Month 16 — First breakthrough — Combining linear note-taking with SRS using Obsidian and Anki
Though the last month was unsettling in a number of ways, this month I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
The key question I had was this: How can I capture my learning in a simple linear format that gives a full overview, but at the same time makes it easy for long-term retention using Spaced Repetition System (SRS)?
When I was learning any material in the past 1 year, my notes were mainly in the form of Anki flashcards which made it difficult for me to have a simple overview of the key points I have learnt from any resource. Also, not everything in my notes has to be drilled into my long-term memory. But since I had only Anki as the single place to capture my learning, everything got into Anki — hence as the volume grew, it became more difficult to review all the flashcards.
I also realized that the judgement about the importance of a certain piece of knowledge keeps changing. What seems very important when I am learning a new area does not seem important after some time. Sometimes, an entire topic becomes irrelevant after 1 or 2 projects. So, I needed a way to easily change my mind about what I want to get into the SRS system and an easy way to prune it regularly as I revisit the topic as I work on different projects.
Obsidian: A knowledge base that works on local Markdown files.
Simply, it is a text editor which stores the notes as markdown file — Nothing more. But I realized the power of the tool when I watched Bryan Jenks Video on his workflows with Obsidian which include creating Anki flashcards directly from Obsidian, which piqued my curiosity.
So, I decided to download and try the tool. It took me a few days to realize how beneficial the tool would be for what I was trying to do. So, I bought a Course by Santi Younger on Obsidian to quickly ramp up.
Go from beginner to master of your own notes in Obsidian You'll be able to develop the skills needed to make your notes…
The key benefit I see with Obsidian is the ease with which I can create links between different notes, and refactor notes over time without breaking these links. Though many people are impressed with the graph view, I am not yet. But overall, the tool is so simple and beautiful and provides a friction-free experience to capture everything either into a Daily Note or to a named new note.
Obsidian to Anki Plugin
A plugin was available to automatically create flashcards in Anki based on the contents in my notes. Though this plugin was technically complicated to set up, once I customized it to my needs, it really gave me a lot of power to create notes and then later annotate/tag certain items to make them go into Anki. When I am in Anki, I am able to see the context of the card and I even have a link to the Obsidian file so that I can launch into that file, if I need to get a full overview of that topic for any reason. This is so beautiful.
Learn Core Concepts
I also wanted to take the time to learn Linux and other underlying concepts. I hit a problem with multiple conflicting versions of Python on my Mac when I was working on a project and I did not know how to resolve it. So, I decided to Delete current versions of python and start with a clean slate. I have attempted to do this twice in the past, but given my limited knowledge to really understand this topic, I did not succeed both times. But this time, I decided to take the plunge. I did succeed. It was such a beautiful feeling when I finally managed to clear this roadblock — the little Linux that I have learnt in the past month has come in handy to tackle this challenge.
What is more beautiful is that I have written a log of every article I have read, the key points from the article, what I have tried, what worked and what did not work. After I finished this task, I reviewed my notes the next day and added annotations to create flashcards for a few items. Here is the article on my Gitbook.
Once I have cleaned up python in my system, then the next topic was Which package manager for python — pipenv or virtualenvwrapper or conda? I have spent a lot of time in reading a lot of different articles, the topic does not seem to end. So, I decided to stop for now with Round1 on using virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper. I would revisit this topic later.
Obsidian to Anki works plugin by using Regex. Since I wanted to understand the regex to tweak it to my need, I started on this area with this beautiful series in YouTube — Bitfumes Regular Expression from Scratch to Pro.
I am still yet to crack the regex used in the plugin. Hence, launched into the best book on this topic — Mastering Regular Expressions
Mastering Regular Expressions 3e: Understand Your Data and Be More Productive
Regular expressions are an extremely powerful tool for manipulating text and data. They are now standard features in a…
And before I conclude, here are some screenshots to show you how I have created different types of flashcards in Anki automatically from my notes in Obsidian using some minimal, unobstrusive markup: