Taking notes for work with Obsidian

Nicole van der Hoeven
16 Jun 202328:39

Summary

TLDRNicole van der Hoeven, a senior developer advocate at Grafana Labs, shares her unique approach to career progression and learning in the tech industry despite lacking formal computer science education. She emphasizes the importance of continuous note-taking, drawing parallels with the CICD (Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery) model used in software development. Nicole introduces Obsidian, a powerful note-taking application, as a tool for creating an interconnected web of knowledge, and demonstrates its features and potential uses, such as logging, learning, public learning, and collaboration. Her personal experience with Obsidian has not only accelerated her learning process but also effectively communicates her capabilities to potential employers.

Takeaways

  • 🌟 The speaker, Nicole van der Hoeven, emphasizes the importance of note-taking in tech and personal development, despite not having a formal background in computer science.
  • 📚 Nicole's experience highlights that being a quick learner and adapting to new industries is more valued than pre-existing qualifications.
  • 🚀 The fast-paced nature of tech makes it impossible to master every aspect, thus continuous learning and note-taking are essential.
  • 🧠 Notes should evolve and be interconnected, much like how our brains process information, to build a robust knowledge system.
  • 🔄 The concept of CICD (Continuous Integration/Delivery/Improvement) can be applied to note-taking for continuous learning.
  • 🔗 Obsidian is introduced as a powerful tool for note-taking that allows for interlinking, customization, and local ownership of notes.
  • 📈 The graph view in Obsidian provides a visual representation of the interconnectedness of notes, aiding in understanding the bigger picture.
  • 📝 Notes serve as a record of learning and can be used for future reference, eliminating the need to start from scratch.
  • 💡 Continuous note-taking can accelerate learning, as it helps in accumulating knowledge over time and provides a basis for creating content or sharing insights.
  • 🌐 Sharing notes publicly creates learning exhaust, which not only helps oneself but also contributes to the community and can showcase one's capabilities.
  • 📈 Nicole's personal journey demonstrates that note-taking can be a powerful tool for career advancement, even in the absence of traditional qualifications.

Q & A

  • What is Nicole van der Hoeven's professional background?

    -Nicole van der Hoeven is a senior developer advocate at Grafana Labs. She has 12 years of experience in performance testing but started her tech career without any formal education in computer science or prior experience in the tech industry.

  • How does Nicole describe her approach to learning and note-taking?

    -Nicole describes her approach as one that involves continuous learning and note-taking. She believes in the power of taking notes to aid in understanding and retaining information, and she applies this method to her work and personal development.

  • What are the limitations Nicole observed in her traditional note-taking method from university?

    -Nicole observed several limitations in her traditional note-taking method, including the separation of notes by topic, the static nature of the notes, the contextual and temporary focus on passing exams, and the lack of evolution or updating of the notes over time.

  • How does Nicole suggest improving upon the old way of taking notes?

    -Nicole suggests that improved note-taking should involve interconnectedness of ideas, constant evolution, a balance between contextual relevance and abstracted concepts, and future-proofing through digital means. She emphasizes the importance of a system that reflects the way our brains process information.

  • What is Obsidian and how does it relate to Nicole's note-taking philosophy?

    -Obsidian is a note-taking app that Nicole uses and advocates. It is described as a second brain and personal Wikipedia. It allows for the creation of an extensible knowledge base through markdown files, supports the linking of notes, and is highly customizable and extensible. It aligns with Nicole's philosophy of continuous and interconnected note-taking.

  • How does Nicole use Obsidian in her work and personal projects?

    -Nicole uses Obsidian for various purposes, including logging her work processes, learning new concepts, creating content for her YouTube channel, making presentations, collaborating on GitHub, and publishing her notes online. She also uses it to manage her personal knowledge and to communicate her capabilities to potential employers.

  • What are the benefits of continuous note-taking according to Nicole?

    -Continuous note-taking allows for faster learning, the accumulation of iterative and incremental work over time, the ability to never start from scratch due to existing notes, and the creation of learning exhaust which quantifies one's work and learning. It also helps in showcasing one's capabilities to potential employers.

  • How does Nicole's graph view in Obsidian enhance her note-taking experience?

    -The graph view in Obsidian provides a visual representation of the interconnectedness of Nicole's notes. Each node represents a note and the lines between them show the links and relationships between different ideas. This view helps Nicole to see the bigger picture of her knowledge and understand how different concepts relate to each other.

  • What is the significance of the CICD model in relation to note-taking?

    -The CICD (Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, sometimes called Continuous Improvement) model is used as a metaphor for continuous note-taking. Just as CICD involves a cycle of planning, building, testing, deploying, and incorporating feedback in software development, continuous note-taking involves a cycle of learning, note-taking, sharing, and incorporating feedback to inform future learning and writing.

  • How does Nicole's experience with note-taking influence her career prospects?

    -Nicole's experience with note-taking has been instrumental in her career. Her extensive note-taking practice has allowed her to demonstrate her capabilities and knowledge to potential employers, even in areas where she may not have immediate qualifications. It has also facilitated her personal learning and development, enabling her to be competitive in the tech industry.

