I would totally agree with you and for that reason Obsidian is one of my daily drivers. However, had those guys owning Voodoopad got their act together, I would not be on Obsidian. Voodoopad did 10 years ago what Obsidian does today, but successive sales of the app to new owners that have done nothing with it has killed it. It even spits out a full wiki html site of all your notes, something many of us are eagerly awaiting to do with Obsidian.
I thought this was fixed recently. You mean the autocorrect options from macOS System Preferences → Keyboard → Text? When I type the expansions I’ve got there in Obsidian, they work.
Although I realize it doesn’t help the end-user, @svsmailus, this is (was?) an Electron issue. Obsidian’s developers have been pushing Electron to fix it. (e.g., Expose `spellcheck_platform::CheckSpelling` API · Issue #22829 · electron/electron · GitHub)
Odd. The only folder the plugin should be able to read/write to is in
Vault/.obsidian/plugins/Minimal Theme Settings. Uninstalling the plugin and deleting that folder should’ve fixed things. You may want to reach out to the plugin dev directly on their GitHub repo!
More broadly, there has been some chatter about better appearance management settings. The Style Settings plugin is great and shows that there’s a better way. We might also see a “snippet store” eventually, maybe!
I think parts of this critique are fair, but for what it’s worth, us mods have been discouraging people from
@ing the Obsidian developers for as long as I can remember. If everyone is shouting, you can’t hear anyone. We therefore try to encourage folks to only reach out directly if there’s something critically wrong—e.g., data loss.
My experience moderating the Obsidian forum and Discord has been interesting. Managing the thousands of feature requests, help questions, and bug reports that flood in has been arduous at times. And keep in mind that we are only doing it for our love of the app—we are not Obsidian staff, just a small team of volunteers.
I’d like to think we’re best-in-class, though: I don’t know of any other app that provides a similar level of access and transparency in the development process. If anyone knows of one, I’d love to steal their ideas. Nonetheless, it is naturally frustrating when a feature you desire is not coming to fruition, or when bugs aren’t getting squashed. One thing I’ve learned from watching Obsidian and other apps develop over the past year, however, is that there aren’t easy solutions to these kinds of problems. As you’ve said, @anon41602260, success can kill. Adding developers to teams rarely speeds things up… In fact, every indie app that “goes mainstream” and starts to add HR seems to slow down. Moreover customer service teams become opaque dead-ends. I personally hate hearing “okay we heard you thanks for the feature request.” So, while there are challenges, I’d like to think we’re doing the best anyone can.
I think you all have done an admiral job moderating the forums. Cheers!
Thanks. I want to be clear, though, I’m not trying to be defensive here. @anon41602260’s critiques are valid, and I’ve picked up on similar issues over time. I just don’t know a better way to run it (yet)!
Thank you @ryanjamurphy – it’s useful to hear the view from the moderators’ dugout. I think the best things about Obsidian are also the worst things. From the beginning, Erica and Shida created an open, communicative environment for the Obsidian community. But then the app shot up the s-curve and adopters flooded in – many of whom migrated from Roamcult. So balancing the work with chatter from the peanut gallery probably became, and remains, a difficulty. I think your post hints at that. The only answer to that kind of success is to eventually put up walls and limit communication.
The main good/bad things though are the open API and appearance structures: resulting in the community plugins and themes. The good part is that we can configure Obsidian to an amazing extent. The bad thing is that as the users flooded in, most of them probably have little understanding of managing the complexity created by the the community add-ons. From watching the two OBS forums, I suspect that most of the issues raised are issues with third-party plugins or themes. My own issues are issues with third party themes. For the most part, core Obsidian, what Erica and Shida control, is pretty solid and reliable. The outer shell, created by community contributions, is often very flakey and conflicts arise. This will only get worse. Unless someone buys the company, or abandons the “always free” philosophy, Obsidian might always lack the resources to tame the contributor cloud.
I don’t think it’s too dramatic to think that Obsidian, the product with all the community around it, is at its final inflection point. The thread above sort of makes the case: Obsidian is wonderful and messy. The people who want to just work and not put up with messy will stop coming. I don’t think OBS will flame out, but I do think the signs point to flat growth and the small part of the market that even cares about OBS getting bored and moving on. The s-curve is probably over.
BTW there are plenty of independent developers that interact openly and effectively with their user base, discussing work in progress, without a gaggle of gate keepers around them. George Browning, Mark Bernstein, Peter Lewis, Greg Pierce, are just a few of them. And they all manage product that are significantly more complex than Obsidian. It can be done.
