Implementing an Idea-Management System

post by ryqiem · 2019-10-18T10:48:46.097Z · score: 31 (17 votes) · LW · GW · 22 comments

Contents

  The ideal idea-management system
    1. Separates ideas from commitments
    2. Shows you the right ideas at the right time
    3. Doesn’t distract you with ideas that you can’t execute
    4. Allows you to break down ideas into smaller parts, and re-combine them as needed
    5. Has low overhead
  Time for action
  How do you avoid losing track of important projects?
  The Nitty Gritty, A Recipe for Implementation
None
22 comments

This post is for you if:

  1. Projects that excite you are growing to be a burden on your to-do list
  2. You have a nagging sense that you’re not making the most of the ideas you have every day
  3. Your note- and idea-system has grown to be an unwieldy beast

Years ago, I ready David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. One of the core ideas is to write down everything, collect it in an inbox and sort it once a day.

This lead to me writing down tons of small tasks. I used Todoist to construct a system that worked for me — and rarely missed tasks.

It also lead to me getting a lot of ideas, that could sprout a bunch of tasks. But ideas are much different from tasks to me. They’re something that I might, but probably won’t complete. Something that may come in useful in the future. And plain fun to come up with.

I stored them in Todoist as well, but recently I’ve started considering whether that’s wise. They started weighing on me. It became a growing list of possibilities, many of which I’d never finish. The task at the top of my list became the top of my priorities, simply because of its location.

There must be a better way.

But what might that look like?

The ideal idea-management system

1. Separates ideas from commitments

I want a system that separates obligations from ideas. Form follows function, so I’d prefer something that doesn’t structure ideas in lists. This rules out Todoist completely.

2. Shows you the right ideas at the right time

Even with complete foreknowledge, finding the perfect schedule might be practically impossible. In contrast, thinking on your feet and reacting as jobs come in won’t give you as perfect a schedule as if you’d seen into the future-but the best you can do is much easier to compute. — Algorithms to Live By

Most of us live dynamic lives where priorities change often. Your children start a new hobby, you’re handed a task at work, or you can finally work on your passion-project. Your idea-management system should reflect this. It shouldn’t just show you your most recent idea, it should make it easy to find ideas associated with whatever you find most important right now.

Avoiding lists makes it more likely that you take action on ideas that matter to you right now. You don’t skim from the top, you go for the area that matters and find ideas related to it.

If you sort ideas around a central node, you can pin-point synergies and conflicts. If you’ve taken notes on 4 different project-management systems, you want to see them all when you need them.

3. Doesn’t distract you with ideas that you can’t execute

You don’t want to waste time considering ideas that aren’t important right now. Sometimes you’re missing resources, or you’re waiting for some dependency.

Project/idea-lists are terrible at this. As you skim through them, a plethora of memories activate, most of which are irrelevant to what you end up doing.

4. Allows you to break down ideas into smaller parts, and re-combine them as needed

Tiago Forte’s Intermediate Packets inspired this. Many of our ideas can work in exactly the same way.

5. Has low overhead

You want to spend as little time as possible sorting and searching through your ideas. This should be a no-brainer. You want it to be easy to inter-link ideas and to add reference material. And when you get an idea on the train, you want to offload it without wasting time.

Time for action

Okay, Martin, I’m sold. But folders, task-managers, outliners like Workflowy and Dynalist — they’re all hierarchical!

You’re right, and until last week, I didn’t know what other solution there could be. But now there is. Roam.

Roam is different. It makes it trivial to link- and back-link pages. It creates a new page just by linking to it. And it back-links as well! When you link [[Self-determination theory]] to [[Motivation]], the motivation page will show a link to Self-determination theory in its footnotes.

This is tremendous. It creates a clear divide between commitments and ideas. Commitments belong on lists, ideas in dynamic networks.

When you get a new idea on a motivation tweak, you add it and link it to [[Motivation]].

Most of the time, everything is going well, so you don’t need it right now. But 6 months later, you’re assigned a grind of a task. You decide to read up on on Motivation, and voilá, in the footnotes is a link to that idea you had that might help you now.

Not only that, all your other ideas on motivation are there, for you to synergise or compare/contrast.

And you’re less distracted. You don’t have to take action on an idea in fear of forgetting it. Nor are you presented with ideas only because they’re recent. You have a need, [[Motivation]], and you’re presented with ideas on that topic alone. No distraction.