  • What advice does Nicole give for individuals looking to improve their note-taking and knowledge management?

    -Nicole advises individuals to adopt a method of continuous and interconnected note-taking, similar to the one she uses with Obsidian. She encourages people to move away from traditional, isolated note-taking methods and instead create a system that reflects the interconnected nature of knowledge. She also suggests that taking notes in a digital format allows for greater accessibility, searchability, and the ability to share and receive feedback.

Outlines

00:00

🌟 Introduction and Personal Journey

Nicole van der Hoeven introduces herself as a senior developer advocate at Grafana Labs, humorously noting her lack of formal qualifications and her history of securing roles she seemed unqualified for at the time. She emphasizes her 12 years of experience in performance testing and her background as an economics major with no prior tech experience. Nicole shares her story to illustrate how she navigated the challenges of a rapidly evolving tech industry and promises to discuss her approach in the talk.

05:01

📚 The Challenge of Learning in Tech

Nicole discusses the overwhelming nature of entering the tech industry, with its vast amount of knowledge and quickly changing landscape. She empathizes with newcomers who face the daunting task of understanding complex systems like microservices-based architectures from companies like Amazon and Netflix. Nicole also acknowledges that even experienced professionals find it difficult to keep up with every aspect of technology. She introduces the concept of note-taking as an effective solution to this problem, which she says was something we all knew from school but often forget in our professional lives.

10:02

📝 Evolving Beyond Traditional Note-Taking

Nicole critiques traditional note-taking methods, sharing her personal experience with university calculus notes that were organized by topic and static, never to be updated or adjusted. She points out the limitations, such as the separation of related subjects and the focus on passing exams rather than learning. Nicole advocates for an improved note-taking approach that is interconnected, constantly evolving, and both abstracted and contextual to remain relevant over time.

15:05

🔄 The CICD of Note-Taking: Continuous Evolution

Nicole likens effective note-taking to the CICD (Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery) model used in software development. She suggests applying this model to note-taking for continuous improvement and adaptation. She describes the process of learning, processing new information, and creating notes with various levels of abstraction. Nicole then proposes the idea of 'continuous note-taking,' where notes are constantly updated with new insights and feedback, similar to how software development cycles operate.

20:05

🧠 Obsidian: A Second Brain for Note-Taking

Nicole introduces Obsidian, a note-taking application that she likens to a personal Wikipedia. She explains that Obsidian allows for the creation of a highly customizable and extensible knowledge base. Nicole highlights the benefits of Obsidian, such as its local-only nature, which ensures complete ownership and control over one's notes, and its ability to create links and a graph view that visually represents the connections between notes. She demonstrates how to create a new vault and note in Obsidian and emphasizes the application's compatibility with plain text files for future-proofing.

25:06

📈 Use Cases of Obsidian: Logging, Learning, and Public Sharing

Nicole showcases various ways to use Obsidian, including logging daily activities or specific tasks, learning new concepts, and sharing knowledge publicly. She provides examples from her personal vault, such as a development or test log and curated notes on topics like k6 and Git. Nicole also discusses the advantages of Obsidian for collaboration, such as contributing to GitHub repositories and maintaining a change log. She talks about publishing notes online using services like Obsidian Publish and the concept of 'learning exhaust,' which are byproducts of the learning process made tangible through shared notes.

🚀 Career Benefits of Continuous Note-Taking

Nicole reflects on how continuous note-taking has positively impacted her career, allowing her to demonstrate her qualifications and capabilities to potential employers. She explains that her extensive note-taking has functioned as a 'second brain,' enabling her to articulate her knowledge and experience effectively. Nicole argues that taking notes not only aids in learning and creating a record of one's intellectual journey but also helps in communicating one's abilities to future employers. She encourages others to adopt this method of note-taking early in their careers for accelerated growth and understanding.

Mindmap

Keywords

💡Performance Testing

Performance testing is a type of testing intended to benchmark the performance of an application under a specific workload. In the context of the video, Nicole van der Hoeven has 12 years of experience in performance testing, which is a significant part of her professional background and expertise.

💡Microservices-based Architectures

Microservices-based architectures are a style of software architecture where an application is built as a suite of independently deployable, small, modular services. These services communicate over a network. In the video, Nicole refers to microservices-based architectures from Amazon and Netflix as complex systems that can be daunting for newcomers in tech.

💡Note-taking

Note-taking is the act of recording information in a written or digital format to facilitate understanding, learning, and later recall. In the video, Nicole emphasizes the importance of note-taking as a method to navigate the vast and complex field of technology, and as a tool for personal development and career growth.

💡Continuous Note-taking

Continuous note-taking is the practice of consistently and iteratively capturing information, experiences, and insights over time. It involves updating and linking notes to reflect evolving understanding and to create a comprehensive knowledge base. In the video, Nicole presents this concept as a solution to the challenge of staying current in the fast-paced tech industry.

💡Obsidian

Obsidian is a second brain tool that allows users to create, organize, and connect notes in a local, markdown-based system. It is highly customizable and extensible, enabling users to build a personal knowledge base. In the video, Nicole praises Obsidian as a tool that has significantly helped her in her note-taking and learning process.

