Learning Thoughts Weekly

Weekly: Building a second brain part 1

This came about because of something I discovered recently about building a second brain. The prospect of it is extremely enticing for me.

Idea is that over time you build a second brain that is like a digital collection of all the knowledge that you’ve gained over your lifetime.

As someone working in the digital field, the amount of information that I go through on a daily basis is pretty huge. I’ve been taking notes for a million and one things, but I realize that I’ve almost never really gone through my notes and make something out of it. Which I felt has been really wasteful because, why would I even write them in the first place if I’m not going to use it? How many % of the things I’ve written can I actually remember in my dumb human brain?

Armed with the motivation to build a digital brain that I can tap into for creating new ideas and products, I embarked on part 1 of the journey.

Finding the right tool

The “original” tool (that I know of) is known as Roam Research, however, it’s a web only tool currently, and it’s a paid service of $15/month. This makes it slightly undesirable as I would prefer if it’s something that I could potentially migrate/export out of the system. I also wish that there exist a free option that I can try out to see if this second brain business is something that I really want.

I checked out 8 different not taking tools to see what works for me and compare across them.


  1. Obsidian
  2. Foam
  3. Roam Research
  4. Walling
  5. Relanote
  6. Remnote
  7. Amplenote
  8. TiddlyWiki

These are the note taking apps that I’ve found across the web that has at least some mass of users for it to be worth trying out.



  • It’s under heavy active development, the user base is growing
  • Markdown file based, can be synced with any cloud/NAS you want
  • Supports all desktop platforms
  • Has graph view
  • Style customizable through CSS
  • Can link to headings
  • Free! There are paid sync plans but I don’t need it
  • No mobile app
  • Unable to link to block of notes, only headers
  • Still in beta
  • Cannot run from within Windows WSL2 natively (folder cannot link)


  • Markdown file based, can be synced with any cloud/NAS you want
  • Built on Visual Studio Code (all desktop platforms)
  • Has graph view
  • Comes with VSC niceties (themes, shortcuts, etc)
  • Can be ran from Windows WSL2
  • Free!
  • No mobile app
  • Cannot link to sub headers or blocks, only articles
  • Still in beta


  • Beautiful interface, similar to notion
  • Has collaboration features
  • Designed as a wall of information for visualization
  • Has AI supported search for notes/images
  • Has a free plan to test things out (but won’t be enough)
  • The graphs seems to be auto generated without me having to explicitly link to another block
  • not markdown file based
  • it’s really $4/month if I want to use it properly


  • Roam Research: extremely powerful, probably the most feature rich of all but it’s not cheap, plus it’s only web.
  • Relanote: seems extremely easy to use, but only web app for now, there are plans for all platforms but as of now, it seems to be an extremely early WIP product
  • TiddlyWiki: powerful wiki like tool, extensible with TiddlyMap for generating graphs. However, I’m just not a fan of the interface and it doesn’t use markdown files.
  • Remnote: more of a memorizing tool, you can link between concepts but there are no graphs and it USP is more for flash cards.
  • Amplenote: mobile first, looks beautiful, but it isn’t what I’m looking for, unable to build a second brain with a hierarchical type of note taking app.


I decided to go with Obsidian after trying it out for the research of the tools as well as for writing this article.

  • It has pretty much all the features that I am looking for
  • It’s free 💰
  • I want to keep VS Code separate from something like this so that it’s easier to manage my windows and work plugins.
  • Customisable themes
  • The interface has been extremely responsive
example of how I turned the research of the tool into this blog article

Of course, this is just the first step for building a second brain, hence the part 1. Will take the time to evaluate if this has any place in my life because adding another tool doesn’t simplify my life in anyway, it just means that there’s another tool that I have to remember to use.

Will at least try this out for the next 1-2 months and come back again to review if this has improved my life in any noticeable way. Stay tuned for the results!

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