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About one year ago, I made a video about what I thought were the best notetaking apps in the world.
Quite frankly, the amount ofresearch I did for that video almost drove me insane, but guess what? We are back, baby! And that is because thereis a new note taking app on the block which has a smallbut dedicated base of users who will tell you it isthe best note taking app that has ever been made.
The tool is called Roam Research and after getting a notinsignificant amount of tweets from you guys telling meto check it out, well, that is exactly what I did.
(dreamy EDM music) I’ve been using Roam forabout the past two months on a pretty much daily basis, putting it through its paces, so in this video, I’m gonnabe breaking down what Roam is, how it differs fromother note taking apps, and giving you some prosand cons so you can decide whether it’s worthtesting out for yourself.
So when you start using Roam, the first thing you’re gonna notice is that when you’re creating pages here, everything is essentiallya gigantic bullet list.
And if you’re used to toolslike WorkFlowy or Dynalist, you’re gonna be right at home with how you actually take notes.
Everything’s a bullet list.
You can kinda drill downas much as you want.
And what I’ve found is thiskinda bullet list structure here encourages me to write a lot more when I’m in research mode for video than I would if I was using Evernote.
When I research with Evernote, I eventually end up withjust a gigantic amount of, I don’t know, research vomit on my screen and it gets very difficultto find certain things after I’ve written them.
But with Roam, everything can be organized through a couple different functions.
First, if I don’t want to see everything, say I don’t want to see everything in this Work from home tools section here ’cause I’m workin’ on adifferent part of this outline, I can just collapse it, which is great.
So I’ve already made myCrafting your environment video.
Let’s just collapse that.
I’ve already made my Planningand prioritization video.
Let’s just collapse that.
Let’s say that I’m inin the research process for my time and motivation video, which actually just cameout a couple of days ago.
I can just kinda minimizeeverything else I want and work here, which is great.
But if I really want to focus in on this specific part of my outline, I can actually just click that bullet and that kinda becomesthe top part of my page.
So it’s still part of this page and I have some breadcrumbs here that show me sort of whereI am within my document, but this is all I wanna see and this is all that I’m gonnasee, which is pretty nice.
So, so far this is looking kindalike WorkFlowy or Dynalist, so what’s the difference? Well, the key difference liesin how pages link together.
See, Roam is a tool forbottom-up associative thought.
It is not a tool for hierarchicaltop-down organization, unlike almost every other note taking app that you’re going to use.
So the way that you would do this is you simple put brackets around a term and if that term is a page, it’s going to create a link to that page.
If it is not a page, it’s going to actually cerate that page.
So let me go ahead and find something within this document that I wanna link to.
I’m pretty sure I had mentioned I want to make a hugeYouTube course some day.
Kinda a goal of mine, not asuper huge priority right now, but, y’know, I wanna do it.
And I happen to know that Icreated an outline here in Roam, kinda brain dumping some ideas.
So if I highlight thisYouTube Course term right here and I just give it brackets, it’ll actually give me suggestions of pages that already exist, in this case, just one, and I can click it andI’ve created a link.
So if I go ahead and just click this, it’s gonna take me to myYouTube Course brain dump here.
And if you look at the graph overview, which is another kind of uniqueelement of Roam Research, you can see that whenyou create these links, you start to get this giganticweb of interlinked pages.
Now, before we go any furtherinto Roam’s feature set, I wanna talk a little bit about the point of this linking system.
And I was doing a lot of skating while I thought through thestructure of this video, so I’m just gonna playsome footage of that here to make it look a littlebit more interesting.
But when you think about the way that your brain organizes information, it’s very much a tangled web of ideas, which is itself made up ofa tangled web of neurons.
And whenever you have arealization or you get an idea or even when you get a rush of emotion about a certain experience, different neural networksstart to connect to each other.
As the neuropsychologistDonald Hebb famously put it, “neurons that firetogether wire together”.
And the more connectionsa group of neurons has, the more frequently you access it and the stronger theknowledge it stores becomes in your mind.
And Roam seems to bebuilt to emulate this way in which the brain works.
And it’s also very similar to an analog system withthe exact same purpose called a Zettelkasten, which was created by the German socialtheorist Niklas Luhmann.
