Behavioral product strategist and gamification designer. This is my public hypertext notebook, sharing my thinking in motion at various stages of development.

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Why I love interoperability

Since switching from Roam to Obsidian, I’ve really come to appreciate the ability to open up my directory of notes in many applications to gain a unique view on the same data. I can open it in VSCode if I want powerful search and replace across the whole directory. I can set up a Smart Folder on my Mac to show me a list of all of the markdown files I’ve modified today, sorted by recency. I can write code that finds me my most frequently used words across the directory without even having to touch the plugin API, because it’s just text files on my computer. I can push my files to GitHub to collaborate with others or publish to my website through my Jekyll theme. DevonThink just announced that they're adding WYSYWYG and transclusion for markdown files, and specifically mentioned that they are supporting Obsidian / Roam flavored markdown. Now I'll be able to use their AI augmented semantic search across my notes and all of my papers that are saved in PDF! In this world, I own the data that every app operates on.

This also means that tools that work on interoperable data don't need to do everything. Honestly, isn't that just insane? I seriously can't believe that if I don't have Search and Replace across all of my notes in Obsidian… that doesn't matter. I can just do that in VSCode. No tool should have the burden of doing everything. I know this is basically reinventing the Unix philosophy, but it's a better world.

The biggest critique I can think of for this is that interoperable file formats could inhibit innovation. Frankly, I don't know the answer to this, it may just be a fundamental tension. I also don't believe that markdown is the most expressive file format. However, it's just nice knowing that my data is mine and apps are competing on functionality rather than switching costs.