[LFR] Letters from a Roaman - Letter XXVII

Happy Tuesday, Roamans,

Whenever I come to start writing the next newsletter, I always wonder if I’ve captured enough interesting items over the previous few weeks. Every time, I have to instead choose what to leave out. In this edition, there's so much good stuff that it's my own writing I'm choosing to switch out!

So without further ado, let’s see what’s been happening lately.

Around the Roaman Empire

Roam Sessions

Jason Griffing will be hosting another Roam Session with RJ Nestor on October 7th, 2021 at 5:30pm ET (9:30pm UTC). RJ will be showing how you can implement the Getting Things Done framework within Roam.

AP Productivity

Speaking of RJ Nestor, he is launching the second cohort of his productivity course in Roam starting on the October 18th, 2021.

It’s an 8-week live course where RJ teaches you his AP framework and helps you put it into action.

You can find out more and get an early bird discount of 15% off the full price if you sign up quickly. Registration opens on September 30th, 2021.

I have been working with Niky Dix on a separate project. She was a participant in the first cohort and has been singing RJ’s praises about the course!

So, if you want to build a solid GTD productivity system in Roam, you can’t go far wrong. RJ has generously set me up with an affiliate link so by signing up through this link, you’ll be helping me to cover the costs of running this newsletter.

RoamStack Relaunched

Ramses Oudt has launched v3 of Roamstack using Ghost instead of Wordpress. He is also adjusting the price to make it more affordable for more people.


Fabrice Gallet is busy with SmartBlocks. He has updated his Tweet Archiver & Extractor SmartBlock to work with SmartBlocks v2.

He’s also created a little Block Ref Snapshot workflow based on some tweets by Mat McGann. It allows you to create a “snapshot” of a block to retain the original state before you update it, keeping the history so that older references don’t lose their original meaning.

Watch a quick video of it in action.

You can find both of these and more of Fabrice's great work for free in the SmartBlocks v2 Store.

Interested in SmartBlocks but not sure where to start? Ramses has you covered. Join him tomorrow, September 29th, 2021 for a SmartBlocks build session.

Register for the event on lu.ma

Roam with a view

You can now write custom React components in Roam using Javascript or JSX so the barrier to entry for creating your own custom views and actions to work on your notes just got a little lower.

Conor shared a short Grain clip of Adam Křivka demonstrating how simple it can be to get started.

Roam game film

Lisa-Marie Cabrelli recently shared a YouTube live recording from earlier this year showing how she uses Zotero with Roam from her Roam for Results course.

Norman Chella is continuing his Roam-with-me experiments, doing live Roam sessions, this time while slightly inebriated. Unfortunately, we missed the first 20 minutes because someone forgot to press the Go Live button! 👀

Synthesis made easy

Joel Chan has created an amazing extension, Discourse Graph, which is especially helpful for academics but also for those of us who are serious about knowledge work. I haven’t had time to dive into this fully yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, it looks very interesting. I’m keen to compare it against the techniques we learned in the last round of Roam Book Club with Mike Kramer and How to Read a Book.

Find out more and install the extension from RoamJS.

Roam Book Club 6

This coming Sunday, the next round of Roam Book Club is starting. There’ll be two clubs running this time around.

Maggie Delano will be leading where we left off in RBC5. We will be exploring syntopical reading and learning how to answer our own questions. To do this, we’ll be reading two books, Range by David Epstein, and So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. The first session starts on Sunday October 3rd, 2021 at 5 pm EST (view in your timezone) with an orientation session, and then will have weekly sessions every week until November 14th, 2021.

Kahlil Corazo will be running a separate book club for aspiring authors exploring Write Useful Books, which is how he wrote his Professional Project Management with Roam rBook.

It will also last 7 weeks, starting on Tuesday October 5th, 2021 at 8 am EST (view in your timezone) with a special session with the author, Rob Fitzpatrick.

If you’re interested in one or both, they’re running at different days/times to make it possible to attend them all, then sign up using the buttons below.

A glutton for punishment, I am also reprising my role writing the weekly newsletters keeping everyone up to date on both clubs.

Thinking Out Loud

I had planned to share my thoughts on another topic in this newsletter but with so much happening, I’m trying to keep these newsletters to a reasonable length.

Instead I’ll share a work-in-progress shorter piece inspired by a tweet from Ramses Oudt a couple of weeks ago where he asked about keyboard shortcuts and learning them deliberately.

I am definitely of the mind that learning keyboard shortcuts for the applications you use often is a worthwhile endeavour.

There are diminishing returns, but like with Roam itself, there is a lot of value in not needing to take your hands off the keyboard to perform common operations. It is an effective way to reduce friction and stay in flow.

Productivity for me is not simply about how fast something can be done but more about the computer becoming an extension of you, you want to be able to think it done, and until we have mind-links with our computing devices, keyboard input is still the most efficient way to instruct machines.

Here’s how I go about learning shortcuts deliberately.

For complex programs, such as the text editor Vim, I broke the grammar down taking 1-2 new shortcuts per week, resolving to use them as I went about my week. Once I was confident and using them with more muscle memory, I moved onto the next ones.

For general software, I prioritise learning those which are mostly likely to produce the biggest bang-for-my-buck, taking them one-by-one and repeating a similar process to bake them into my muscle memory.

I keep going until there’s no clear benefit to learning more. If I haven’t really learned it by the end of a week or two, it implies it’s not used often enough in my workflows so I evaluate whether it’s worth continuing to try and learn it.

What I do recommend is learning the operating system level shortcuts. On Mac OS in particular, they are very consistent across applications so opening and closing windows and tabs, printing, edit functions, and so on are absolutely worth learning because they can be applied across many applications.

I think that more applications (including - and especially - Roam) should take a leaf from Superhuman, the email application. It not only gamifies the experience, but they go to great lengths to remind you of the shortcut whenever you forget to perform the action via the keyboard. For something as essential as Roam, the more we can perform by keyboard and stay in flow with our thoughts the better we can be. (So Conor, if you're reading this, please expose as many of the functions as possible to work via keyboard shortcuts and make them fully configurable to fit our preferences).

I’ll leave you with one final tip for the Mac users (I’m not sure if there is a Windows equivalent way to achieve this). In the Keyboard shortcuts preferences panel, you are able to redefine keyboard shortcuts for applications.

In this example, I have standardised the keyboard shortcut for moving between tabs in web browsers, so no matter which web browser I’m using, the shortcut is the same. I don’t have to try and memorise different shortcuts for each browser.

Save your memory for remembering more important things.

As ever, if you have thoughts on this or other tools-for-thought related topics, hit reply and send me an email. I love reading them all, even if I'm terrible at replying.

Until next time,


P.S. Thank you to Marco (again), Catherine (again) and Maria who have all generously gifted me coffee/books in the last couple of weeks; I really appreciate your support. 💕

If you enjoy these letters too and would like to help support me with the running costs, you can do so through Buy Me a Coffee. I also offer a few personal 1-1 Roam coaching sessions if you're looking for some private help and guidance with your setup.

Andy Henson

I write Letters from a Roaman, curating community news and resources primarily around Roam Research, though I also include other information applicable to other tools for thought and the area in general. I also share my thoughts on a wide variety of tools for thought topics.

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