💡CICD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery)

CICD is a development practice that focuses on the continuous integration of code changes, followed by automated testing and delivery of software. It aims to reduce integration problems, improve software quality, and speed up the software release process. In the video, Nicole draws a parallel between CICD and continuous note-taking, suggesting that the same iterative and incremental approach can be applied to knowledge management.

💡Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is the process of creating, sharing, using, and managing the knowledge and information of an organization or individual. It involves organizing, storing, and easily accessing relevant information to improve efficiency and effectiveness. In the video, Nicole's approach to note-taking is a form of personal knowledge management, which she uses to navigate her career in the tech industry.

💡Digital Notes

Digital notes are notes that are created and stored in a digital format, as opposed to traditional handwritten or analog notes. They offer advantages such as searchability, the ability to link and cross-reference information, and easy backup and sharing. In the video, Nicole advocates for the shift from analog to digital note-taking as a way to future-proof one's notes and make them more accessible and useful.

💡Personal Wikipedia

A 'personal Wikipedia' is a metaphor used to describe a comprehensive, interconnected, and constantly evolving digital knowledge base that an individual creates for themselves. It is a collection of notes and information that is organized and easily navigable, much like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. In the video, Nicole describes Obsidian as being akin to a personal Wikipedia for her notes.

💡Learning in Public

Learning in public refers to the practice of openly sharing one's learning process, thoughts, and knowledge with others. It involves publishing or communicating one's educational journey to foster community engagement, feedback, and collaborative learning. In the video, Nicole explains how she uses Obsidian to create content and share her notes, thereby learning in public and creating learning exhaust.

💡Second Brain

A 'second brain' is a term used to describe a system or tool that augments one's cognitive abilities by storing and organizing information, enabling quick retrieval and analysis. In the context of the video, Nicole refers to her Obsidian vault as her 'second brain,' which contains all her notes and knowledge, allowing her to efficiently manage and apply her learnings.

Highlights

Nicole van der Hoeven, a senior developer advocate at Grafana Labs, shares her experience of entering the tech industry without formal computer science education.

Nicole emphasizes her history of securing jobs she initially felt unqualified for, highlighting the importance of adaptability and continuous learning.

The challenge of keeping up with the fast-paced tech industry is a common issue, especially for newcomers.

Nicole introduces the concept of robust note-taking as a solution to the overwhelming amount of information in tech.

Traditional note-taking methods from school are often static and don't evolve, which Nicole sees as a problem.

The new way of taking notes involves interconnected ideas, constant evolution, and a mix of abstraction and context.

Nicole draws a comparison between the continuous integration and delivery (CICD) model used in software development and continuous note-taking.

Obsidian, a note-taking app, is introduced as a tool to create a personal, extensible knowledge base.

Obsidian allows for notes to be linked, creating a web of interconnected ideas that mimic the human brain's processing of information.

Nicole demonstrates the ease of creating and linking notes in Obsidian, showcasing its graphical representation of note connections.

The use of Obsidian for logging, learning, and public learning is discussed, emphasizing its role in knowledge management and personal development.

Nicole shares her personal experience of using Obsidian to collaborate on GitHub and maintain a change log of work.

The benefits of continuous note-taking include faster learning, iterative work, never starting from scratch, and creating learning exhaust.

Nicole's career growth is attributed to her continuous note-taking habits, which have allowed her to demonstrate her capabilities to employers.

The presentation concludes with a recommendation to adopt continuous note-taking practices early in one's career for accelerated growth.

Nicole provides resources for further exploration of Obsidian and offers to answer questions on note-taking and knowledge management.

Transcripts

play00:00

- Hi everyone.

play00:00

I'm Nicole van der Hoeven,

play00:02

and I'm a senior developer advocate at Grafana Labs.

play00:05

Now that title is funny

play00:06

because actually I've never been a developer.

play00:09

And I also have 12 years

play00:11

of experience in performance testing.

play00:14

But when I got my first testing job,

play00:15

or actually my first tech job,

play00:18

I had no experience in tech and also no formal education

play00:22

in computer science as an economics major.

play00:25

So I'm telling you this to explain

play00:28

to you that I seem to have a history

play00:30

of getting jobs that I wasn't qualified for at the time.

play00:33

And in this talk,

play00:35

I'm going to try to show you how I did that.

play00:38

See, the problem with any new industry,

play00:40

but especially in tech,

play00:41

is that when you're getting into it

play00:43

there's just so much to learn.

play00:46

Tech in particular just moves so quickly

play00:49

that it's impossible to really fully catch up

play00:52

in every aspect of it.

play00:55

So as a new person,

play00:56

you might look

play00:57

at these two different microservices-based architectures

play01:01

from Amazon and Netflix and not even know where to begin.

play01:05

Honestly, even for those of us who have been around

play01:07

in the industry for a while, this is still pretty daunting

play01:11

because there's just a lot of potential starting points

play01:16

and it can be really difficult

play01:18

when something is disjointed like this

play01:20

to understand the system as a wider picture.

play01:24

So this is a problem

play01:25

that's going to be in tech for our entire careers,

play01:28

but it turns out

play01:29

that there's already a solution to it.

