First Community Project - Alias at its best ⚔️

Abstract :

This is an attempt to bring the collective experiences of the members in the productivists community (also open for anyone from the outside) regarding ALIASing feature , in order to come up with a list of good (preferably detailed/complex) use cases and/or methodology that we have either seen in the apps that we have used in the past or that we have wished that our tool had .

Aim :

  • To create a detailed list of use cases , collected from everyone who’s interested in seeing a great alias workflow or function in a PKM tool .
  • To make an attempt to come up with a design and/or methodology that would allow the tool achieve most of the use cases listed by us .

How can you contribute ?

  • Post your ideas , workflows , needs , desires , experiences , current problems or anything related to Aliasing either here or in the discord chat following this message .
  • Share the link of this post in twitter , FB, reddit or any other related community that you seem fit , where people might have spoken about these problems and encourage people to contribute their thoughts .
  • Try to share you specific experience that you have had with Alias function in the current PKM tool / note taking tool that you are using , this will definitely help in understanding the current limitations and flaws .

Here goes :rocket: !

The following is a small summary that i have made from the discussions that have happened earlier in our discord chat , it’s not exclusive , just a gist to get the discussions happening .

Use cases shared :

  1. @ilmeschinocalunniato :


  2. @gereleth :

N.B : The following thoughts are mine(@Karthikk) and have been written with #RemNote in mind , so excuse the occasional reference to rem (instead of bullet/line/block) . I did so not because of my allegiance or prefernce for remnote, but because it was the developer of RemNote who offered to take our proposals into account before he finalised his alias feature . I think this is a great start and if we can pull this off as a community , working together in pushing our needs and concerns to the developers , we can all make great progress !

There are two types of aliasing that I am primarily interested in :

  1. The smart linking (markdown links) type of Aliasing seen in Roam and Obsidian for block/line levels

    • It essentially lets me to retain the rem reference underneath a different text

    • It would just allow me to change the text according to the grammar for current passage , essential when am extracting rems from literature or fleeting notes into more permanent notes .

    • This type of aliasing should let me travel back to the original rem using some quasi mode click (shift + click) , while a normal click will let me edit the rem as usual .

    • This aliased text should preserve all attributes of a normal rem reference (back linking etc ) , but could denote that it has been edited while showing in the rem references search portal .

    • One could probably imagine this to be an extraction and processing of a rem into a more usable form . This could hence be also shown as a different type of backlink ( apart from as references , tags and portals open in documents ). A settings gear icon could be used to denote that a specific rem has been edited so many number of times .

  2. I assume the first type should be fairly simple to achieve . But the real power comes when this aliasing pierces through searches and queries .

    • this type of aliasing involves a more intentional approach as we predetermine what a word / sentence should be associated with (linguistically) not because of relation or connection .

    • we should be able to store any number of variations for a rem as an alias . It could be saved in a slot under the zoomed in rem , similar to source under a document rem .

    • essentially what this should let me do is :

      1. Allow me to search for the rem by either typing the words in the original rem’s content or by typing the words contained in the alias . Once I select the rem using the search result and click enter , it should then prompt me with a list that allows me to select if I need the original rem content or any of the defined aliases as a reference .
      2. Also when I tag using any of the aliases it should tag add to the original tag counter of the rem , while also maintaining a separate count of tags and references for each alias. This is a very premium feature that could be figured out later , but it makes it really valuable for research and reflection on a PKM . I believe these small nuances make a lot of difference once the PKM becomes really big and it takes away the cognitive burden to organise and document how we have organised , just so we know how to retrieve something when needed .

P.S. This is just my initial half-formed opinions and thoughts , this will be edited based on further discussions with the community and lot more of community brought information would be added here eventually . This is just a seed , the end result may not be anything related to what exists in this post currently .

N.B. : Enthusiastic users who want to contribute more , could be consider to for a level up , that would essentially let them take part in the wiki part themselves . Contact the staff members if you are interested.

2 Likes

Should i replace the screenshots with actual text so that people could quote and comment on them, or is this fine ?

2 Likes

That was my first thought, yes. But I was going to see how it went without. Ideally though, as you say, being able to specifically quote/comment on things is part of the benefit of discussing here, so would ideally be enabled (by including quotable text). Maybe in the future Discourse will allow annotation-quote/responses for posting. :smiley:

yes please!

my ideal use of aliases would be in as a thesaurus.

In one of those you have something called “use for” — when somebody says something like “cars” and you want them to use the page or term “automobiles” instead. In this case when somebody went to the page cars they would be redirected to the page automobiles.

this is similar to when Wikipedia goes “did you mean?”

