are links to other files. I can expand them out by making articles, and then de-linking the copied text in the blog. But it’s effort that does not move the ball forward, it only makes the ball visible to outsiders.

What I could do is upload the vault as a whole, either as a zip-file, or as a git repository of some sort. Any member of the team could read the files as plain text. Or, with a browser plugin, with the markdown formatting. The links and embeds wouldn’t look right unless said team-member actually installs Obsidian, but for those who actually want to try the program, they can, and for those who don’t, all of the information is still present and readable.

Since git hosts like GitHub and GitLab use Markdown, it would even potentially be mostly readable on the online representation of the repo.

There are two issues here. First is that I intermingle personal notes with my creative notes. People who are not my pastor don’t need to know about every spiritual struggle I face. People who are not my accountant don’t need to know my budget. And while being open about my sins and finances may be useful for building trust, broadcasting them to the whole internet still strikes me as unwise.

There are a few available solutions. They all amount to separating my personal notes from my creative notes.

The easiest is to just put my personal notes in a different folder and not copy that folder into the public-facing edition. And I have already started working on this solution. However, it’s not a polished solution. The notes are still crowded with random asides, half-finished bits, and other things not immediately relevant to the Mad⳩ crew. And making nice entry pages to the content has not been a priority, which leads to my second issue:

Because Obsidian is built for smart notes, Obsidian’s flavor of Markdown has unique linking and embedding syntax. Bold Text I compose in Obsidian will display as bold in any markdown viewer. A link to an external website in Obsidian will display correctly in any markdown viewer. But a link to a random smart note in my vault will not. And it is precisely the links between notes that make this workflow valuable.

So, either I force people who want to explore my vault to download Obsidian (which is free, but while I love Obsidian and recommend its use, I do not love the idea of forcing anyone to use it to read my notes), or I translate the links by hand (which is what I was already doing, uploading stuff to my blog), or I flatten my tree of notes out: create articles that embed the notes and export them as blog posts or what-have you.

And given, even if I were to export an Obsidian vault and make everyone use Obsidian to read it, I would want to create a “Main menu” with links to the key concept notes, lists of characters, etcetera, and that is more than halfway to building an article anyway, It may be best for me to just bite the bullet and create and maintain reference articles out of my notes.

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