play01:32

And it's a solution that we somehow knew about

play01:36

when we were in school but somehow forgot about.

play01:39

And that's just taking notes.

play01:42

The problem with our notes from school

play01:45

or the way that we take notes in school

play01:47

is that they never really evolved

play01:49

beyond just writing things down in the first place.

play01:52

That's probably what most of you think

play01:55

of when you think of taking notes.

play01:57

However, that's just one step of the process.

play02:00

In order to build a robust note-taking system

play02:03

you really have to go beyond just writing notes down

play02:07

or writing down what the teacher said.

play02:10

This is the old way of taking notes.

play02:13

These are my personal notes

play02:15

from my university calculus subject,

play02:17

and they might look a bit funny now,

play02:20

but at the time I actually thought that we were pretty good.

play02:23

Like all my classmates wanted to photocopy my notes

play02:26

because they were pretty good for that time.

play02:30

However, here are the problems that I noticed with it.

play02:34

First, my notes were separated by topic.

play02:37

This was only for my calculus notes.

play02:40

I had a different notebook or at least a different section

play02:43

in a notebook for every subject that I had that year.

play02:48

And there was never any mixing or matching

play02:51

or linking between those subjects

play02:54

even if they could have been a little bit more similar.

play02:57

So for example, I had literature

play02:59

and I also had composition,

play03:01

two things that were English related,

play03:04

but I still kept them in separate notebooks.

play03:06

Same thing with calculus and algebra.

play03:09

They were also static.

play03:11

These notes,

play03:12

and probably that's because they were analog,

play03:15

never changed.

play03:16

I never went back and added things or adjusted things.

play03:20

As I learned more

play03:23

they were kind of just like a one and done thing.

play03:25

I wrote them and then I just go forward onto the notebook.

play03:30

They were also contextual.

play03:32

Now that's not necessarily a bad thing

play03:34

but the fact that they were only contextual

play03:36

and that particular context was honestly not to learn.

play03:41

The context was I wanted to pass the exam

play03:44

at the end of the semester.

play03:46

And all of my notes

play03:47

and what I chose to even write down in the first place

play03:50

were based around that goal

play03:53

that I wanted to be able

play03:54

to get a passing grade.

play03:57

That meant that they're also temporary.

play04:00

I wrote them and never went back.

play04:02

So after the end of the semester

play04:05

after I did eventually pass the exam,

play04:08

I never added to those notes

play04:11

and kind of really forgot about them.

play04:13

Even when I took

play04:15

like future more advanced levels of calculus,

play04:18

I never went back to the basics.

play04:21

It was kind of like something that I wrote once

play04:24

and then never looked at again.

play04:26

So how could we improve from the old way?

play04:30

Because clearly that didn't work,

play04:31

because I never went back

play04:34

to my calculus notes and they were never useful for me,

play04:37

despite the fact that I spent so much time on them.

play04:40

Ideally, I would find a way to make those relevant now.

play04:45

So here is the new way of taking notes.

play04:47

Now, the new way is much more akin

play04:50

to how our brains actually process information.

play04:54

For starters, everything is interconnected.

play04:57

Just like in our brains

play04:58

we don't have kind of single ideas

play05:00

that are just floating around

play05:02

that aren't linked to anything else.

play05:05

Notes should also be connected to each other.

play05:08

They should have linkages to say what ideas are similar

play05:12

and even what ideas are dissimilar

play05:16

or are opposing in some way.

play05:19

The new way of taking notes should be constantly evolving.

play05:24

In fact, we should never think

play05:26

of notes as a snapshot in time.

play05:28

They should be an entire evolution,

play05:31

a life cycle that moves with you.

play05:33

As our knowledge changes and we learn new things

play05:37

in our respective careers,

play05:39

we should also be updating our notes

play05:41

to reflect that evolution.

play05:44

New notes are also both abstracted and contextual.

play05:47

So contextual meaning they are relevant

play05:50

to you in a particular point in time.

play05:52

But also as you take more notes,

play05:55

ideally you would start to see the patterns and models.

play05:59

And once you have those abstracted ideas,

play06:02

then you're kind of creating

play06:04

different levels of abstraction,

play06:07

and having that means

play06:08

that you can apply greater, grander concepts

play06:12

to other situations.

play06:15

And lastly, new notes are future proof.

play06:17

Now, part of this does have something to do

play06:20

with the shift from analog to digital.

play06:22

Digital notes are more searchable,

play06:24

they're more long lasting

play06:26

that you can back them up,

play06:28

and they're easier to share.

play06:30

But they should also not be so advanced

play06:34

not so cutting edge that we're going to,

play06:37

as an industry,

play06:39

move on from whatever medium and format you chose

play06:42

in a few years.

play06:43

So you have to strike the right balance there.

play06:46

Now, if this is sounding a little bit familiar,

play06:49

well, actually taking notes

play06:52

is a lot like building or testing software.

play06:55

when you think about it.

play06:56

Luckily that's something

play06:58

that we happen to know a thing or two about.

play07:00

So this is something that you may or may not have seen.