Roam also allows you to link to any bullet-point in any other note. Say you want your collaborators to identify with the core values of your projects. Why not embed that idea you encountered 3 months ago from Organismic Integration Theory? In this way, you can re-use sub-ideas from other major themes in any of your other projects. And if you find out that idea didn’t work? You add a note, and that note propagates to any other places you’ve referenced the idea.

Roam becomes your second brain. You draw associations, and Roam remembers. You want to look something up, and Roam shows you what you’ve considered relevant in the past.

How do you avoid losing track of important projects?

I advocate for using Roam as an idea-management system, not a project-management system. If you have an obligation, by all means track it in a list-style way that you review.

But if it’s an idea, you don’t want to spend time thinking about it when you’re executing something else. You want focus and produce, and to save the idea for when there’s time and a need. Don’t just be efficient, be effective.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently what should not be done at all — Peter Drucker

The Nitty Gritty, A Recipe for Implementation

For each idea that may turn into a project, I create a new page in this format:

“PI: Description”, eg. “PI: Research How to Effectively Integrate Motivations”

I have 3 prefixes:

  1. PI for “Project Idea”
  2. WO for “Working On”
  3. AP for “Archived Project”

In each of these pages, I spend ~5 seconds referencing concepts where I may want to encounter the project. For this one, [[Motivation]], [[Self-Determination Theory]] and [[Organismic Integration Theory (OIT)]].

I also add any references I may want to read, and whichever ideas I’ve already had about the project.

This makes it trivial to pick up the idea when I have the time and need, and to execute it efficiently.

~

These posts are about getting ideas into the wild, having other people criticise them, making them better and connecting with like-minded people. So feel free to let me know what you think 🙂

I appreciate your time.

Originally published at http://martinbern.org on October 18, 2019.

22 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by pjeby · 2019-10-19T18:41:22.207Z · score: 36 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Um, isn't that basically a wiki? I looked at the website and don't see anything right off that indicates how it's different from any other personal wiki tool. It even seems to be using the same double-square-bracket link syntax used by many wiki tools.

On a closer look at the one available screenshot, I think I see that the difference might be that instead of just a list of "pages that link here", the tool provides a list of "paragraphs or bullet points that link here", and that perhaps the wiki pages themselves are outlines?

Actually, that makes a lot of sense... and probably is better than what I'm doing with DynaList right now. Signing up... and, ok, so it's interesting. The outliner UX is kind of basic and really lacking in features I'm used to with other outliners. For example, I can't paste anything into it from my other outliners -- pasting multiline text results in a single outline item with indentation, instead of separate bullet points.

Worse, I can't copy out either, or at least haven't figured out how to yet. That seems to make this an information silo that doesn't play well with other tools.

After some experimenting with "Export" I find I can copy and paste that into a markdown editor and get a bullet list, but not something I can paste into actual outlining tools using e.g. tab indentation or OPML. The export is also lossy, losing any line breaks or indentation in code blocks. And using it is awkward, as hitting ^A to "select all" in the export ends up selecting the rest of the page, not just the export bit. I was hoping "view as document" plus "export" would let me at least extract a markdown page, but it goes back to bullet points in the export. In order to get a non-lossy export, you have to "Export All" (meaning your entire database(!), and it uses a weird asterisk-indented format that is compatible with exactly nothing.

Overall this is an intriguing idea for a tool, but the execution isn't something I'd trust with important data, with the lack of interop being a killer lack-of-feature. The fact that the "markdown" isn't actually markdown, either, isn't helping. There's really no reason for a text markup syntax like this to not just follow the Commonmark standard, even if you're only going to support a subset. The fenced code block syntax is especially whack, as you either end up with blank lines at the top and bottom, or with something you can't copy as-is to another program. Also, the editor seems to be applying syntax for some guessed language, as it didn't understand shell script and indented it according to rules for some other language, fighting me all the way.

Last, but not least, I find the outlines really hard to read. This is especially visible on the "Writing Tips in Roam" page, where the vertical indent lines are too high contrast, making them distracting, the default font is too small and has no way to change it, the indentation width appears erratic when numbers are in use (because it's actually based on indentation from the still-there-yet-invisible bullet points), and the little avatar heads (at irregular indents due to the aforementioned) are distracting and repetitive.

