I download a pdf on my computer. I pick up my phone and it’s already there. I open it in my pdf app and highlight a few sections that catch my eye. I sit back down at my desktop and the annotations are already in my notes app. I work them into a blog post and fire off an alias. A minute or two later a new post is on my site.

This all works, today, across multiple operating systems and machines. It uses Obsidian and Readwise. Sync is handled by SyncThing except for Obsidian itself which I sync using their paid service in order to be able to use it on ipad (ipadOS flaw limits sync options).

This site is published via hugo, with the details here.

My blog entry folder is symlinked to Obsidian, allowing me to use it as my editor for blog posts. Given Obsidian’s excellent template support, this works really well. Usually blog ideas and snippets already end up in Obsidian and tagged, so it’s a natural starting place for writing posts anyway.

I use the daily note feature in Obsidian. This creates a dated note and opens to it automatically. Basically everything I write goes into here initially, and every two-four weeks I sit down and process these notes. Useful information gets tagged and separated out into other notes, with a backlink to the original daily note it gets taken from. This gives me a historical journal with intact references.

Obsidian is a key part of my work flow. It’s a note app that is built on the idea of backlinks - the ability to reference other note pages. This means my notes look like a graph. I have a much longer dedicated blog post on that idea that I’m drafting, but it means my notes look more like wikipedia than a bunch of printed pages. Since my note database is always taking in new data, it’s always growing.

Obsidian is also javascript based and comes with plenty of plugins. Here’s my current stack of plugins:

  • Advanced Tables - helps keeps tables aligned and pretty
  • Dataview - allows querying and displaying data based on tags
  • Full Calendar - embeds external calendars (eg Google cal)
  • Kanban - a to do tool, a trello clone
  • Minimal theme and it’s settings plugin - a really nice theme that let’s you turn off most of the UI of Obsidian
  • Readwise Official - integrates readwise, my highlighting/bookmarking service
  • Tasks - a lightweight tasks plugin
  • Templater - allows use of templates

You’ll notice I use both Kanban and Tasks, which both manage “to do” items. I use Kanban, which gives each project it’s own full page, for bigger multi-step to do projects. Things that require ordering parts, executing several steps, etc. Tasks just tracks checkboxes, and I use it for things that happen in a single step like “upgrade the home server” or “measure the nursery”.

I use templater primarily for my daily note which features a spot to add in new tasks, and a dataview query to show existing undone tasks. There are quicklinks to my Kanban and other frequently used notes (eg one for a class I’m in currently, another one for a game I’m playing).

Readwise serves both as a “read it later” sort of service (via Readwise Reader, which is very much a beta product) and a tool for managing annotations. I used Pocket previously, which worked, but Reader is an all around better product. It’s epub/pdf support means I can use it for ebooks and it’s integrated highlighter works very nicely. My only complaint is that the api is still under-developed (they’re working on it!) so I can’t easily integrate it with my self hosted archive service (archivebox).

As an annotation service, Readwise will both consume annotations from multiple other services like Amazon Kindle, store and aggregate those annotations, and sync them to my notes. This means I can highlight tweets, make notes of references I want to keep, or keep track of bits for posts or papers.

Zotero is a tool that has left my “active” list, but remains in the extended toolbox. It’s really good for handling formal citations and keeping content grouped, but these days I just haven’t needed to do formal citations.

Coding is done using VS Code (technically vscodium, vscode with it’s telemetry removed), though more frequently I am using code-server which is just vscode but in the browser. It runs on my homelab, but it also means I have one development environment that is the same across my desktop, laptop, ipad and so on. I was really worried the latency was going to be an issue, but so far it’s as fast as using the normal app.

“Input” that isn’t Readwise compatible happens mostly via RSS. I consume RSS via a self hosted miniflux instance and then read via mobile clients which sync read progress back to miniflux. Readwise does have some RSS support but due to how I use RSS (for noisy sources), this miniflux flow works better for me. I need to restore my twitter-to-rss feed input somehow, as that has mostly gotten trashed since twitter api changes.

In general I’ve pushed hard to keep all my data in boring well known formats, in places I store it, and use as few tools as meaningfully possible to accomplish my goals. I love this setup and it’s my favorite setup to date. Obsidian and Readwise are an extremely powerful toolset, especially when complemented with just a bit of extra glue.