play07:03

This is the CICD kind of infinity loop.

play07:06

CICD stands for continuous integration, continuous delivery.

play07:11

Sometimes it's called continuous improvement.

play07:14

Now the idea is that when you start

play07:16

with a new project cycle,

play07:19

you plan what you're going to release,

play07:22

then you build it,

play07:23

and then you test it.

play07:25

You deploy it into production,

play07:27

you listen for feedback,

play07:28

and then incorporate that feedback

play07:30

into your planning for future features.

play07:33

Now, this model holds up pretty well.

play07:36

It kind of strikes the right balance

play07:38

between speed and responsiveness

play07:40

to what people actually want.

play07:42

Now, what if we could actually apply this

play07:46

to note taking as well?

play07:48

Well then we'd have something like continuous note taking.

play07:52

Now what would that look like?

play07:54

It would look like notes where we read something

play07:58

or talk to a colleague or learn about something,

play08:02

process what we've learned,

play08:04

and have different levels of abstraction, perhaps,

play08:07

so that it's rooted in context and also abstracted.

play08:11

Then we write about it,

play08:12

we share it with other colleagues,

play08:14

and put it out into the world.

play08:16

We listen for that feedback of what we misunderstood

play08:20

or what we got right,

play08:22

and then we incorporate that back into the cycle

play08:25

and let it inform what we're going to learn

play08:28

or write about next.

play08:30

This idea of continuous note taking is the new way.

play08:34

It is a very different way

play08:35

from the note taking

play08:37

that you knew of,

play08:38

that we knew of when we were all taking notes

play08:41

in high school or grade school.

play08:43

So that's where we get into Obsidian.

play08:45

I'm not at all affiliated with Obsidian.

play08:48

I'm just a rabid fan of it.

play08:51

Obsidian is a second brain,

play08:54

but it is, I like to think of it

play08:55

as a note taking app,

play08:57

but less like Google Docs

play08:59

and more like your own personal Wikipedia.

play09:02

The problem with Google Docs is you write a doc

play09:05

and then you send it to people,

play09:08

but then they have to keep track of those links.

play09:11

So like then you just have to go

play09:13

into Google Docs if you're looking for something

play09:15

and then search for it and it's all disjointed

play09:18

and there's no like central repository

play09:20

where other people

play09:21

can see everything you've ever shared with them.

play09:24

And it's just a little bit difficult.

play09:25

Wikipedia on the other hand, is nice and organized

play09:29

and yet you can still follow the threads

play09:31

of different links

play09:33

to get to what you want and the search is also way better.

play09:37

So Obsidian is an extensible knowledge base app.

play09:41

It is a free one so you can download it.

play09:43

It is not open source,

play09:45

although it is really easy to inspect

play09:50

because it is based on Electron.

play09:52

It is not SaaS.

play09:54

It is not a SaaS platform.

play09:56

In fact, it's local only.

play09:58

You can do whatever you want with your notes

play10:01

and you have complete ownership of your notes.

play10:04

And all of those notes are saved in marked on files.

play10:08

So just plain text files and you could do them

play10:10

as you wish.

play10:11

So you could still back them up

play10:14

to some other cloud syncing service.

play10:16

Now, one of the cool things about Obsidian

play10:19

is that it is also highly customizable

play10:21

and highly extensible.

play10:22

In addition to some core plugins

play10:25

that come with Obsidian that you can enable and disable,

play10:28

there's also a very rich third party development ecosystem

play10:33

for these plugins.

play10:34

And some of those plugins are ones

play10:36

that I would never use Obsidian without.

play10:39

So let's get into a demo

play10:41

of what Obsidian looks like and how to get started.

play10:45

Obsidian is available

play10:47

on a variety of platforms, mobile and desktop.

play10:50

So I'm using it on Mac Os now.

play10:52

And I'm gonna show you how to create a new vault.

play10:54

So I'm gonna create a vault here,

play10:57

and I'm gonna call it Eurostar.

play10:59

And then I'm going to look for a location.

play11:02

I'm just going to click that one and click Create.

play11:06

And this is going to open up a window of Obsidian.

play11:11

This is what it looks like.

play11:12

There's a side panel here.

play11:13

There's what's called an editor here

play11:15

and there's also another side panel on the right here.

play11:19

Now, when you create a vault in Obsidian,

play11:21

a vault is just a folder on your file system.

play11:24

So if you go into Finder where I put that,

play11:27

now there is a folder called Eurostar

play11:30

and there is something that's untitled there

play11:33

because I haven't done anything with it.

play11:35

So I do have a folder here, but let us create a new note

play11:41

in that folder and let's call it Testing.

play11:44

So let's type something here.

play11:46

"Software testing is awesome."

play11:49

Now, when you go back into Finder on your file system,

play11:53

you'll see that there's a markdown file called Testing.

play11:56

So I'm showing you this to explain

play11:58

that while there's stuff that's happening in Obsidian,

play12:03

it's actually just using your local file system

play12:06

under the hood.

play12:07

So there's nothing magical about it,

play12:09

which means that you can just open

play12:12

this vault in any text editor.

play12:15

So again, it is future proof.