In short: I can't effectively paste information into it, I can't read it or edit it while it's there, and I can't effectively copy it back out. I don't know what else I can do with it. ;-)

To be fair, these are problems one might expect with alpha software. But until they're resolved I can't see why I would do anything except play with it as a thought experiment in how useful and cool it might someday be if these issues were resolved. Certainly at minimum, it should be able to cleanly copy/paste to and from Dynalist and Workflowy, since it's presented as an alternative to those tools. And if you have something that's a "document", you ought to be able to copy it as a markdown document and paste it into a markdown editor, so that you can take your writing and do something like putting it up on the web or making an ebook out of it.

So, if you have trouble reading tiny text or weird alignments drive you nuts, or if you need to be able to use your writing outside the note tool itself, I wouldn't recommend signing up for this thing right now. If you intend to use it as a standalone tool and the above-mentioned quirks wouldn't bother you, then go for it.

In other words, in practical terms, you might be better off with a personal wiki, because even plain text copy and paste is more interoperable than this. And the backlinks of a personal wiki don't quite do what Roam does, but they might be a better choice if you're livin' la vida markdown as I do.

But hey, I'm sure the author(s) will fix some of these issues with time. After all, you know what they say...

Roam wasn't built in a day. [ba dum tiss!]

comment by Conor White-Sullivan (conor-white-sullivan-1) · 2019-10-20T11:24:46.315Z · score: 10 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The structure of how you can organize thoughts in Roam is a bit hard to convey to folks who haven't really tried it yet. Harder still for me to convey, as you have incentive not to trust one of the creators of the tool. (NOTE: OP is just a passionate user, we havent met them, nor asked them to write the piece)

We've taken a lot on inspiration from plain text wiki tools like nvalt, and outliners like workflowy or dynalist and we've had a lot people switching to Roam from those tools (Cut and paste do work, I'd probably suggest using Chrome or a Chrome engine browser like brave if you're not already, as those are best supported -- yes, still early stage, not built in day)

As you mention though, the real unit of thought in Roam is a "block", the paragraphs or bullet points that fit in the outline on each page.

The wiki-links in Roam acts as tags on the blocks and sub trees they're a part of.* The real value of Roam as a tool for organizing ideas and projects shows up first when you start using those links to find interesting intersections across your notes, and second when you actually connect blocks into a knowledge graph.

Example -- I can look across the dozens of user interviews I've been doing with Roam users over the past few months, filter down to all the ones who came from Less Wrong and mentioned Workflowy, and then see just the sections of those conversations that dealt with [[Feature Requests]]

A more practical example for LW users -- if you've read 6 books of papers on the same topic, and you're trying to construct a sort of proxy double crux between the authors to figure out your own position -- Roam helps for that in a few ways. First, you can collect the key points from across the various notes you have on each book or paper using a link/tag. Second, you can embed the quotes in a synthesis document you write, each quote will link back to the source material and on the source material you'll have an automatic footnote pointing you to the document where you cited the block.

Those precise links can be particularly useful if you're trying to define terms and avoid the many ways words can be wrong, Or if you just want to actually map out the flow of your reasoning for later presentation and cruxing with others. Roam is real-time collaborative (like Google Docs).

On that point -- yeah, the icons attached to each bullet aren't the most aesthetic -- fortunately they're only a problem you run into when sharing docs with other editors -- and only appear on blocks someone else edited. We've got a lot on our roadmap right now, but it'll keep getting prettier as time goes on.

To be fair though, if you're super happy with a normal wiki or outliner, Roam is definitely not for you. There are dozens of highly polished options for those for every aesthetic sensibility.

You try Roam if you've got some itch that there has to be something more for structuring thought than files in folders, or tree based outliners, and you are willing to deal with a few inconveniences to get access to features and workflows you definitely won't find anywhere else.

This quote from a researcher at OpenPhil a few weeks ago seems appropriate

"my friend, you've made a remarkable product, because emotionally I'm swinging wildly between grating annoyance and wild tears-to-my-eyes joy"

Plural of anecdote isnt data, but I am claiming that Roam users have an inside view that isnt super legible to those who haven't really tried it as a tool for thought-- if you want evidence that there are more people than just OP and others commenting here who have found more value in Roam than you're predicting you'd get, here are more quotes from our users, including some from names you may recognize

https://roamresearch.com/#/v8/help/page/9jAzaU0PN

You can also read another article written by Sarah Constantine, also a Roam user, also written unsolicited and without input from us

https://srconstantin.posthaven.com/how-to-make-a-memex

Also, I do appreciate the aesthetic criticism, and the bug report, it is a shame that that was enough of a distraction that you didn't get a chance to discover what separates Roam from everything else.

