Discourse as a personal-wiki note-taking markdown-editor local app

Hello! :slight_smile:

So, I have just spent the entire weekend going deep down into the rabbit-hole of looking for good markdown editors, and/or a good personal wiki app, and/or a good note-taking app. After spending an unhealthy amount of time mostly due to my absolute disbelief at not being able to find anything that can do at least a mediocre job, I found myself permanently referring to discourse as the parameter of what I would like any of those apps to be.

So I thought… why not? Why not facilitate the possibility to use discourse as a local desktop app for all of those applications? It excels at everything, and for God believe me, I have been through hundreds of apps, looking at everyone of them, looking at all of the the possible enhancements/customizations (yes, including emacs and vim) of each to make sure I wasn’t missing the obvious but I was unable to find anything functional (many open-source apps that where hitting the mark like Zettlr and Marktext have the adorable tendency to randomly and inadvertently delete your work after saving, something that has been reported in the repos and that I had the joy to experiment myself while trying to do actual work).

I know that what I’m proposing is completely outside of the targeted market but that’s also why it can do no arm to business while helping to increase widespread adoption. I also know that one can just host a discourse instance for personal use, but that’s an hindrance for non-technical users. It’s all there, I would love to be able to have in my personal desktop the capabilities of my forum (indeed, all of the notes related to the subject of my forum, I take them there just because it’s more practical to write).

Discourse could effortlessly replace all of the half-assed options that are out there. Would you?

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Maybe.

  • If you store a lot of information in Discourse, ensure you can access it even after 30 years. Consider periodically performing a raw text dump.

  • Discourse lacks a built-in graphical feature for navigating connections between related documents. While there might be a plugin available, creating one would be a valuable addition.

  • The recent introduction of Related Topics using semantic search has made it easier to find topics that were previously challenging to locate, although it can still be challenging at times.

  • The AI bot could be valuable in helping you discover patterns within your information that you may not have been aware of or that may have been stored within the accumulated data.

The suitability of this option depends on various factors, but it’s a valid consideration. :blush:

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I do so religiously!

I don’t really think such a feature could add any more functionality. Discourse already provides wiki-like ability to go through interlinked documents, and valuably lists all related documents below a post. I have navigated deep into discourse using just that without issues, opening new tabs being the key to not to get lost, so navigation is granted as is for me (I mean, for sure there can be enhancements, but it already does the job).

I agree, it has taken sometimes my full google skills to find ‘the’ post I was looking for, and that I only was able to achieve actually using google to look-up in the forum from outside. For this and for the last thing you said is that I think that the AI bot can and will provide the knowledge interlinking enhancement that was missing, which once again, is an edge discourse haves over any other app that tries to do just a part of what discourse does.

The potential is there :rocket:

I wouldn’t do that any more than I’d charter an entire train to commute to work every day.

Yeah, Discourse shares some basic elements like categories and tagging with note-taking apps, but as a forum it has a TON of other stuff going on under the hood that would add nothing as a notebook but overhead.

I can’t imagine what markdown/wiki/notes requirements you have that aren’t served well by, say, Obsidian — but that’s a topic for a different forum.

Too bad that’s not open source? (though I’m glad to see the company uses Discourse!)

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I agree that discourse does a lot more, but that’s not a problem, even some forum instances use a lot less than what it offers. You just take from the package what you need and discourse can be as basic as a bicycle if you just want to charter, it’s not mandatory to use everything. You can use an IDE as a basic text editor, putting aside its full IDE capabilities (and that’s indeed what I’m doing now, I’m using Rstudio for markdown editing, and besides being a full IDE, it’s blazing fast).

Obsidian falls short by starting with things as basic as opening a mkd document, which it can not do by design. It can’t generate a table of contents of a document, so it’s as comfortable for working as gedit (but gedit at least can open a mkd document!). Not even mentioning that’s not open-source.

A very novel suggestion. :bulb:

My main issue with using Discourse this way would simply be expense …

Setting up a personal Discourse in the cloud and making it a private instance would, imho, be the way to go as this would ensure stability, easy upgradability and you could do all the nice back-up in the cloud things.

But that is not a super cheap option as you are going to have to pay for all the usual self-hosting costs although it’s not going to send many emails which will save you a bunch!

You could leverage an existing Domain though, and stick it on a special subdomain:

notes.mydomain.com

But then again, benefits:

  • always available in the cloud on all your devices, both desktop and mobile.
  • the experience of running your own instance (if you don’t do so already) and that it would be a very rewarding and potentially educational experience.
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I’m glad you like it :slight_smile:

I thought the exact same thing about hosting for personal use. I can indeed access my forum from my phone as an app (downloadable from playstore), and doing so for keeping my own personal wiki would be so cool

But the cost to do so for personal use is prohibitive for me and will be for anyone else (specially when you can get something, even if mediocre, for free). Can’t such a hosting be “emulated” in a personal computer? Can’t discourse run locally?