play12:16

You don't need Obsidian to continue to have access

play12:20

to your notes.

play12:21

You can then rename this and say Awesome notes.

play12:27

And then you can also do things

play12:28

like open today's daily note here on the icon here.

play12:32

If I click that, that's going to create a new note

play12:35

that is timestamped to today.

play12:38

And what I like to do in how I would suggest

play12:41

that you use Obsidian is start with a daily note.

play12:44

Just create a new daily note every day

play12:47

and then just freehand it so you can write down

play12:51

what happened during that day

play12:52

or meetings that you have during that day.

play12:56

I'm going to add something like,

play12:59

"Today I presented at Eurostar 2023."

play13:04

And as you might notice, I'm using brackets.

play13:07

I'm putting two brackets around Eurostar 2023

play13:10

and that's making it a link.

play13:12

So I'm going to click on that link

play13:15

and now it's created a new note called Eurostar 2023.

play13:20

So, "At Eurostar I talked about software testing."

play13:28

Or let's say "testing"

play13:29

'cause we already have a note on that.

play13:32

Now if we go here on the right,

play13:35

I've opened up the side panel here to show you

play13:37

that there is a linked mention section where it says

play13:41

"Today, I presented at Eurostar 2023."

play13:44

Wait, that's not what this note is.

play13:46

So it's actually showing us other notes

play13:51

that are linking to this note.

play13:54

So it's saying that,

play13:54

"Hey, on this daily note

play13:56

you actually link to Eurostar 2023."

play13:59

Now the problem is

play14:01

that now you might think

play14:03

that you have to create a link every time

play14:05

that you create a note or if you think

play14:09

that you're going to create a note in the future,

play14:11

maybe you should link it the first time that you type it,

play14:13

but that's actually not true.

play14:15

So we are looking at a link here from the daily note.

play14:20

So let's go back into that.

play14:21

Now I'm gonna show you what it looks like,

play14:23

if I remove the link.

play14:24

So I just typed it as normal.

play14:27

Now, if we go to Eurostar 2023,

play14:29

I can go and see that there are no more linked mentions

play14:33

because I've removed the link.

play14:36

However, there's still an unlinked mention.

play14:39

That's because Obsidian does this awesome thing

play14:41

where it doesn't expect you to create explicit links.

play14:45

It recognizes the implicit links.

play14:47

So, it's enough that you have a note called Eurostar 2023,

play14:51

and it'll show you all of the instances

play14:53

in your entire vault where you've said "Eurostar 2023."

play14:58

Alright, so I'll, I'm gonna go back and link it

play15:01

because there is still a cool thing that happens

play15:04

when you do make explicit links and it's called graph view.

play15:09

All of these things come in Obsidian by default, by the way.

play15:13

So when I open the graph view,

play15:15

now it has this cool little graphical representation

play15:19

of the notes that you've created.

play15:21

So you can hover over them and look at them individually.

play15:25

So if I hover over the daily note,

play15:27

the Testing note is kind of faded into the background

play15:31

and that's because I'm looking

play15:33

at one particular link right now.

play15:35

And then I can also click on any

play15:37

of them to go to that note in particular.

play15:40

So that's a little overview of how Obsidian works.

play15:43

Hopefully, you see

play15:44

that it is very different from Google Docs,

play15:46

and links are an essential part of using Obsidian.

play15:50

So let's get back to the presentation

play15:53

and let's talk about different ways

play15:55

that you can use Obsidian.

play15:58

One of the ways is logging.

play15:59

So now I've shown you how to start with Obsidian, right?

play16:03

But rather than build it up for you,

play16:05

which would take a really long time,

play16:07

I'm actually going to show you what I already have.

play16:11

So we're going into my own personal vault.

play16:13

So this is an example of a note that I have

play16:16

that I created while I was testing something.

play16:19

I was actually trying to learn something.

play16:21

So you can think of this as a dev or a test log.

play16:25

So, I'm talking about the different tests that I created.

play16:28

Everything in Obsidian is Markdown.

play16:29

So this is a Markdown table,

play16:32

and then it is rendering everything by default

play16:35

so that when I move my cursor out of it,

play16:39

it's rendering the table already.

play16:41

So you can see that I've written down

play16:43

the different runs that I had,

play16:44

and for each one I was running load tests,

play16:47

and I was kind of tracking the number of views

play16:49

a description and a bunch of metrics.

play16:52

And there's even a link

play16:53

to k6 and the Grafana dashboards for those tests.

play16:58

And this is how I like to use Obsidian a lot

play17:01

when I'm trying to figure something out.

play17:03

You know, it doesn't have to be anything polished.

play17:06

These are my notes.

play17:07

So this is just a record

play17:09

of how I use Obsidian, of how I'm learning.

play17:13

And this is a code block,

play17:15

which is delineated by these back ticks.

play17:19

And I can copy and paste that elsewhere.

play17:21

I put links in there.

play17:23

And then in this one I was trying to figure out

play17:26

how to install Grafana on Kubernetes.

play17:29

So this is a record of everything that I tried.

play17:32

And I timestamped some things

play17:34

to using the markdown syntax for headings.