If you do end up using it, we have a very active slack of early adopters making feature requests and bug reports that aren't all far removed from yours.

I also include my youcanbook.me calendar and personal email address in the email that goes out after you create an account.

*when you create a new page for a concept or person you've already written about (or pasted in content), it's one click to reify the uses of the word or phrase into links.

We probably have a dozen features like that - features that dont make sense on a landing page because they are aren't things anyone expects to see, but become extremely useful as you start writing notes in a more Zettelkasten type way (where you are regularly extending old ideas into new contexts)

comment by pjeby · 2019-10-20T23:37:46.093Z · score: 25 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You try Roam if you've got some itch that there has to be something more for structuring thought than files in folders, or tree based outliners, and you are willing to deal with a few inconveniences to get access to features and workflows you definitely won't find anywhere else.

Yes, that's why I did try it. And found that I could neither get my data into it nor out of it while preserving structure or markup semantics. That's kind of a killer, since style issues I could theoretically fix with a user style sheet. Plus, having your own unique markup language means that I can't even write in it without conversion.

I am claiming that Roam users have an inside view that isnt super legible to those who haven't really tried it as a tool for thought

I'm not sure if you're speaking to me or someone else here. I was interested precisely because I understand what your tool would offer me, if only I could use it. It reminds me of some of Ted Nelson's innovative hypertext designs, like ZigZag. Or good ol' Houdini from my DOS days.

I appreciate what it could do for me in the realm of thought; my issue is that I'd like to be able to use it to help write things, things that will be shared in media that is not your program (e.g. blog articles, books, wiki-like websites, etc.) Which means I must be able to not only bring in text I already have, but bring out text I produce.

Also, I do appreciate the aesthetic criticism, and the bug report, it is a shame that that was enough of a distraction that you didn't get a chance to discover what separates Roam from everything else.

I spotted what was unique from your not-very-detailed screenshot and jumped at the chance to try it. I'm an extremely long-term power user of outlining, idea management, and thinking-enhancement software of all varieties, for some 30+ years, so I have a keen eye for novelty in such systems.

If I didn't understand what it could potentially do for me, I wouldn't have been so bothered by the interop and usability problems, nor would I have bothered to try it in the first place. I actually explored a fair handful of features that would have had me trying the tool more seriously, if I had any certainty of getting my data out again, in a useful format. (For example, in order to take real advantage of your transclusion feature, I'd have to be able to export usable markdown versions of the documents where said transclusion was occurring.)

On top of that, I took some time to reflect whether there was anything I was currently working on that could benefit from the tool without being able to take structured/formatted content back out, or having things go out but not able to come back in after outside editing.

And I concluded that this wasn't the case for anything on my "front burner" projects at the moment, and I can't currently afford the time to play with it for back burner projects right now. I do expect to revisit this decision at some point, but from my experience I would expect the big payoffs from your unique features to only happen with days, weeks, or even months of continued use. In the short run, without a lot of data in it, it might as well be Dynalist plus bidirectional wiki links, and I don't need that enough to spend the time learning or working around its particular quirks.

All that being said, I'm a little personally irritated that you not only jumped to the conclusion that I didn't get what your product does (or the implications), but that you also wrote off nearly all of my feedback as "aesthetic" concerns. If you're not concerned with feedback from people whose visual impairment is as lightweight as mine, I hate to think what you'd do with feedback from people with more serious vision problems. (Aside from you not acknowledging the many issues with editing, markup syntax, and interoperability that I took the time to write up for you and share, instead of saying "ho hum" and moving on with my day.)

As another software developer and entrepreneur, I consider even negative feedback from potential users or customers to be very helpful, especially if it lets me see their first impressions. That kind of information is something money can't buy, even from a dedicated UX tester... and most people won't take the time to give it to you. They'll just move on.

I thought about just moving on yesterday. And then I thought, "eh, true first-impression UX feedback is valuable, I'm sure they'll appreciate a write-up."

Oops.

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2019-10-21T00:59:19.134Z · score: 16 (10 votes) · LW · GW

As another software developer and entrepreneur, I consider even negative feedback from potential users or customers to be very helpful, especially if it lets me see their first impressions. That kind of information is something money can’t buy, even from a dedicated UX tester… and most people won’t take the time to give it to you. They’ll just move on.