We’ll see! I have not seen any signs of growth slowing. I definitely think we’re seeing some interesting thresholds tested, though:
Will developers of key plugins and themes stick around and keep maintaining, will new devs take over old code, or will community projects languish over time? That’s the key indicator of health, for me, and I am not worried at the moment.
Will the community support model continue to work? Here’s where I’m seeing stressors. The forum seems less useful over time, and it’s hard to track how useful the Discord is. That said, I don’t know of a tech company—especially an indie developer—that provides good 1:1 support at scale (see below). After a certain point of growth, it seems impossible to get real answers from companies. I think the Omni Group’s model is pretty good and probably one to follow here.
However, as has been discussed in this thread, a key constraint is the complexity of Obsidian. As you’ve said, the core app is rock solid. Most challenges users face and seek support for are driven by community add-ons. Most developers don’t have to support community complexity like this. The tools that have are usually developer-centric (VS Code, Sublime Text, etc.), and so the users can support themselves. So, I think we’re seeing new territory here. What will users tolerate? Time will tell.
These are good pointers… but the scale is quite different.
I got curious about the volume and velocity of these communities, and the numbers are pretty striking. I added DEVONthink and The Omni Group to the list of comparables. (The stats for Zengobi/Curio and Eastgate/Tinderbox are hidden, so I have excluded them from this analysis, but I imagine they are not far off these numbers.)
Drafts has been around since 2012ish, Keyboard Maestro since 1990 (!), Omni since 1989 (!!), and DEVONthink since about 2001. The communities I’m comparing here have probably been launched later than these dates, but each is still older than Obsidian IIRC.
In the past 30 days, the Drafts forum saw 31 new topics and 436 posts, Keyboard Maestro saw 253 new topics and ~3100 new posts, Omni saw 45 new topics and 784 posts, and DEVONthink saw 279 new topics and ~3600 posts.
Obsidian was launched around 16 months ago. The forum has 25,556 users and the Discord has 49,557 users. In the past 30 days, users have posted 786 new topics and ~5700 new posts on the forum. I don’t want to even look into the Discord, because that place is pure chaos.
It’d be neat to look into per-user contribution and so on, but I only have those stats for Obsi. From what I can see, Keyboard Maestro’s per-user activity is wild: many members have published thousands of posts. Omni has a Slack team that’s pretty active, too, but I’m not in it at the moment. Otherwise I think these communities are comparable in nature, but not in scale.
Here’s the numbers in a table:
|Age (years)||Number of forum users||Number of topics in the last 30 days||Number of posts in the last 30 days|
|Omni Group||~30?!||11597 (+ ? on Slack)||45||784|
|Obsidian||<2||25556 (+ 49,557 on Discord)||786||5.7k|
Obviously, quantity is not quality—I bet Keyboard Maestro’s community would show that having fewer, more engaged users is probably better for those who are involved.
Another consideration is that of all of these devs, only Obsidian supports platforms beyond Apple. That makes support harder. (It would be cool to look at some other cross-platform indie devs, but I can’t think of any!)
I don’t really have any big conclusions to draw, except to show that Obsidian’s community growth has been meteoric. My question now is what the community will look like when it’s as old as these others.
Interesting analysis. Does it include the Chinese forum?
As you point out, Obsidian – the company through its public forum – is basically supporting the work of third party developers of plugins and themes, who may or may not be interested or active in supporting their own work.
Also, I think all the other apps we mentioned have off-line support offers – not that any of them have big staffs for that kind of work, but they do take an unknown number of requests by direct contact with “support@…”. Whereas, OBS does everything in the forums.
Something will need to change – the support numbers you mention are wild and unsustainable.
This is really helpful Ryan and I sympathize with how difficult it must be to support all of this. But I think my original post is still valid, to me Obsidian is a subpar markdown editor. Do you not agree with that?
Today I did all of my editing in Obsidian just to force myself to really use it. I think everything I posted in the original still holds. I do have to say the live preview mode works pretty well, so that’s an improvement. I would just encourage the developers to make the Markdown editor best in class.
It strikes me that the comparison for Obsidian might be Wordpress: very usable, solid core app; huge and untamed/untamable ecosystem of themes and plugins.
Wordpress has survived and even thrived. I do t know the ecosystem well enough to say whether that’s because of this model or in spite of it. But I have no doubt there are lessons for Obsidian one way or the other.