Luhmann was incredibly prolific, writing over 70 books andover 400 academic papers during his career.
And he managed all of hisknowledge using a wooden file box that contained thousandsof paper note cards, each of which represented a specific idea and linked to any other cardwhich mentioned that idea.
Now, while the analog Zettelkasten system used this very complex system of numbers to link the cards together, Roam makes things infinitely easier by simply linking the pages together when you create those bracket links, or even when you don’t.
And this is actually oneof the key features of Roam that makes it really, really nice to use.
Any time you mention a page, so lemme just type the word books in here, because I have a page called Books, any time you mention the nameof a page within your text, even if you’re not thinking about it, you create what’s calledan unlinked reference.
So if I go over here to Books, I can go down here and seefour linked references.
But if I open up this little menu here, I’m gonna get nine unlinked references.
And these are just any instanceswithin my Roam database where I have typed books but I haven’t put the brackets there to actually link them to my Books page.
Now, sometimes I don’treally wanna make a link because I’m just saying the word books, but if I do want to make a link, I can come in here, I can lookat my unlinked references, and I can just clicklink for any one of them.
And now I’ve actually made that link.
So if I go back to my How To Work FromHome Effectively series, then books is now linkedto the Books page, where I’m actually trackingall the books that I’m reading.
And this is at least oneof the features of Roam that has the fans of this apps calling it a complete game changer because it kinda gives you an opportunity to go back in, interactwith the notes that you take and the concepts that you have learned and taken notes about multiple times.
Instead of just taking notesand then having them be siloed in some far-flung sub-folderof your hierarchical system, you are constantly linking thenew notes that you’re taking back to older notes.
And, again, over timeyou get this very complex tangled web of ideas.
And you might be wondering, well, what’s the point of that? And it all has to do withassociative thinking.
When you combine multiple disparate ideas, well, that is when creativity happens.
I mean, think about a piano.
Let’s take a guitar and hitthe strings with hammers.
Boom, you’ve got something different.
Or how ’bout, y’know, rollerblades? Let’s take shoes and put wheels on them.
When you take disparate ideas that haven’t been connected before and you give yourselftools for connecting them, then you have more insightsand you become more creative.
So that seems to bekind of the whole point of the underlying kind ofbottom-up linked structure of how everything works here.
Now, before I move on from linking, I think people in thecomments would roast me if I don’t mention this next point, which is that pages are not the only thing that you can link together.
Anything that is a block, or I guess a bullet, can be linked to any other bullet.
So let me give you an example of that.
I have one called Working FromHome: How to Stay Focused.
Okay, let’s say I want to link to this from some other part ofmy outline down here.
Maybe I’m working on anothersection on Work/Life Balance.
Cool, so lemme just say Iwanna link to that other thing.
All I need to do isinstead of typing brackets, which link to pages, I willtype parentheses and then boom! Now, before you clickaway from this bullet, you’re going to see just a key reference to that specific block and the moment you click away from it, boom, it is now a block reference and if I click it, it isgoing to zoom me right to it.
And this is a very, very long bullet list, so I’m gonna scroll to the top.
But as you can see, thisis that exact subsection of this page and I’ve zoomed to it.
More importantly, now thatI’ve created a block link, I now have this little number six here and if I click that, I cansee in the sidebar here any time I have mentionedthis specific block within this page.
And I guess that actuallybrings us to the sidebar.
The sidebar is one of myfavorite things in Roam.
So basically, I can bring upany other note within Roam in a sidebar next to thenote that I’m working on.
So let’s just say I’mover here on my Books note and I don’t want to clickinto one of these books, I just wanna look at it in a sidebar.
If I shift-click it, it’sjust gonna bring it up and then I can interact with it in the exact same waythat I would over here.
Now, of course, there aresome cons to using Roam.
There are gonna be a couple here that may be deal breakersfor certain people, the biggest of which isthat at present moment, there is no dedicated mobileapp for Roam Research.
There’s no Android app, there’s no iPhone app.
Now, that being said, there is a workaround, which is that you canbring up Roam Research in Safari or a mobile browserand it does work pretty well.