I thought about just moving on yesterday. And then I thought, “eh, true first-impression UX feedback is valuable, I’m sure they’ll appreciate a write-up.”

As a UX designer and developer myself, I want to thank you for taking the time to write this. I find that even reading feedback about other people’s work, from someone who has considerable experience with the problem domain, is very valuable. (The notes about how you use existing tools, and what parts of Roam you found valuable, are useful info in particular, since I have quite a bit of interest in wiki systems myself.) So your effort expended on the grandparent didn’t go to waste!

comment by pjeby · 2019-10-21T02:39:07.248Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, one of the things that was interesting to me was that superficially, Roam's wiki markup was pretty darn close to what Gollum accepts, such that a suitable export from Roam might have been publishable by dumping stuff to git and pushing it to a Gollum-served website, or to a Wordpress instance by way of Postmark plus a filter to translate the links.

comment by Roaman · 2019-10-21T19:05:02.293Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW
It reminds me of some of Ted Nelson's innovative hypertext designs, like ZigZag

That's a really high complement. Appreciate it.

I must be able to not only bring in text I already have, but bring out text I produce.

Completely agree. We've had to prioritize the getting things in part, but getting things out is essential. The site was restricted access / invite only until a week ago, and we're still in beta (that's why it is free). We won't be charging for use until the export features are done.

in order to take real advantage of your transclusion feature, I'd have to be able to export usable markdown versions of the documents where said transclusion was occurring.

Totally agree -- we plan for export to be html links of the text of block to the original block. Probably will be done in next few weeks, but had some technical pre-reqs

I'm not sure if you're speaking to me or someone else here

Replying to you, but also largely speaking for the reader of your comment who may not be sure whether to try a new tool -- and may be discouraged to do so by your comment (I also wouldn't have found your comment except that another user of ours pointed me to it, so it didn't feel like you were writing for our team)

I consider even negative feedback from potential users or customers to be very helpful, especially if it lets me see their first impressions.

As do I -- but I did notice it felt quite different for you to do this in a public forum (and that it was followed by you encouraging others to not try the tool), rather than by responding to our onboarding email as every other user has so far.

The main thing you objected to with pasting content in is a feature we support - so I expect you've found a bug specific to your browser, OS, or the system you were coming from. Paste out also works, but is hard to get right for all tools people use as different apps respond differently to the clipboard, so we do appreciate when users tell us about places where things aren't quite right. Very happy to help you sort that out -- included our emails in an earlier reply.

We've got about 50 users in our slack channel discussing bugs, feature requests and updates. Very happy to send you an invite if you're interested.


comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2019-10-22T03:11:26.919Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I consider even negative feedback from potential users or customers to be very helpful, especially if it lets me see their first impressions.

As do I—but I did notice it felt quite different for you to do this in a public forum (and that it was followed by you encouraging others to not try the tool), rather than by responding to our onboarding email as every other user has so far.

We’ve got about 50 users in our slack channel discussing bugs, feature requests and updates. Very happy to send you an invite if you’re interested.

I consider it very valuable—and (to use the local jargon) prosocial—that pjeby posted his feedback publicly. It allowed others (like me) to benefit, both by reading some valuable user responses to a potentially interesting tool (which responses and feedback are useful to my current and future endeavors), and by getting info about Roam (which I otherwise wouldn’t get, except as filtered and released by you, the product’s creators).

Conversely, siloing user/developer interaction in a private Slack channel is… not prosocial.

comment by pjeby · 2019-10-21T20:40:51.439Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Paste out also works, but is hard to get right for all tools people use as different apps respond differently to the clipboard

The majority of outlining tools in my experience can accept a paste of plain text lines, indented with tabs. Certainly Workflowy, Ecco Pro, TkOutline, and Dynalist all do, and even OneNote handles it semi-reasonably. Roam (in Chrome) did not appear to accept or output tab-indented text as structured input. (Space-indentation is also produced by some outliners, but even the ones that output spaces will still accept tab-indentation as input.) Most will also let you select an item and its children and hit ^C to copy, without needing an explicit export step unless you need a specialized format.

