[LFR] Letters from a Roaman - Letter XXXI

Hello again fellow Roamans,

Another two weeks have flown by, and certainly for me, not helped by the fact that I lost most of last week due to coming down with COVID-19. Fortunately, I am recovered and ready to guide you through the latest happenings in the community.

Around the Roaman Empire

Food for thought

In his most recent video, Jeffrey Webber walks through how he uses Roam to consume and process information. If you weren't hungry when you start watching this one, you will be by the end of all the eating metaphors!

Watching it may give you a few ideas about using queries with tags and TODOs to help manage multi-stage passes in your own workflows.

Augmenting connections

Conor’s announced a $150,000 prize (yes that’s the right number!) that’s to be shared amongst anyone who creates RoamJS extensions to solve the problems of suggested connections before the Roam team get to it.

Read more about the problem and conditions for winning in the Twitter thread.

Thinking Maps

An interesting video series on using Thinking Maps from Zsolt Viczián. While he may have defected to Obsidian where he’s continuing to work on integrating Excalidraw into it, these maps are certainly possible within Roam too. You can use his Roam Excalidraw extension or, to varying degrees, use the various native diagram tools ( /draw /diagram or via Mermaid).


François-Guillaume Ribreau has created Roam-bot which leverages the power of Zapier to create workflows that link with Roam. For example, whenever you create a new page or block in Roam, you can have Zapier trigger an external action of some form. Or how about if when you do something in another app, it triggers Roam-bot to create a block on your daily notes page?

Minimalist Clean theme

Mark Robertson aka Calhistorian has made available a nice theme which is an iteration and amalgamation of Alexander Rink’s Apple Theme with Abhay Prasanna and Murf’s Masonry code. The result is a very nice simple, clean theme (for both light and dark modes) with all the added benefits of Masonry mode (which I can’t live without).

Roam CMS

David Vargas has continued to improve his RoamJS Static site extension so it’s now possible to use your Roam Research graph to power your website completely. Check out David’s personal site to see what’s possible and read his Twitter thread for more information.

Roam Tables

JimmyLv has continued to add to his styled_roam extension, this time adding an amazing tree table view, which lets you work with your outlines in a more tabular view like Excel. Check out the video in his tweet to see it in action.

Roam Book Club

While I missed the final live session of Roam Book Club 6 as I was feeling ill (with what turned out to be COVID-19), it was overall another pretty amazing experience. I really do recommend joining in with one if you can.

For a lucky few, myself included, I haven’t had to wait long and risk withdrawal symptoms. Jessica Shieh, with help from RJ Nestor and Matt Brockwell, is leading a small experimental book club on Getting Things Done as a way to learn and iterate together to implement the system in Roam.

If all goes well, then its possible that a second iteration will be run as part of the next official round in early January. I’ll be sure to let you know when sign-ups are open.

Quick Roam Tip

For those who haven’t noticed yet, a nice little feature has made its way into native Roam. You can now use natural language phrases to create links to the daily note pages. If you try typing phrases in the double-square bracket syntax like:

[[in 5 days]]

[[2 weeks ago]]

[[nov 15]]

In addition to any matching page names, Roam will also show a suggested date based on your phrase which you can choose. It’ll then replace the phrase with that daily note dated page.

Thinking Out Loud

Let me start by prefacing this by saying that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. This is me trying to figure things out, and I’m hoping that discourse via this medium is easier and more considered than via Twitter.

Everywhere I look lately, there’s chatter about web3, DAOs, blockchain, NFTs and the like. It’s interesting and exciting, but so far to me, it often seems like a solution in search of a problem.

On top of that, at least as I understand it at the moment, I can’t quite reconcile the issues with proof-of-work and its environmental impact and proof-of-stake, which rewards those who already have wealth and access (which to me partly defeats some of the decentralisation argument). (See https://everestpipkin.medium.com/but-the-environmental-issues-with-cryptoart-1128ef72e6a3)

One of the areas that concern me, especially around the NFT hype, is that it’s the early noise-makers who are absolutely incentivised to bring more in so that their stakes are increased. It’s in their interest to do so, as, of course, are all the venture capitalists who are pumping money into this tech.

The idealist in me does like the dream of more decentralisation and the theoretical changes in power dynamics that the promise of this technology could suggest. However, old habits will die hard, and as I get older, the more I realise that technology alone cannot solve some of these things.

For all the talk of decentralisation, I worry that the same issues will still continue; in the same way that “anyone can become a creator”, what we find is that a select few will rise to the top and take most of the cream, there’ll be a few in the middle, and then most will languish at the bottom with plenty of people selling dreams to a wishful majority.

So why I am talking about this? For all my concerns, I do think that perhaps some aspects of this technology could be helpful in this tools-for-thought/knowledge graph world we’re in.

I see some parallels between Ted Nelson’s original vision for his Xanadu project and the ability of web3 (by the way, I really hate that term…) to potentially provide a few solutions towards that vision.

Blockchain technology and the ideas around NFTs and minting blocks, when applied to knowledge, can serve to make it easy to identify the original author.

If we can use this to make the ancestor chain of ideas visible and transparent, then we can see who remixed and reused who or where the thinking went wrong or was flawed. Citation becomes built-in.

Ignoring in the current systems the need for the computers to expend significant energy to infer value, what if the costs were closer to zero so micro-payments were feasible? Then we could realise Nelson’s vision of each document or idea having a royalty mechanism built-in to reward those who contribute knowledge building blocks that can be built on and extended.

When the tools can make explicit exactly whose giant shoulders we’re building on top of, we can use monetisation as a way to incentivise building the knowledge bases instead. That’s a better pyramid scheme I can get behind.

We’d also need to find ways to version knowledge; one of the features of a blockchain is that once something is embedded in, there’s no changing it; but our knowledge bases aren’t static. We want (and need) to be able to iterate on the same blocks of knowledge; we can improve the idea, make it more succinct or clearer.

Anyway, please tell me where I’m wrong or misinformed. I’m keen to learn more. Hit reply and send me an email.

Until next time,


P.S. A big thanks to Stephen who generously bought me coffee, it's much appreciated. 💕

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

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.

Read more from Andy Henson

Happy Tuesday friends, If you’ve been around the Twittersphere for the last few weeks, you may well have seen the recent splash that Tana is making, with a number of prominent (and former?) Roamans sharing their excitement as the tool comes out of its “stealth” phase and, with echoes of the early days of Roam when the gates were temporarily closed, the desire of others for the coveted invitations to try it out. By way of PSA, and to hopefully save my email inbox from further deluge, while I...

Happy Tuesday, friends, 18 months ago, I posited that the five fundamentals of Roam were: Using the Daily Note Pages Thinking in blocks Indentation Page references and tags Block references Since then, I’ve had what turned out to be a huge article sitting in my drafts which hasn’t yet seen the light of day. Over the next few LFR essay editions, I will discuss these fundamentals and explore them more thoroughly. You’ll have a solid foundation to build on when you have understood and mastered...

Happy Tuesday, friends, In honour of this being my fiftieth Letter, I thought I would break with my usual format and share 50 things about Roam Research. It’s a mix of lesser-known and secret features, tips, tricks and simply things that I like, but I’ll start with what I consider the 5 fundamentals of Roam that, once mastered, give you a solid foundation to build the rest upon. 1. The Daily Notes Page (DNP) Let’s start with the fundamentals that make Roam what it is. Used in conjunction with...