play17:38

So this is how I use Obsidian for logging.

play17:43

Another use case for it is learning.

play17:45

So after all of this, I did eventually learn

play17:50

how I should install Grafana on Kubernetes.

play17:54

And then I started to create kind of like a parent note

play17:58

and this is what that looks like

play18:00

and this is where I distilled my learnings from this log.

play18:05

And this one is much more polished.

play18:07

I'm saying, "No, these are the exact steps."

play18:10

You know, I left out all the times

play18:12

where I kind of meandered,

play18:14

and then I went through.

play18:17

And now if I ever have to do this again,

play18:20

I can refer to my own notes about it.

play18:22

I don't have to go to stack overflow, which is excellent.

play18:25

This is just going a bit more quickly here.

play18:28

This is one where I am looking at the k6 tool.

play18:33

I work on the k6 team at Grafana.

play18:35

So I have a lot of notes about k6,

play18:39

and each one of these has like maybe

play18:43

in some cases some content that I've created on it.

play18:46

And they aren't supposed to be a replacement

play18:50

for the k6x documentation.

play18:51

This is more like a shorthand,

play18:54

a curated selection of topics

play18:56

that I refer to again and again.

play18:59

And this is all related to me, all related to my knowledge.

play19:04

So it is different from just a documentation

play19:07

that somebody else created that you might not

play19:09

have gotten a chance to look into.

play19:12

Every part, every note in this is something that I created.

play19:16

And I've done the same for things like, you know

play19:18

how to learn git, which is something that every developer

play19:21

or tester is going to come across.

play19:24

And I do it with programming languages as well.

play19:27

So here's how to do stuff in Python.

play19:29

Again, this is still based

play19:32

on what I need to know about Python.

play19:35

I'm probably not going to be creating a Python based app

play19:39

and deploying it from scratch

play19:41

but I do need to know how to do some things to do my job.

play19:46

So that's how I use it for learning.

play19:48

I also use Obsidian for learning in public.

play19:52

Now, it's kind of similar to the previous one

play19:54

but I've already shown

play19:56

that I create content based on the notes,

play19:59

that I have in Obsidian.

play20:01

And being able to start from something

play20:04

from the notes that I already have

play20:06

rather than like starting from nothing

play20:08

is a very, very big part about why Obsidian

play20:12

is so useful for me.

play20:13

I also use it to create presentations like this one.

play20:17

I'm gonna go through all of these in in a second,

play20:21

but I also use it to collaborate on GitHub with my team.

play20:26

I publish almost all of my notes,

play20:29

so that I can share them with other people,

play20:32

and that includes a change log of what I'm working on.

play20:35

So let's get into these.

play20:36

So I, on top of doing videos for Grafana Labs and k6,

play20:41

and doing presentations and writing blog posts,

play20:45

I also have a separate YouTube channel personally

play20:49

where I have 30,000 subscribers

play20:51

and I talk about taking notes actually.

play20:53

And so I use Obsidian directly

play20:56

to both create a content calendar

play20:58

and generate content

play21:00

based on the notes that I already have.

play21:03

In terms of presentations like this one,

play21:06

oh, this is not wrapping quite well

play21:08

but, actually, I can show you that this presentation

play21:12

that I'm giving you is written in Obsidian as well.

play21:17

So there is a plugin for Obsidian that lets me

play21:20

just create presentations in markdown, just like notes.

play21:25

So presentation is just a note formatted differently.

play21:28

So these are all of the slides,

play21:30

which is independently publishable.

play21:32

And when I change one thing here,

play21:34

I change the presentation as well.

play21:37

And then in GitHub,

play21:38

because Obsidian is just a folder with markdown files,

play21:42

and on my team on k6,

play21:45

we hold our documentation in a GitHub repository,

play21:49

that means that I can just use Obsidian

play21:52

to actually open the GitHub repo as a folder,

play21:56

which means that I can write

play21:59

and contribute to documentation within Obsidian

play22:02

with all of the supercharged linking capabilities

play22:05

without other people even knowing necessarily

play22:07

that I use Obsidian.

play22:09

So it's really useful for that.

play22:11

I'm kind of using it like an IDE.

play22:14

I also publish all of my notes online.

play22:17

Well, not all of my notes, most of my notes online.

play22:20

And this is using a service,

play22:23

a paid service, called Obsidian Publish.

play22:25

But I think there are lots of different ways to do this.

play22:28

You could use a site generator like Hugo

play22:31

to do the same thing with markdown files,

play22:33

but this is another way

play22:34

that I'm putting things out there

play22:36

and seeing what other people are going to say.

play22:39

So all of the things that I was showing you

play22:41

with Git and Python and k6,

play22:43

they're all available on my public notes.

play22:47

That includes a change log.

play22:49

So I also keep track of new things that I've written about.

play22:55

And so you can look at my change log

play22:58

as kind of a sneak peek into what I'm thinking about,

play23:02

what I've changed.

play23:03

This is the idea that our notes

play23:05

should be constantly evolving,

play23:07

and you can see the change logs,

play23:09

the last 500 notes that I've worked on.