Whatever format(s) Dynalist and Workflowy put on the clipboard as output, one of the formats is readable by OneNote and Typora as bulleted lists, which is also handy. The other format they produce on copy is four-space indented text, but since they accept tab-indented text as input, as do most other outliners, that should be one of the formats put on the clipboard when a copy operation is done in Roam.

tl;dr: I would suggest investigating what clipboard formats Dynalist and Workflowy use, and accepting either 4-space or tab-indented text on paste, and producing tab-indented text (plus whatever Dl/Wf do) on copy.

we plan for export to be html links of the text of block to the original block

Huh? Then what's the point of transclusion in that case? If I were using it for writing, it'd be so that I could have single sources of certain type of information transparently included in the markdown output as if it were written there. That way I could have blurbs that I'd share between various newsletters, ebooks, lesson materials, etc. that I could edit once and update across multiple documents as of their next production.

(Or maybe you're just saying you would wrap the included text in a link? That wouldn't obviate the point of transclusion, but it'd be an irritant for my use case if I couldn't turn it off. I just want to be able to transparently include stuff, and find other documents that include those things.)

rather than by responding to our onboarding email as every other user has so far.

I did reply to that email, with a link to the comment. The comment began as a comment here, and I ended up writing more into the comment box as I played with Roam.

you encouraging others to not try the tool

I said (emphasis added):

So, if you have trouble reading tiny text or weird alignments drive you nuts, or if you need to be able to use your writing outside the note tool itself, I wouldn't recommend signing up for this thing right now. If you intend to use it as a standalone tool and the above-mentioned quirks wouldn't bother you, then go for it.

That doesn't look to me like "encouraging others to not try the tool", so much as "expressing reservations that this is something you can use right now, today, if you have the sort of issues I do with it".

If you want some real criticism, you should try posting a link on https://www.outlinersoftware.com/. ;-) (Content warning: if you're into information management tools, that site is a time-stealing cognitohazard, not unlike TV Tropes)

comment by Roaman · 2019-10-22T04:40:23.383Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW
I did reply to that email, with a link to the comment.

Found the email. And in that light the feedback does come across as much more well intentioned.

I said (emphasis added):
So, if you have trouble reading tiny text or weird alignments drive you nuts, or if you need to be able to use your writing outside the note tool itself, I wouldn't recommend signing up for this thing right now. If you intend to use it as a standalone tool and the above-mentioned quirks wouldn't bother you, then go for it.

Thank you for the clarification.

The majority of outlining tools in my experience can accept a paste of plain text lines, indented with tabs.

Wow. You're totally right, completely missed that, and now understand your complaint. We had only been testing paste from google docs, workflowy, etc

fwiw you can import text files (.txt or .md) directly -- it'll interpret tabs, or spacing differences and convert that to the indentation structure. You can also import multiple files at once - it will also respect markdown and convert them into headings appropriately.

We'll definitely add the paste from plain text, until we get that built you could get around this either with import or by pasting into workflowy from text, and then pasting from there into Roam. We'll have paste in from plain text soon.

Or maybe you're just saying you would wrap the included text in a link? That wouldn't obviate the point of transclusion, but it'd be an irritant for my use case if I couldn't turn it off. I just want to be able to transparently include stuff, and find other documents that include those things.)

Solid point

comment by pjeby · 2019-10-22T05:18:18.547Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

fwiw you can import text files (.txt or .md) directly

That's nice, but importing (or exporting) files is a huge pain compared to copy and paste, since most of the tools I use don't really have files as such, or if they do there's a multi-step process on both sides of finding the file, opening an import function, answering stuff, dragging the file (or worse, having to browse if the import-ee doesn't support drag/drop).

Compare that to 1) select, 2) Ctrl-C, 3) Alt-Tab, 4) Ctrl-V. No mousing unless it's for the initial select, if that. Plus, apart from Typora and Notebooks, most of the tools I use don't even have "files" that would be meaningful to import, so I'd instead be copy-pasting into something else to then create the export file...

Anyway, I'm going to stop here, because my use cases aren't necessarily what's best for your project. I'm a CRIMPer (Compulsive Researcher of Information Management Programs), which means I can miss the forest for the trees at times... especially since I have an awful lot of trees, in different software, in which I have a lot of data, notes, ideas, and half-written books.

