This is the last, 5th instalment on Roam. Here I’ll share how I use it. This part will be easier to write than some of the previous ones. What won’t be easy is to keep it short.
Migrating from Evernote to Roam felt like going backwards and forward at the same time. Before Everone, I used to use Zim. In Zim creating a new note from within a note and backlinks were standard features from the first release1Evernote is lacking them to this date, 17 years after its launch. That’s why it felt like going backwards. And it felt also like a big leap forward because Roam changed the game not only on note-taking but on personal knowledge management in general.
The main difference is that conceptually Roam treats the data as a graph. I’m not referring to the graph visualizing how pages are linked by references. This view shows only a small part of the graph, hiding the main element, the block. Blocks in Roam are basically paragraphs and other content chunks with unique identifiers. Blocks are not something RoamResearch came up with. Many content management tools, for example, WordPress, refer to the content components as blocks. But Roam pushed that idea a few steps further by allowing blocks to quickly be nested, referred to, embedded, created from a piece of text in a block, appear in the sidebar, being searched and queried. Block capabilities can be extended and it has been, beyond what I thought was possible. Yet, for me, the most important thing is that blocks, along with the special kind of block called “page”, are the nodes of my graph.
To get the most of my graph, I follow certain conventions and practices. As I explained in detail in Part 2, creating a page reference is making a distinction. It is followed by further distinctions. For example, I may create a reference to a named entity such as Paris, Athens, and Alice. In the context of a block, I know if I mean Paris the city, or Paris the street, or Paris the square, or Paris the cafe. I also know if I mean Athens the city or Athens Research, the open-source tool, inspired by Roam. I know that Alice is a person, and I know that I meant Paris the city, and Athens the tool but I want to let my graph know that as well. To query my graph, just like when querying Wikidata or DBpedia, it becomes very important to know the type of a thing. That’s one of the reasons to have a knowledge model, an ontology. Continue reading