I find Obsidian is a first-rate Markdown editor. I just reviewed the original post in this topic. Keyboard shortcuts for formatting? I don’t need them; formatting by characters, the Markdown way, is easier for me. Errors in header sizes are not a problem I’ve encountered.
Obsidian is not for everyone, and neither is Markdown.
Sure, today as I was using it, I did just type in the characters for the headings and that works fine. But when you get used to using Cmd-1, Cmd-2, etc, it is a bit slower.
Just now I was using Obsidian to collect a bunch of weblinks as I was researching something. I know I can type in the 4 link characters by hand, but I find using Cmd-k faster and easier (which is supported in Obsidian), don’t you?
No big deal, but I would like an app I use for hours a day to have a good number of keyboard shortcuts to help with my productivity. This is the Mac Power Users forum, right?
The thing is, you can add those, no?
Not saying your opinion is wrong; I am not completely satisfied with Obsidian’s editor either. Some things about Vim support are a little flaky and having a way to temporarily “maximize” a pane would be nice. But personally, I think the #1 selling point of Obsidian by a mile is the organizational features, so it kind of makes sense that the devs would focus substantially more energy on that, and satisfy those who want better Markdown experiences with their interoperable filesystem structure.
100% agree nobody is going to mistake Obsidian for a Mac-assed app.
Worth noting though that the Things Theme is a big improvement in that direction compared to Obsidian’s default theme & most of the other third party themes
I used, supported and developed for WordPress(.org) for many years (and still do from time to time). It’s a good comparison.
It’s worth noting that end users have very little say over WordPress core - it’s overseen by a commercial company and is largely directed by them. As you say, it too is a hot mess of plugins - many abandoned now as developers move onto other products, other projects or just don’t have the time to keep up with changes to core. I developed a few (private) WP plugins myself, and there was a burden keeping them in sync with changes in core, especially when they were no longer for active projects.
(You can see that with Obsidian - a number of plugins are temporarily broken with Live Editing mode; others were a good idea someone had many months ago but have not been developed since).
I had problems on WP with sites going down or becoming insecure - rarely because of the core, almost always because of a faulty plugin conflicting with another plugin, not conforming to published standards or not being updated. I learned to use just a small number of plugins, and generally ones that were commercially supported with a support team I could access if required. They weren’t entirely problem free, but were unlikely to be abandoned.
WordPress was, and is, free and highly extensible. That suits many users and ultimately it was usually web developers who had to deal with the mess, not end users. Whether Obsidian will reap similar benefits we’ll see. My personal opinion is it’s probably “peak Obsidian” - not a bad peak to be at for sure. Whether Obsidian users are also willing to pay for feature sets to be supported by plugins also remains to be seen. A business building an e-commerce website is different to a student managing their notes.
I am considering using Obsidian again for a daily and topic journal (a la Benefits of a daily diary and topic journals | Derek Sivers) as I haven’t really found anything else - I’ll keep it to as few plugins as I can get away with.
I find it easy enough to type the four link characters — (] — and H1, H2, H3 for headers, and == for comments. I don’t use keyboard shortcuts for those things in any Markdown editor.
I get that Obsidian does not work for you. That’s fine. It’s not for everyone. It is a VERY VERY opinionated design, and does not follow the rules for Mac apps.
Two frustrations that come up regularly on the Obsidian users forum:
- The default for “search again” in text searches is not Cmd-G.
- No support for multiple app windows open simultaneously.
My frustration with WordPress is that it has become so complex and design-oriented that I find it difficult to use for microblogging. I have never gotten used to the WordPress block editor, and I often like to run untitled posts, which Wordpress does not like.
I use Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook for microblogging now, and each of those services have their own problems — including that I have to use three services to reach everybody I want to reach, because everything on the Internet is in silos now. I do a lot of cut-and-pasting of the same stuff to three places.
Basically, what I’m looking for is Twitter without length limitations. I’m not expecting to find that soon.
Check out Microblog if you haven’t. It’s designed for microblogging (surprise!) and plays reasonably well with other services. I think it was originally envisioned as a place you can blog, own your content, and feed it out to other services
I’ve used it. The community is nice but very small. Good platform for those who like what it has to offer.
I was suggesting less as a destination, and more as a platform — post there and propagate the posts out to FB, Twitter, Instagram or wherever. Just because you raised your dissatisfaction with Wordpress for microblogging
I’m trying out the Things theme and it looks good so far. Thanks for the suggestion.