(I haven't even mentioned Scrivener before this point... or ConnectedText, whose calendar your date-based pages reminded me of. I actually used CT for quite a while and then realized that I couldn't really use the text anywhere else; that was before I caught the markdown religion.)

comment by Roaman · 2019-10-28T08:21:37.948Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

New version pushed up

Paste out now handles block-references well (they just appear as the text that appears in the references)

Should also paste out pretty nice into most apps

Pasting in from plain text (and from scrivener) keeps formatting

OneNote provides some very strange formatting when you try to paste it into our app (or most other apps) -- but it'll give you the right outline structure if you use Command-Shift-V for paste as plain text.


comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2019-10-21T00:54:05.242Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This is an outstanding example of how not to respond to user feedback.

comment by henryaj · 2019-11-08T18:51:54.436Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW
Um, isn't that basically a wiki?

Just picking up on this one point - I've used a bunch of personal wikis in the past; they just haven't stuck for me. Roam has some nice features around this, like backlinking (so just by idly putting something in [[brackets]] you're starting to collate a list of pages under that term) and searching through text to find 'missing links', neither of which I've seen in wikis.

comment by pjeby · 2019-11-09T06:17:39.707Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That just means you've not seen that many wikis. ;-) For example, the ConnectedText personal wiki software includes backlinks, date-specific pages, and graph visualization of link structures, much like Roam. It also has the ability to include pages in others, and some of Roam's other features could likely be emulated using CT's scripting and templating systems, though it'd be a pain.

I actually own a copy of an older version of CT but stopped using it many years ago because it's not terribly interoperable with anything else.

comment by ryqiem · 2019-10-19T19:33:46.648Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hi pjeby, thanks for your comments!

Just to be clear, I have no affiliation with Roam nor am I part of their development. I'm a user just like everyone else.

I use Workflowy for mobile capture and can copy to/from it just fine. I use Chrome on macOS for Roam (through Nativefier), so I don't know why that isn't consistent. I've added it to their bug-report (which currently lives on Slack, very alpha!)

The interface scales really well, so if you want larger text (as I did), I highly recommend simply zooming in the browser.

The reading may be a subjective thing, I quite like it. I'm sure interface customisations are going to be in the works.

Linking to/from bullet-points and having backlinks show up is a large part of the draw for me.

comment by pjeby · 2019-10-19T20:16:33.111Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I use Workflowy for mobile capture and can copy to/from it just fine.

Depending on the direction of copy/pasting, I either ended up with huge blobs of text in one item, or flat lists without any indentation. i.e., I couldn't manage structure-preserving interchange with any other tool except (ironically enough) my markdown editor, Typora. A bullet-point list or paragraphs from Typora would paste into Roam with structure, and I could also do the reverse. But markdown bullet point lists aren't really interchangeable with any other tools I use, so it's not a viable bridge to my other outlining tools.

comment by Conor White-Sullivan (conor-white-sullivan-1) · 2019-10-20T10:22:34.511Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. That's a bug.

Most of our users have come from Workflowy, Dynalist, Evernote or Notion, and copy/paste works (preserving indentation) for them, both to and from.

If you email conor or josh at roamresearch.com happy to help.

comment by mr-hire · 2019-10-20T01:08:07.414Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds like a bug. You might want to report it to Roaman on LW.

comment by Jordan90 · 2019-10-19T22:39:57.556Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Could you post a link to Roam? Or tell me where to find it? Google and Google Play are drawing blanks....

Cheers!

comment by ryqiem · 2019-10-18T17:01:06.611Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hi Jordan! Sorry about that, you can find it here: http://roamresearch.com

I've added a link to the post as well.

comment by Jadael · 2019-10-19T15:46:13.547Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I've been using Roam for about four weeks (found via the Zettelkasten Method article linked in an earlier comment). I wholeheartedly agree with every claim above- Roam lets me freely write down things I want to remember, in a way that I can trust future-me will actually be able to use.

I track commitments using the /TODO feature, and have found that it doesn't even matter when and where I write it (it doesn't even have to be on the page for the relevant project), because all you have to do is browse to the page "TODO" to see all your to-do items.

When you check them off ("{{[[todo]]}}" renders as a clickable checkbox), the word "TODO" gets replaced with "DONE" and thus the item vanishes from the TODO page.

I too make a page for anything I want to mentally upgrade to a "project"; my rule of thumb is anything that is going to require meetings is a 'Project' rather than just a 'Task'. I also throw the #project tag into it somewhere.

I also encourage this as a lifehack: make a page for "?" and periodically review any questions you've written down.

I keep the follow pages in my favorites: TODO, DONE, ?, and any active projects.