145: The 2024 State of Automation

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Nice that the show announcements are back.

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Great episode. I spent the day trying out a bunch of things discussed, but am banging my head. So close, but I can’t quite cross the finish line…

I spent a lot of time with the Tally app today (great app, discovered thanks to Automators’ Rosemary Orchard), and got that set up to track my daily habits.

I grab the list (it’s long) with Apple Shortcuts, then replace the 1 and 0 values set by the app with true or false values required by Obsidian. I even got it formatted the way Obsidian wants (“eatHealthy:”: true), but when I prepend it to a periodic note using Actions for Obsidian, and with no spaces before the three dashes of the YAML frontmatter, Obsidian does not display it with the new properties UI.

I have properties set up in Obsidian with these names as Booleans. But when I look at the note rendered, it just show text, not the UI. Not sure what I’m missing, or if properties only render when defined from within Obsidian itself. That seems unlikely. It’s probably me.

I want to use Tally rather than Obsidian because I do the logging before bed on an iPhone, and although Obsidian’s mobile app is quite good, all of those properties are very small.

But more importantly, I also want to send the Tally data elsewhere for different uses, and want that data to remain numeric.

Things I have tried

I’ve tried editing the note in Obsidian to confirm there’s no space before the YAML. There’s not.

Any pointers are greatly appreciated! I’m still very new to this stuff.

It would really help if you could share your shortcut as it is incredibly difficult to debug any sort of code or automation without actually seeing it and perhaps digging in, testing it, etc.

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Hey Rosemary forgive me if I’m being overly sensitive here but as a 70 year old who uses shortcuts intensively I’m kinda cringing when I hear you often using your parents as examples of people who aren’t so tech savvy. Maybe just make it more general?

Not so sure about being less nervous of shortcuts stability with updates. Last time a longstanding shortcut stopped overwriting one of its data files and another action to choose the folder to save would only appear as a tiny line at the top of the iPad screen until the device is rotated. A bit frustrating with a shortcut you depend on for daily learning.

Just some thoughts. Thanks for your work.

Hi, @Peasouper. That bug sound like this one:

It’s still an issue in the 17.3 betas :sweat: but current workarounds are to add a “Go to Home Screen” or an “Open App” actions just before the action where it gets stuck.

We’ve been talking about it here:

Yes thanks. My point is, in line with the state of automation theme, that Shortcuts and its updates can’t be trusted any more now than previously. There was a time when I could always be certain a shortcut wasn’t working because of a mistake I’d made. Nowadays I feel there’s just as much chance that it’s a new bug, and this just kills your confidence.
Don’t get me wrong. I just love Shortcuts because it’s a drag and drop visual programming tool. That suits me perfectly. I understand it can’t do everything compared to coding but it should be absolutely reliable in what it does do.


Thanks Stephen! Will do next time. For now, I’d reworked it and just appended the notes with inline properties. Which begs the question:

When is it better to use front matter properties vs inline properties. I’m just starting to dip my toes into DataView and it seems to prefer inline, but I could be mistaken.

Do you have opinions on inline vs front matter? I’d love your guidance.

Front matter YAML is Obsidian’s approach and is based on a fairly standard approach, so has cross platform utilisation through those common standards.

Inline fields are specific to Dataview, and Datacore, Dataview’s successor has been advised by Obsidian’s to steer away from them to the standard approach in its design. Presumably the logic being Obsidian will offer better native functionality and features based on front matter.

Personally I have always opted for using the more standard front matter over inline meta data.

Thanks! I’m going to revisit that Shortcut and try to get it working again.