play23:13

So here are some of the advantages

play23:15

of continuous note taking.

play23:17

First, you learn faster.

play23:19

I think that I sometimes get into this frame of mind

play23:25

where I love to take notes.

play23:26

So I just take notes

play23:28

for the sake of taking notes.

play23:29

But actually taking notes also helps you learn.

play23:33

It's a lot.

play23:34

It's kind of like that thing

play23:35

where you always learn,

play23:38

a test of learning is when you can explain

play23:41

and express something to somebody else.

play23:43

Taking notes is kind of like that,

play23:45

except the person that you're explaining to

play23:48

is the future you,

play23:49

the future you that probably doesn't remember anything

play23:52

that that you're working on now.

play23:54

Another thing is that iterative

play23:55

and incremental work accrue over time.

play23:58

So you might think that

play24:00

if you zoom in on the individual note basis,

play24:04

you might think that you're not getting anywhere,

play24:06

but several thousand notes later,

play24:10

and I think I'm up to 10,000 now in my main vault,

play24:13

then you start to see patterns,

play24:15

and you start to see a body of knowledge

play24:17

rather than just an individual instance or idea.

play24:22

You also never start from nothing.

play24:25

The fact that I have so many notes at my disposal

play24:28

means that at any point I can go into my Obsidian notes

play24:32

and look for let's say performance testing,

play24:36

and I can open that up

play24:37

and I can see things that I've written on the subject.

play24:40

And all of these links are links

play24:42

to notes that exist in my vault.

play24:45

So if I wanted to write something about performance testing,

play24:48

there's a lot to pick from.

play24:50

So I'm never just looking at a blank screen.

play24:53

I'm looking at what do I have already in my notes

play24:57

that I can kind of massage and tweak or rearrange.

play25:01

And the other thing is

play25:02

that by learning in public, you create learning exhaust.

play25:05

Learning exhaust are the byproducts

play25:07

of learning and especially learning in public.

play25:11

So they are things like being able to publish your notes.

play25:15

Learning exhaust is super useful

play25:17

because it quantifies what you've been working on,

play25:20

and not in a way where you feel like

play25:22

you have to write a blog post

play25:24

and it has to be super polished and edited.

play25:26

Learning exhaust is just putting things out there

play25:28

and not worrying if you've gotten a few things wrong.

play25:33

Just to wrap up, I said in the beginning that I have a habit

play25:37

of getting hired for things that I'm not qualified in.

play25:41

Now you may be thinking by now

play25:44

that that isn't exactly true, and you're right.

play25:47

I was qualified for those jobs,

play25:50

just not in a way that was immediately demonstrable

play25:53

until I started taking notes.

play25:55

See, I learned most of the things that I know online,

play25:59

either on my own or through interactions with other people.

play26:03

Grafana Labs is a completely remote company.

play26:06

So all of my interactions are on the internet.

play26:09

That's really great for personal learning and development

play26:13

but it is also really difficult when you work like that

play26:16

to communicate what you're capable of

play26:18

to a future or potential employer.

play26:21

Taking notes is my way around that.

play26:24

This is actually the graph view

play26:26

for my personal Obsidian vault.

play26:30

So every dot, every node in this graph

play26:33

is a note that exists in my vault.

play26:35

It's an idea and one that I've fleshed out

play26:39

in my own words based on my own learnings

play26:42

and my own experience,

play26:43

written for the future me

play26:45

that might no longer remember what I was working on.

play26:49

Every line here between the nodes is a link

play26:53

where every idea

play26:55

in my vault has been tested against different ideas

play26:59

to see like, is it related to this?

play27:01

Is this an example of another idea?

play27:04

Is this an application of it?

play27:06

Is this a concept that another idea is at odds with?

play27:11

And having this kind of second brain,

play27:15

because it really looks like a brain right now,

play27:18

is what has enabled me to nail down

play27:21

and give to my employers an idea of what I'm capable of.

play27:27

So taking notes is really something

play27:30

that's going to help you in your entire career.

play27:33

First, it helps you learn in the first place.

play27:36

It helps you create a record of where you've been

play27:40

and what you've done and what you've been thinking about.

play27:43

And it helps other employers, future potential employers,

play27:48

understand what you're actually capable of.

play27:51

If I could start my career over,

play27:54

I would take notes like this,

play27:56

in the continuous note taking sense,

play27:59

a lot earlier.

play28:00

And maybe I would've gotten to where I am faster.

play28:04

So thank you all for listening.

play28:07

I have a few links down here.

play28:09

If you go to my site, nicolevanderhoeven.com,

play28:12

and look at the first, at the latest blog post,

play28:15

I also have a link to these slides there,

play28:17

so you don't have to take notes,

play28:20

or at least you can take notes

play28:22

in your own time as you go through it.

play28:25

I'm also happy to take any questions

play28:27

about Obsidian or note taking

play28:30

or any sort of knowledge management topic for tech.

play28:36

Thanks for watching and for listening.

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Note-TakingContinuous LearningTech IndustryGrafana LabsObsidian AppKnowledge ManagementCareer DevelopmentPersonal GrowthSoftware TestingRemote Work