This article is a [great read](
Why did I stop taking meeting notes with Obsidian? | by Romell Avendaño | Oct, 2023 | Medium). The author’s key insights from his use of Obsidian.
The reproduction of useless notes
- Notes without information, much of the automation led to incomplete notes,
- Loss of focus, he was not “present” when taking his notes so they did not reflect is experience, the tool was monopolizing his attention.
- An Outlook clone, data already somewhere else
- The past has already happened, actionable items had already been addressed, no need for a note.
- The vanity of the BigBang, the graph view became useless, blowing things up, did not do harm
For me, the big difference here is the difference between a vault and a thinking tool, like Tinderbox–something that lets you not just enter data, but do it with limited structure, view it from different lenses, transmute/transclude/include/transform data, and export it to any output (structure and appearance) you want.
Rather silly essay. The writer doesn’t have an Obsidian problem, they have a focus issue.
As I see it, the author focused (or still does) on what to do to his notes, not focused on what the notes do to him. And to me the article is more interesting as an illustration of this broader failure mode, rather than in the way it was intended to be interesting.
Also, my ego was sky-high because, given the volume of meetings I had per week when I generated the graph view, it looked cool. However, after a while, one day, while reviewing my Vault (which I was proud of) […]
People mentioning graph views in f.e. Roam or Obsidian are like a code-smell for this phenomenon to me at this point – I’ve never seen someone actually documenting how they got something useful out of these graphs, yet people obsess about structure of their entire body of notes to make it look pretty. Note how this article also is an example of neither giving any info about the actual usecase, nor about what advantage any of the notes actually are intended to bring.
So what the author did:
- set up automation to make his notes “neater”
- realized he does not need the information (clear sign: did not even bother entering it, because intuitively, he already knew)
- got discomfort from his notes not being “neat” (again, still focused on “neat”, not seeing them as a pure means to an end, i.e. being fine with a mess, if it does not hurt you)
- deleted all his meeting notes, to relieve the discomfort
I’m not saying you always need to know the purpose a note will have in the end in mind before creating it. After all, that’s impossible as we don’t know the future. I think creating notes just for time-capsule purposes and just-in-case is perfectly fine – as long as it does not draw your attention away from your main task in a way that detriments what you are trying to accomplish too much. And that seems to have been the case for the author. The reported loss of focus could be attributed to caring too much about his fancy tool and neat notes as well.
PS: I find thinking about what the notes do to future you as opposed to what should I do to my notes to be a lot more useful and have not seen it spelled out anywhere else, so I thought this might ring with some people here.
Notes cover a wide range of use and meaning. It might be the master plan or a sketch if that plan, a just a part of the plan or simply a proxy to remind us work on the master plan. Yet, all are notes. It is the addition of process and/(software) tools where unintended balkanisation of perspective occurs. This breadth of field in note-taking is why it is often difficult to answer the seemingly innocent forum question “How do I…?”.
Someone steeped in GTD and someone who takes fleeting notes as proxy anchors via which to revisit ideas are definitely not the same sort of note-taker (though one person might be each in separate parts of their work/life). Confusing the nature of the note-taking of a questioner in the forum and the ensuing friction is a common trope in the forum. People are trying to help, but the questioner gave insufficient context to enable those assisting to calibrate their help.
We also tend to confuse the note-taker with their note-taking process. We like X’s successful use of notes, we adopt their tools/process, without the same success. We forgot to adopt their PoV and if we don’t then we need to temper our expectation of magical outcomes.
I also regularly see exploratory/analytical note-taking getting mixed with list-making and noting for retrieval/learning. Both are valid, but definitely not the same. Happy are those who can live with that seeming dichotomy, even in a single note-taking tool. Those who assume insight is only the output of process are more likely to suffer disappointment.
I’d also observe the those with the most notes are not necessarily the best-informed or most efficient. The process can become a subtle form of avoiding the real work, q.v.
Right back to my note-taking. Indeed, should I make an note about this? Perhaps some insight may thus emerge…