Notes and tools, continued

When I wrote the post On taking notes and syndicating them, I've (manually) sent a webmention to Ton Zijlstra's post it was based on. I hadn't really expected him to read it; that I might get a reply hadn't even occurred to me. (Thank you!) I'll admit I have never been involved in such a direct blog conversation, so I hope I'm not breaching decorum in some way by replying again and after such a long time. Aeeehm I mean, in case someone asked, I'm Fully Utilizing the Asynchronous Nature Inherent In This Mode of Communication. 😅

Thank you for clarifying and expounding on the topic. Seems we're in agreement on the most important things - local first and agency over (personal) tools are key aspects for me as well. (I have not been keeping notes for that long, since in the nineties I've only been learning to read.😄)

On blogging platforms: Yes, I currently run Ghost. However, I'm not exactly thrilled with it; but since switching to something else would be a lot of hassle, I'm not eager to do so as long as Ghost is tolerable.

On Obsidian and Joplin, you say:

I treat Obsidian as a viewer, and Joplin too. Because of that I dislike that Joplin stores stuff locally in an sqlite database, obscuring the contents from my filesystem that way. From a viewer it then becomes an obscurer.

I think this is a little unfair to Joplin; you're trying to use it for something which it's not meant to do at all, so no wonder it doesn't excel. I have a few thoughts about that, but first:

Joplin has plenty of export options. There is JEX recommended for backups, which is basically like Evernote's ENEX but better. But you can also just export to a bunch of markdown files (by going to File -> Export All -> MD - Markdown). That will dump all your notes onto the file system, preserving your folder structure and using note titles as file names. Perhaps you'd be better off doing that and importing the result into Obsidian?

I've read a lot of posts by people comparing Joplin and Obsidian, and from most of them, it seemed to me that reorganizing items in Obsidian is way more fragile than I'd like. Since it uses files on the filesystem both for notes and attachments, it's quite easy to move a file in a way that breaks your links. This is a deal-breaker for me.

Joplin chose a different approach - using per-note files just on the sync target (so any filesystem-like service can be used for syncing), but keeping all notes in a sqlite database (with attachments all being in a single folder). Everything is kept locally. But since all notes and resources are identified by their ID and not a path, moving them around doesn't break anything. (There are other advantages of this approach - it also makes things more reliable when syncing, etc. Joplin's forum had plenty of threads on the benefits and drawbacks of this approach because plenty of people asked for an option to just store all notes in the filesystem.) That's why I think it's a bit unfair to call it 'an obscrurer' - Joplin isn't a file editor, it's a note-taking tool with no aspiration to facilitate local file editing.

And if worse came to worst and Joplin somehow stopped working forever, I still have all my notes locally in a sqlite DB. Extracting them would be trivial, so there's no real threat of data loss. (I, for one, really appreciate the trend of using sqlite for everything/as an app file format. It's ubiquitous, resilient, easily readable with tools like SQLite Browser. And if I wanted to back up, it's faster to copy a sqlite file than thousands of markdown files.)

One thing that is marginally more complicated in this scenario is using custom tools for note manipulation. It doesn't get any easier than reading and writing files. It's not a big issue for me, though: Joplin has a (local) HTTP API that lets me do the same things, but with web requests. The advantage is that it also has additional APIs, like search: finding notes that are in notebook A, tagged with tag B, and not tagged with tag C is a single search string away in the API; I'd wager implementing the same query over contents of text files would be more work.

On RSS: Thanks for sharing the sub list and your thoughts on grouping by social distance. Haven't seen that post before - I haven't been following your blog for that long. The principle reminded me of Fraidycat in a way. That's a tool meant to help you keep up with people, but not get overwhelmed. It lets you 'subscribe' to people on various platforms (RSS, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, even TiddlyWikis) and categorize them by how often do you want to keep up with them. (Which could, in principle, map to perceived social distances, which is why I thought of it.)  It only shows short summaries of the 10 most recent items.

It's also local. I don't use it very frequently - I keep forgetting that it exists, and do most of my reading via RSS anyway. But it's an interesting tool.

Thanks again for the thought-provoking exchange. This year, I wanted to write more about my current note-taking system, and you've helped to pull a few areas into clearer focus.