And I think they kinda knowthat the mobile experience isn’t super great at the moment because, by default, whenyou first load up Roam in a mobile browser, you’re gonna get thelittle Quick Capture box and anything you submit to it gets synced to your Roam database later on and it gets put under a Quick Capture tag.
So if I actually go and showyou my Quick Capture thing, these are all thingsthat I’ve just typed out as I’ve been out and about, going about my business, using my phone, not having access to my computer.
So it does work, it’s justnot the most elegant system in the world and I think it’sgonna change in the future.
Con number two, there isalso currently no API, so if you are, say, an Evernote user and you’re used to lots of integrations with, say, documentscanning apps like Scanbot that lets you easily scan receipts and other kinds of stuff into Evernote, you’re not gonna get that here and you’re not gonna get any other kind of integration right now.
There’s also not opticalcharacter recognition, or OCR, so you’re not gonna be ableto scan your handwritten notes and digitize their text.
And also, this is not Notion, which means you don’t get someof the really cool features from Notion, namely the amazingtables and database things.
I do believe you cancreate tables within Roam, but they’re very, very simple and they absolutely do nothold a candle to Notion, where I can do multiple views, I can create templates for my databases, I can do all kinds ofreally, really cool stuff.
So, personally, Notion is stickin’ around for many different purposes, not least of which project management.
Also actual video scripts, ’cause, again, I love toformat them like this, I love to have tables of contents, all kinds of cool stuff.
But Roam is awesome for research, which kinda makes sense, ’cause research is in the name.
So that is what I’ve been using it for and I’ve been outlining my videos in it and it has been a great tool so far.
Now, one of my additionalmain uses for Roam has been to take detailednotes from books, because I’ve been in the habitof getting up every morning and spending a little bit of time reading.
And when I read non-fiction, I actually mark up the book with pen.
I know that’s gonna besacrilege to some of you, but, for me, markingup the book with a pen allows me to highlight things and kinda makes the bookmore valuable overall.
It also forces me to reallyengage with the material and pay attention to it andI know if I am daydreaming.
Anyway, once I’m done with a chapter, I will go over to Roam, I’llgo back through my book, and I will write detailed notes, which I can actually show you right here.
Here are some of my notesfrom the book Hyperfocus.
I’ll write my notes based onthe highlights in my book.
And writing these super-detailednotes has, number one, helped me to actually learn better from the books that I’m reading and retain the informationmore effectively but, number two, it has givenme a ton of ideas for videos, a ton of great research for videos.
So overall, this is a great habit to be in and it’s definitely onethat I’m going to keep up going forward into the future.
And if you want to buildyour own strong habits and actually stick to them, then I’d recommend going and taking my habit-buildingclass over on Skillshare.
This is a class that will showyou how to break your goals down into small, actionable habits and then show you how to set up systems that will help you stickto them over the long term.
And turning tasks that take willpower into habitual actions that really don’t is a huge part of achieving your goals and I worked really hard to make sure that my classwill help you do just that.
Plus, it’s on Skillshare, which means that if you areone of the first 1, 000 people to sign up at the link below, you’re gonna get a two-month free trial and you’re gonna be able totake that class for free.
You’ll also have access to thousands of other great classes on Skillshare, including my friend Ali Abdaal’s new evidence-based masterclasson how to study for exams, plus classes that can teach younew skills in video editing, public speaking, illustration, and lots, lots more.
Premium membership on Skillshare starts at less than $10 a month, so it’s also a very affordable platform.
And, once again, if you’reone of the first 1, 000 people to sign up with my link inthe description down below, you’re gonna get a two-month free trial with unlimited accessto the entire platform.
So that is it.
Thank you so much for watching.
And if you wanna learn more about Roam, my friend Nat is actually theone who introduced me to it, probably via his incessanttweeting about it, but he’s got a great overview article that you may want to check out, so I’ll link to that inthe description down below, along with the Roam Research sub-Reddit and a couple of tutorial videos that you may want to check out if you really want to dig into it.
Beyond that, I’m interestedto hear what you think of both this app, but alsonote taking apps in general.
What are you using these days? Are you doing it on a computer? Are you doing it on an iPad? Are you back to a regularpen and paper system? Let me know in the comments down below.
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