2 Likes

I’d like to be able to just set up a string of aliases such as that suggested {humility | Humility | humble and any translations in other languages) and then just click on the particular form of the word I want. They could be presented, when pressing [[, on a line as they are now, or as a dropdown. No other fancy footwork. Same thing with Namespaces. Sometimes I want to use Herman Melville and (most of the time) Melville, the former, for instance, if I’m including him in a list or bibliography entry. The Namespace feature colors the collapsed version differently than other links, which is nice. Some form of coloring the text chosen from a string of alternatives would also be nice, just to remind you that there are synonyms for this entry. But it should be kept really simple, in both choosing the preferred text and in looking at it.

2 Likes

I agree that simplicity for use should be an important aspect here , it needs to be as unobtrusive and elegant as possible in execution and function .

Didnt quite get this one though , which app are you specifically talking about here ? Since we all come from different tools , it’s kind of hard to catch the context . So kindly elaborate .

I’m talking about Roam.

i like this approach , to delve further would you prefer to still save versions of individual pages for the synonyms / aliases that were defined to the original page , while making sure the all the backlinks to the synonyms were added to the backlinks of the original page ? Or would you rather just have a single page with defined aliases ?
I guess what i am trying to understand here is , would it be beneficial for your use case if you had separate backlinks for each of the alias or would it be pointless ?

Current aliasing support with respect to RemNote :

It allows us to edit the hyperlinks we paste into the tool. The new name of the hyperlink is also search indexed and hence it solves the problem of searchability. We don’t have to resort to using in order to define this as RemNote being a WYSIWYG editor, it lets you just paste the link and it automatically fetches the name of the webpage along with the icon and you can edit the link as you go.

The subject of aliasing fits into the broader topic of internal links which are a valuable feature for pkm apps allowing users to create a network of notes and thoughts.

Apps like Roam Research and Obsidian popularized the double bracket syntax for internal links. It’s great for writing and making [[connections]] fluidly. But this way of linking also has an inherent problem because it conflates displayed text with link destination - they are one and the same in this kind of links.

And actual writing sometimes calls for using different words: another grammatical form, an abbreviation, a synonym, a translation to another language and so on.

The need to sometimes change displayed text of a link has typical solutions like these:

  • wikilink labels [[destination|displayed text]]
  • markdown links [displayed text](destination)

This is fine when viewing the note but the editing experience becomes less pleasant: there is extra typing involved in creating link labels, as autocomplete usually only helps with the destination part. And text in edit mode looks busier and harder to read.

This leads to people wanting to create aliases: make it so a bracketed word [[humble]] leads to page [[Humility]] without having to jump through [[Humility|humble]] hoops. This can be done by allowing the user to list alternative terms under the main note. So for a page named Humility there could be a list of aliases: humility, humble, humbling...

Alias lists may be a great idea but I’d argue that they are not a solution for text/destination decoupling.

  • In languages with many grammatical forms - like Russian - it’s impractical to make the user manually list all possible word forms (what a dull chore)
  • There will be ambiguity problems when the same word could refer to different things. For example, when I want to say “I talked to Bob about X” and link the name “Bob” to the correct person then the link needs disambiguation between Bob the neighbor, Bob the coworker, Bob the discord pal, so “Bob” can’t be an alias in this sense.

As someone who often finds it necessary to change link text (due to writing in Russian) I frequently get bitten by the hassle of labeling links in these [[ apps. The way I imagine a more comfortable linking process might work:

  • trigger link insertion (press [[ or some other key)
  • type some characters of the desired link title, get autocomplete suggestions for matching notes
  • select a suggestion. Now two things get inserted simultaneously: selected note’s title as link text and its identifier as link destination. By an identifier I mean some internal id or filename or whatever it is the app uses to uniquely identify what I’m linking to.

Some advantages to this approach:

  • I’m saved the trouble of typing full link text manually
  • At the same time, I can make slight edits to it without interfering with link destination. Or even replace it with something else entirely.
  • A wysiwyg editor could even hide away the destination id making the text easier on the eyes in edit mode.

In fact, this is very similar to what @Karthikk described about the handling of external links in Remnote.

And there’s still a place for aliases here. When using autocomplete we could match not only the note’s title but also its aliases. In this case the matched alias would be inserted as link text.

  • For example, you have a page “Automobiles” that has an alias “Cars”. You start linking and type “car”. Autocomplete shows a suggestion “Cars (Automobiles)”. Selecting it will insert “Cars” as link text and link to “Automobiles” note.
  • Of course, you can still search for “auto” and autocomplete to the “Automobiles” text linking to the same note.

To sum up, I think that freedom to use any text for a link is very important. Decoupling link text from link destination is valuable because it lets us write natural sentences while still getting the benefit of connections. I also believe that this can be implemented without sacrificing the easy flow of [[ -linking.

2 Likes

YES. Please!