[LFR] Letters from a Roaman - Letter XXVIII

Happy Tuesday my fellow Roamans,

Since my last letter I celebrated my birthday, and my wife surprised me with a Roam-themed birthday cake! 😋

Once again there’s plenty going on in the Roam community so let’s get straight to the point as I'm already in danger of this being an extra long email.

Around the Roaman Empire

YouTube GIFs

Joakin has built this cool Roam JS extension which enables easy looping of YouTube videos. For those who take a lot of timestamped notes from YouTube videos, this might be a very handy addition in your Roam toolbox. I recommend watching the workflow video to get a better sense of what it does and how it works.

Installation instructions can be found on Github

How to outline

If you’re new to Roam, or still don’t really get the power of Roam’s outlining, watch Eshan’s entertaining explainer video.

Over on Twitter, Eshan has been documenting the work that goes into producing a video, including how he uses Roam in the process. I thought creating regular newsletters was a lot of work, but this is another level! Kudos Eshan!

PSA: SmartBlocks update

This coming Friday, David Vargas is planning to remove the original SmartBlocks module from Roam42 and point to the new SmartBlocks v2 instead. If you’re a user of SmartBlocks, David wants to hear from you if there’s anything in the original SmartBlocks that hasn’t been moved across that you prefer. You can let him know in the Roam42 channel in the Roam Research Slack or send him a DM on Twitter.

We can then go back to just calling them plain old SmartBlocks

Cite to Write v2

Speaking of v2’s, Lukas Kawerau (@cortexfutura) is launching a new version of his Cite to Write course, which includes using Joel Chan’s new discourse graph extension.

If you’re a Roam Scholar, then the best news is that you get access to Cite to Write for free! You should have received an email with all the details!

Roam Keyboard

Phonetoroam shared a sneak peek at a Roam keyboard for iOS to make note-taking and quick capture on mobile even easier and more useful. Hopefully, they’re submitting it to the App Store this week and it’ll soon be at our fingertips.

The RJ Way

As he launches the second cohort of his AP Productivity course which starts next week on October 18th, RJ Nestor has been busy doing the rounds so here’s a quick roundup!

He released 12 videos of The Roaman Way a series of videos on YouTube which walk you through the fundamentals of Roam.

Want to know how you can create a robust recurring task system in Roam? RJ has you covered.

He also found time to participate in a Roam Session with Jason Griffing discussing how to use Roam for Getting Things Done.

Quick Roam Tip

This is a great little tip I learned from Eliška Šestáková to keep your list of project names in your page references manageable.

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Eliška Šestáková
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September 29th 2021

Thinking Out Loud

Eliška tip is a really simple but effective technique to manage the results coming back when you are referencing your page, however over time that list will keep growing since Roam encourages you to create pages prolifically to create connections.

When your graph gets bigger and you use your Roam graph for many purposes, it becomes trickier to quickly find the right pages you want to reference, slowing you down and adding friction.

I use Roam to make notes on the various projects I work on, following closely the ideas of Tiago Forte's PARA method, one element of which is breaking projects down into smaller actionable chunks. That means I may have many small projects running at any one time. I’ll use projects as a concrete example, because it’s a little easier to conceptualise but the technique I'm about to describe works for any page you want to demote.

Whenever I work on a project, I tag blocks with its name. As Eliška does, I use namespaces to make it easier to find them. For example, I just finished running a camp for our whole Scout group. While I was working on it, I used the reference [[project/Hopwas Group Camp 2021]] as a hang tag to track my notes for it on Daily Note Pages and the project page itself. Now it’s over, it has slightly less importance to me so do I just delete the page—assuming there’s nothing on it—or do I leave it forever as a page reference?

I already have many project pages and they don’t all show up when I type in the project/ part as I make the page reference. Ideally, especially for projects, I only want active ones to show up. What I want is to keep a reference to the project but without the “noise” of the page reference.

What if we could just “demote” a page reference to a block reference instead? Do let me know what you think of this method, I’m keen to get some feedback about whether it’s a good idea or not.

If there’s a solid quorum of people who think it’s useful, perhaps the Roam team might consider adding a native feature to promote and demote blocks and pages. In a shared long term knowledge graph, I strongly suspect that it could become an essential feature. Alternately, in the shorter term, we could club together and offer a bounty to build an extension to ease the manual steps currently required.

I’ll use my camp project page to walk you through the process.

First, you need a page to store things on. I keep lists of my projects on a [[The Project List]] page. Under a Completed section, I create a new block which will become the reference to the project. Copy the block reference of it to your clipboard.

Open the page to be demoted and move any information from the page you want to keep under this block.

Replace the title of the page you want to demote with the block reference. In my case, I go to my [[project/Hopwas Group Camp 2021]] page and change the title to look like this by pasting in the block reference on my clipboard.

Now delete the page, it’ll ask if you’re sure because you have several references to the page. Click OK.

So far, so good but here’s where currently things aren’t so great. At this stage, we’ve broken Roam’s reference count so while technically there’s a legitimate block reference, Roam isn’t properly tracking it. What we need to do is make Roam re-parse the references by visiting each block and making a minor non-change (adding and then removing a space for example) so that Roam then recognises the reference.

Previously, it was possible to query for the block reference and quickly go through each result. Lately, that’s stopped working. However, it’s still worth using the query to verify you have converted all the references.

Create a query replacing the block reference with your own from your clipboard. (I create it on my Daily Notes page and shift-click it open in the sidebar):

Create a new page using the block reference ID. Paste the block reference into the search bar, remove the brackets and create the page. Then in the unlinked references, click into each block and add a space.

If you have the query created and visible, after a moment you’ll see the block appear in the query results and it’ll help to show you your progress.

Additionally, if you have inline reference counts enabled, you’ll see the number increase. You can then remove the space you added and click into the next block.

Finally, when you have touched them all you can delete the page.

Now, the net result is that on my Project list page I have all the relevant block references that were originally page references.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other tools-for-thought related topics, hit reply and send me an email. I do read them all, even if I'm tardy at replying sometimes!

Until next time,


P.S. A big thank you to Abhay and Adam who both generously bought me a coffee. I really appreciate the support. 💕

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