Impulse: Is the PKM hype justified?

If you’ve joined any of my live streams where we talk about a PKM, you know that I’m less than excited about the term itself. It feels a lot like the homesteading days when everyone wanted to claim some ground and call it their own. But in this case, folks want to be the ones who coined the terms used to describe their notes system.

For those new to the conversation, a PKM is a Personal Knowledge Management system. It’s a notes storage system with the caveat of using interlinking among your notes. Depending on who you follow there will be more caveats added to the definition, but they all require hyperlinking between notes.

The question I have behind this is one of validity. Namely, are the time and daily commitment required to gain the benefits of a PKM worth it?

I wish I could give you a blanket yes or no to the question. But like most answers, it depends. The problem is that most of the people pushing and promoting these note-making systems are creators who gain some benefit from the promotion of new tools and systems. By adopting these new methods, they gain ideas that they can talk about online.

The trouble is that many who read and watch this content are drawn into the new and shiny. That’s not necessarily bad if the tool or system has added benefits for you. But you have to remember the cost associated with setting up the new system and the time commitment required to make it work.

In the case of PKMs, the bulk of the people promoting them are content creators, researchers, and students. If you resonate with one of those, the answer is yes. You could benefit from an interlinked note-making system.

But if you find yourself outside those categories, the water resembles the Big Muddy. It’s hard to see the answer and there’s a lot of swirling going on that seems to pull you under. It looks fun and it appears that you’ll get some benefit, but it’s dangerous territory.

I say dangerous because many who create content about their note-making admit to how much time is required. And it’s normally in the scope of hours per day. You’ll find a few who fall below that range, but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

This begs the question: is it worth it? Is the hype justified?

The hype over the term PKM is blown out of proportion. We’ve had interlinking notes systems for a long time now. Yes, some of the nuances are different, but the gist is the same.

The hype over the methods and the benefits are justified, though. That is if you want a tool to help you clarify your thinking and have a place to publish the results of said thinking.

Again, it depends.

That said, if you want to talk about this more, I’ll be showing off and discussing my latest Obsidian setup today on the stream.


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I registered to reply to this. Seriously.
First some background: I’ve lost the number of years I’m actually following you, but I definitely remained a lurker all that time (instead of unsubscribing) In the future I plan on maintaining that kind of profile. Your content touches upon occasionally really interesting thoughts - and a few weeks ago (or was it months?) you put yourself out there to show your vulnerability wrt some difficult soul-searching. Again - something to applaud & reason why I kept skimming/reading your newsletter.

Now to the PKM “hype” - frankly I don’t know if it’s a hype and don’t care.
As an IT-analyst with many fields of interest / knowhow topics intertwined/interlinked - a tool such as Notion has been nothing short of an astonishing piece of software. Being able to create my own “analysis-wiki” - with parts and context easily structured and partially shared to clients in an instant is frankly game-changing (for me at least) Before jumping to Notion about a year ago I watched their path of growth and philosophy with eagle-eyes. Now, with the public beta roll-out of their API, I feel like vindicated investing my time in my own compendium.

Which brings me to your choice of tool - Obsidian. I will never fail to be amazed by choosing beta-software with that particular mindset. I mean, I can understand why one - and in this case you in particular as a technically proficient professional would choose it - but my god does it look like a box of pandora wrt its management & maintenance. I’m not a Notion-shill whatsoever, but comparing the two of them - and understanding somewhat their mindsets in crafting en releasing them > you’ve set yourself up for a much bigger investment in time by choosing Obsidian over a tool like Notion. Different strokes for different folks I guess but I’m putting your choice of Obsidian and your feelings of some burn-out together → 1+1 makes sense. Sorry if this offends, not my aim. All the best from Belgium.