[LFR] Letters from a Roaman - Letter XXXXIV

Happy Tuesday,

Welcome to Letter 44. I’m still slowly iterating over the format of this newsletter, expanding these roundups with news and broader coverage with Roam and Tools-for-Thought-adjacent topics. I’m keen to hear feedback on aspects you like and those you don’t as I try to find a balance between depth, length, variety, usefulness, and of course, interestingness.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Around the Roaman Empire

Roam updates

It’s generally been a month of minor bug fixes rather than significant new features, but one welcome change is the fix to the markup parser. If you’ve been frustrated when you’ve tried to both bold and highlight some text and you got the order wrong, well, you no longer need to worry with the updated parser.

Hot off the press, Bhaibhav released an update to the Roam desktop app, allowing us to open Roamified links directly in the app.

If you change a typical Roam URL from, e.g. https://roamresearch.com/#/app/baibhav-public-demos/page/tsmFEDeGQ to roam://#/app/baibhav-public-demos/page/tsmFEDeGQ then it’ll open the referenced block straight inside the desktop app.

You’ll need to ensure you’re running at least v0.0.15 of the desktop app for this to work. (Download the latest version for your operating system from the Roam Research home page).

Check out Bhaibhav’s Loom video for more information and some example use-cases.

Chrome to Note

Scott Block of PhoneToNote has created a simple Chrome extension to make it easy to send open tabs into Roam (and other tools for thought).

Check out this quick loom video to see how it works and grab it from the Chrome web store.

Steal These Templates

Check out this thread from Ev Chapman. She shares details of four templates she uses in Roam for creating content. Steal these templates and recreate them in your graphs.

Reading Room

Looking for some material to add to your reading queue? Mark McElroy has been on a bit of a roll lately with a variety of articles, all containing nuggets of gold that you can take into your practices regardless of the specific tool you use:

Rob Haisfield, along with Joel Chan and Brendan Langen, published a hypertext notebook at scalingsynthesis.com, which covers the research they did around using tools for thought to facilitate synthesis.

If you’re looking for a longer read, then Cedric Chin’s How Note Taking Can Help You Become An Expert is an exciting essay about how you can use note-taking in tools like Roam to implement the learning systems of Cognitive Flexibility Theory to help accelerate your expertise.

Game Film

Alex Qwxlea shared a video of him developing a permanent note in his zettelkasten system.

In this Reddit post, ironiccart shares a quick look at their note-taking process in action and gives a breakdown of it in the post.

I’ll have a P please, Bob

Cheesy joke from an old UK quiz game show aside, Fabrice put together a nifty SmartBlock, making it easy to create quizzes for yourself in Roam.

Check out his short video in the announcement tweet to learn more. (I particularly appreciate the Stoic reference in the video) You can get it from the SmartBlocks store. You’ll need to have v2 of David Vargas’ Smartblocks, and then from the Cmd-P/Control-P command palette, Open SmartBlocks Store and look for rQuiz.

Bionic Reading

For those of you who haven’t come across Bionic Reading yet, it’s a relatively new technique which purports to make it easier to read more quickly while retaining more of what you read. It does this by creating artificial fixation points on the first part of the words, letting your brain complete the rest of the word.

Creating the rQuiz SmartBlock clearly didn’t keep Fabrice occupied for long, as he also found the time to develop an extension for Roam which reasonably approximates the Bionic Reading method directly within Roam.

In his viral announcement tweet he demonstrated his plugin in a short video, and you can get the code with all the instructions to install it from his public graph.

Working with Roam namespaces

Tomas Baranek has created a neat little Roam/Render component to make some searches for pages using namespaces more convenient, as well as being a generally helpful little search component. It makes it simple to keep, for example, a live list of active projects or a complete list of book references if you use namespaces consistently.

Read his article for the instructions to install and use it.

Developers Corner

For the developers amongst you, Josh Brown shared a few interesting tidbits about what's coming in Roam soon.

First, he revealed that the team have been working on the backend APIs and demonstrated it using Replit to query his graph.

Check out this Twitter thread for a series of short video clips and this longer Loom video.

It’s early days yet, but this will open up many new possibilities for Roam itself and then to the wider world through extensions.

He also demonstrated experimental support for dynamically loading npm modules in roam/render components. This makes it ever easier to develop directly within Roam itself and build comprehensive UIs that work on your graph's data.

Thinking Tools

If you’re trying to think better, or more clearly, Untools.co is a nice set of resources. Many of them are easy to implement into Roam and other tools too.

Movie Night

Maggie Appleton recently gave a talk, The Block-Paved Path to Structured Data, which is now available on YouTube if you have 30 minutes and are interested in the historical issues of structured data and how the rise of block-based interfaces might help to solve them.

Quick Roam Tip

Mark Robertson shared this little tweet on how he uses Roam’s popover feature to make things pleasant to look at while keeping the ability for easy querying and filtering later.

Want to do the same? It’s one of Roam’s lesser-known features, but the popover feature can be created in your graph like this:

Anything nested below it will inherit the page references and tags from the parent block, even if it’s not visible - it’s still in the block and therefore in the inheritance chain.

You can use CSS styling to make it look as pretty or minimal as you like. And you can use roam templates to make generating and populating them simple too.

Thanks for reading. And don't forget you can give me your feedback by replying to this email. I read and appreciate every one, even if I cannot respond to them all.

Until next time,


P.S. A huge thank you to Benjamin 💖 who generously donated the last time out. If you also enjoy my work and find value in the ideas I share, please consider contributing to my running costs. I accept donations via Buy Me a Coffee.

Alternatively, if you'd like some help or guidance for making the most of Roam in your note-taking practice, I offer a few private 1-1 Roam coaching sessions. Sometimes I even get unsolicited testimonials like this 😍

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Jai Relan
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May 25th 2022

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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