Impressions of Roam Research

My Foray Into Networked Thought

There are likely hundreds (if not thousands) of articles written about how Roam Research has changed the way a person takes notes and constructs ideas. I’ve been working in Roam for about a month and I’m blown away by how it organizes my thoughts. They say the difference between information and knowledge is the connection between data points and that’s exactly how I view the benefit of Roam in my life - it connects thoughts to build knowledge.

The first thing you notice about Roam is that it starts off with a Daily Notes page. This is where the app encourages you to put all your thoughts each day. I’m talking meeting notes, quick notes, TODOs, reminders, etc. - if you have a thought, put it here.

You can use templates to pre-populate your Daily Notes page as shown here.

From there, Roam works similar to the concept of a wiki in that if you put double brackets around a term (e.g. [[term]]), it will automatically become a page for you to expand upon in the future. The same is true if you use traditional #hashtags. Roam also lets you link to dates, and since Roam creates a new date page from your Daily Notes each day, you can give yourself a reminder by referencing a future date - simple as that.

But here’s where it gets even more interesting. Roam is built around the concept of a block, which is essentially a paragraph - or bulleted list item - on a given page. A block can house simple text, markdown formatting, or any number of many built-in functions that help you take better notes. Some of these things are straightforward:

Roam offers many commands that begin with a 'slash' for quick access.

Others are more complex and exemplify the true power of Roam, which is its innate ability to connect thoughts you have now to other thoughts you’ve already had.

For example, you can embed a block you’ve previously written if your thoughts on that topic have evolved due to a more recent event or learning - or a block can simply reference any other block to provide context around a note you’re taking at the moment. This is all made even easier by the fact that individual blocks are fully searchable, so as you start typing to reference words in a block, autocompletion suggests results to you immediately.

Autocompletion of block-level searches.

This very quickly gets very useful because you can query individual blocks to find out where you’ve added notes about whatever you’re thinking about across your entire knowledge graph.

Then when you view a page to which you’ve linked, Roam will surface any other pages - and the specific blocks on those pages - that reference the page you’re on. These are called Linked References.

Roam automatically lists all pages that reference whatever page you are editing.

I can go on and on about Roam, but I suggest you try it and develop your own system. Others have helpful guides to get started so I’ll send you there now.

Good luck!


Published on Wednesday, December 11, 2020 by Paul Legan