Offering paid hosting for personal wikis is indeed the business for many cloud note-keeping providers

It can, but you’d want your notes to be everywhere, wouldn’t you? And local installs generally aren’t backed up, much more prone to failure and configuration issues …

You are talking $5-10 dollars a month to run a self-install in the cloud - is that so bad? The biggest expense will be your time.

laughs in third world
O lord yes, yes it’s, it’s that bad :sweat_smile: . 10 usd here, in Argentina, is nowadays 3-5% of a very good net salary, and after covering monthly expenses, it can be half of what’s left.

But I see the point regarding cloud hosting for having your wiki available anywhere. To allow for people to enter discourse, I would leave that as a pro plan (which is unavoidably a paid service), after starting from desktop for free.

So, it’s great to know that discourse can be run on desktop as is! It’s that a way too hacky procedure?

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The Nation that gave us Tango is far from being the third world :dancer:

Maybe there’s a local VPS provider that charges more reasonable local rates?

It’s a start … but I know you will be tempted to move it to the cloud if your note-taking takes hold!

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Just to leave this here:

You might be able to expose this to the internet as @Falco has done here :+1: :heart_eyes:

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Hopefully after that last election, we will be that far :pray: :grin:

There are, now that you mention it. I can do that myself as I did to mount my current forum, but I would love if discourse could offer a “pre-packaged” service for it, like it does to mount forum instances. That would open up use for the mass of potential users

“google calendar” is already my “cloud note taking up” by default :see_no_evil:
What would be great, is to be able to switch on and off the cloud service depending on money available, but so that it will never prevent you from using the app locally until you have money to use it in the cloud again. Like if you are using google drive.

oh my … this is so cool!!! thank you for pointing me to it :star_struck:
I really appreciate it :grin:

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Have you considered Joplin?

I did! But I heard unanimous terrible reviews no matter where I looked, so I didn’t even dared to try. I have settled with obsidian as Todd suggested, after some digging on the settings. But Discourse as a personal wiki on desktop, synced online, is very promising.

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I’ve used Joplin for many years across multiple devices (Windows 10, Android, Mac OS) and I never had any big issues with it. I use it as a personal knowledge base.

Isn’t discourse a bit too slow for a personal wiki? Usually when I want to take a note, I want to do it in a few seconds, and also be able to instantly search through everything. I have a discourse installation, but in my experience it is too slow for this personal knowledge use-case (not necessarily the performance itself, but the steps you have to take in order to navigate between notes/posts).

I see what you mean but that depends on how you organize it. Either for making a new note and/or for navigation, discourse as been as agile as obsidian for me (letting aside performance, which in my case is noticeably affected by server distance). I do agree with you in that the interface feels clumsy regarding quick navigation, specially when it changes depending on context. But to navigate between inter-related content I love to use links wiki-stile which makes navigation a pleasure.

Uff. That’s rough. A few years ago I started a Discourse server on Oracle Cloud that cost nothing. I moved over to DigitalOcean when I started my consulting businesses, but I think Oracle Cloud’s free tier still works. (It’s just slow.) If you have a domain (or can borrow a subdomain from someone) I believe you can still get a version of Discourse up and running for no cost.[1]

Once I had a Discourse instance, I almost immediately used it as a personal wiki sort of thing. (I use categories that only I have access to.) Last year I experimented with replacing social media with Discourse. Sometimes my private notes become public posts too. It’s hard to beat the combination of features Discourse offers:

  • Markdown
  • Timed bookmarks to act as a personal reminder to look at something
  • Tags
  • Mermaid support
  • Search
  • Images are easy to import[2][3]
  • Revisions are saved automatically

You get the idea. It’s really been handy to have Discourse for keeping notes as well as using it for my blog’s comments. I do think it helps to have the system on the internet so that I can publish notes and so I can find things when I don’t happen to be on my laptop.

I’m playing around with an idea for supporting small communities that can’t afford to pay for Slack. While I’d rather it be used for actual groups, it would be helpful to have people kick the tires:


  1. I am struggling to set up a new instance at the moment, however. ↩︎

  2. Maybe it’s just me, but I always struggle with images when I’m using other tools. I don’t want to have to think about resizing images and I want to be able to find the original again at a later date. ↩︎

  3. Footnotes are another feature I love! ↩︎

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Cool tutorials! Thank you for sharing Jon :slight_smile:

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