Updated May 29, 2020
I’ve been using Roam Research for a while now and I love using the software. Why? It’s the best tool I’ve used so far for personal knowledge management. A surprising benefit has been the Roam community that’s filled with learning geeks like me 🤓
- 1 Why Roam Has Become So Popular
- 2 Personal Knowledge Management System
- 3 Tagging and Bi-Directional Linking
- 4 Daily Log Inside Roam Research
- 5 Daily Task Management with Roam Research
- 6 Roam Research for Productivity
- 7 Roam Research Pricing
- 8 Useful Roam Research Add Ons
- 9 +Roam — A Bookmarklet
- 10 A Work In Progress
- 11 Roam Research Alternatives
Why Roam Has Become So Popular
Data, Data Everywhere
A big challenge we face in our Information Age is… well the overload of information. We get exposed to a ton of information through many mediums — podcasts, YouTube videos, Masterclass, TED talks, university lectures, physical books, audio books, useful Facebooks posts, blog posts (like this one!), professional journals, newspaper reports, industry reports, emails with information we need to remember… I think you get the idea.
When you’re deluged with so much information, being able to remember, make sense of it, and then use that information effectively becomes problematic. This is a big pain that Roam solves.
Personal Knowledge Management System
It’s an excellent tool generally for note taking, learning, organizing and synthesizing ideas and writing. Whenever I’m learning (reading, lectures, audio books, YouTube videos and so on) generally, I’ll try to take notes with Roam.
I’m a fan of using the Zettelkasten method described in Sonke’s book, How To Take Smart Notes. Roam allows us to use the Zettelkasten system where notes are stored in such a way that you can find them again under the context that you would like to stumble upon them. This means that you can focus your brain on thinking and coming up with new ideas instead of trying to remember what you’ve forgotten.
It’s kind of like building yourself a second brain or supplementing your brain. Your brain is great for creativity, coming up with ideas, getting the gist of things and seeing the big picture but generally not the best for storage of details. Using the Zettelkasten system means that you can focus on playing to your brain’s strength and find ways to let your ideas have sex.
When you use a system like Evernote, the exploding library of information actually becomes detrimental to the system. It becomes a mission to find the data that you’re looking for. You know that the information is most likely stored there somewhere — you just don’t remember what or how to retrieve it.
Tagging and Bi-Directional Linking
The strength of Roam is that adding more information can improve the system when used in conjunction with the Zettelkasten method by taking advantage of its bi-directional linking feature. The tagging feature means that you can stumble upon ideas and information that you weren’t looking for but relevant and useful.
Of course, Roam Research isn’t going to replace the methodology nor the need to think about how you do your note taking. Implementing such a system will be up to you.
With some books like Ray Dalio’s Principles, I’ll take a different approach and do an extremely detailed summary (so called Permanent Notes according to the Zettelkasten/Luhmann way) so that I can have a full reference within Roam.
I’m also using it as a CRM, daily log, habit tracker, and a bunch of other things which I’ll detail in a course which will be released later on.
Daily Log Inside Roam Research
Daily Task Management with Roam Research
Roam Research for Productivity
Roam Research Pricing
Roam Research is free at the moment (though they’ve apparently not taking new users at the moment while they’re working on the stability issues) and they plan on charging $15 per month. There will be a 50% discount offer for academics ($7.50 per month). Conor (the founder of Roam Research) is considering making the 50% off for everyone that’s under 25.
For comparison, Notion’s pricing goes from free to $8 per month
Useful Roam Research Add Ons
Until Roam releases a native Mac app, I think that this app useful.
Roam Toolkit (Unofficial)
This is a chrome extension where you can add some additional functionalities.
+Roam — A Bookmarklet
This is another chrome extension developed by Anne-Laure Le Cunff of Ness Labs.
Set up a shortcut in chrome by going to:
Click on “Keyboards Shortcuts” and enter under +Roam:
Shift + Cmd + R or Shift + Ctrl + R
This way when you highlight texts on a webpage, you can take the short cut easily.
There’s no iPhone app for Roam Research (yet) and if you like to record audio when you’re out and about but don’t want to listen to yourself and then type everything up into Notes or Roam, then Otter is handy to have. It’s not super accurate but it’s good enough to be valuable.
Readwise is useful if you highlight on your Kindle. Readwise will import the highlights from Kindle (as well as iBooks and Instapaper) and you can export your highlights to Roam. You can use an app like this to make the export file and then import it into Roam.
A Work In Progress
I think if you search online, you’ll find a lot more reasons explaining why it’s great software to use and there isn’t a whole ton more that I can add on top of that.
Instead, let me go into some reasons why you shouldn’t be using Roam until it’s a fully shipped product. Of course, a lot of these disadvantages are directly the result of products not being ready.
When you spend hours and days into creating something only to have it disappear… well, that can be annoying… And for that reason alone, I’d encourage you to use a more established competitor for now like Notion or other software generally like Google Drive or Dropbox paper until Roam stabilizes.
You can read about this issue on Reddit and it has also been an ongoing theme that’s popped up on the Roam Research Slack Channel.
Understandably, people are looking for ways to back up their Roam. One option is to automatically back it up to Amazon’s AWS.
Long Loading Times
There are occasions when load times can take hours. If you knew in advance, that’d be okay because then you can just load up a different software, type it in there, and then come back to Roam the next day and copy and paste everything. Then format it. Then link it. Well, yes, it’s a bit of a hassle.
But when you don’t know how long that can go on for, you end up checking it every so often. You think maybe it just needs a bit longer. And sometimes you wait to do the work that you need to.
Sometimes you’ll have random things happening like pop ups that you can’t close which covers the search bar. Other times, it’ll just crash Google Chrome. Thankfully, the whole thing crashing hasn’t happened often (the other points I’ve mentioned happens quite a bit more often).
MAY 2020 UPDATE: All of the above issues seems to have been resolved! It’s now quick and I haven’t noticed any major bugs.
It’s been a week or two since I’ve written to Roam customer service. They probably have more urgent tickets to deal with like having their user’s entire database deleted. Oops. But still, it’d be nice to eventually get a reply.
These are the immediate things that come to mind.
Roam Research Alternatives
Overall it’s a great software and I’m still willing to endure the pain (for now). The only thing is just to make sure that all of your notes stay backed up.
Roam Research has closed off its app to new users to fix the growing problems (apparently they’ve had a massive influx of users which has been the cause of the instability). As mentioned earlier, Roam plans on charging $15/month once the software is ready to ship which will mean a lot of their current users will leave and allow for some more stability.