Adventure: Second Brain with RoamResearch

New Year’s Eve morning, I decided to start the new year with Roam.

A few days ago, I noticed, I passed the threshold of 5,000 notes in Evernote. The last two years, my daily-not-so-daily Logs are missing a piece of organization, that I might find in Roam. That’s how Travis Daily started his post on how to migrate from Evernote to Roam “I have 5000 plus notes in my Evernote account”.

Roam Sources

The first time, I heard about Roam was on the 104th episode of the React podcast by Chantastic. Jani Eväkallio talked about Roam and about his app called Foam, that allows you to transform your VSCode instance to a Roam app. The ideas on Roam are all based on Tiago Forte’s work and Build a Second Brain approach. There is actually a “Second Brain Manifesto”

Roam Research doesn’t have an API yet for further integration with other tools but there is a ‘Private API’ by Artur Piszek from Warsaw, working at Automattic. Artur also created the Roam Block plugin, I have yet to test.

Import all Evernote items to Notion

I already have a Notion account I started and then never used from 2019.

Turns out my notes numbers (over 5,000) are inflated. In 2012, in a misguided attempt to preserve Twitter Favorites, I sync them with Evernote via IFTTT, to never looked at them again. I let it run between Dec 14, 2012 to April 29, 2015, and I accumulated 2112 single notes. Those won’t come over to RoamResearch. Since then, I archive Tweets, favorites aka likes and follows on Google Sheet.

I felt great relief when Notion’s import script showed me the breakdown of notes in notebooks, so I can select the ones I would want to import. The breakdown also reveals some abandoned attempts to organize my notes.

It takes more than a couple of minutes, I guess. 30 minutes into the import time, I could only see notes back to 2018. It seems, the connection only imported about 550 of the 2872 notes and then stopped. I tried to start it again, and it counted through the imported once rather quickly so there seems to be a duplicate check. I am happy about that. I read through the documentation on Evernote import, and it didn’t mention any rate limits.

I started a chat through the Help and Support pages at Notion. I connected with two people. “This is definitely not intended behavior and has been filed with our engineering team. Unfortunately, we may not have a fix right away, but know it’s on our to-do list.” Meanwhile, I’ll follow this advice: “Sometimes it’s caused by a single (usually large) page. If you are importing multiple notebooks, would you mind trying to import your notes in smaller batches? If there are lots of photos, videos, etc. I’d try importing those a few at a time, but if they’re just text you can import them in larger batches :)”

Moving in Evernote only works with 50 Notes at a time. God, my grandmother was right.

Computers are a colossal waste of time!

Oma Pauli

I copy/pasted today’s#1023 note over to Roam to get acquainted with the future interface. I might as well go on our lunch run.

15 days in I am still in love with Roam and now really need to continue the work to migration Evernote content to Roam Research.

From Notion to RoamResearch

So now that many notes have been imported to Notion, I exported them as instructed. The import into RoamResearch works, but it’s only 10 files at a time. 🤦‍♀️

I also expected that RoamResearch would be able to read the created date and import it accordingly. Now all have today’s date. I had to change every note’s name to turn it into a Daily Note. For that purpose, a 10 file limit is probably good.

Private-api

I had hoped that Artur Priszek’s private-api would get me started, but it doesn’t have much documentation beyond the read me and the roam-quick command, I could get working. I need to dive into code, to figure out how it would work beyond. I can see myself creating a little CLI app that hides away the access credentials and lets me write via the command line something like rem 'Call your mother tomorrow' and have it show up in the Quick Capture of the app, when I switch over to the app again.

What I Like about using Roam Research

  • Command + K works for adding link to highlighted text. It also uses pure Markdown [link text](linkurl) and converts it to links once you leave the editing mode.
  • Adding a tag is as easy as adding a # before the work.
  • Can import JSON + Markdown.
  • Slash command and first item on the list is the TODO item once I hit enter my checkbox are back.
  • The Sidebar shows me all Todos in one screen as well as the “Done” items.
  • The auto-creation of daily pages is neat and a time saver. I started adding future dates to do items or preparation for meetings etc. very helpful. In the morning, I open the RoamResearch app and see what my past self has in store for me.
  • Easy page merge: So with any other notes app, that has a tagging feature, I would never get the spelling right for hashtags and other tags and end up with too many tags that are misspellings, and they are a pain to consolidate, so I never did. With RoamResearch, when I discover I two similar tags, I decide on a single one and just change the page title of the other one, and it merge the two page. Brilliant.
  • The biggest tools especially after I import the Evernote notes will be the ‘Unlinked references’ it finds for a certain topic. It unloads the cognitive loads, you have to put into document management, for when you forget the coding of certain things.
A page with Unlinked References to the page title. It offers a “Link All” feature now.

What I find missing or wanting

  • Definitely an API to integrate with other services.
  • Faster load on mobile. It’s spins for multiple seconds until I can start adding text, and sometimes I can’t get it to sync from other devices.
  • Seems at publishing date, the right sidebar is broken. It’s just shows an empty column.

More RoamResearch Resources

Deep Dive Into Roam’s Data Structure – Why Roam is Much More Than a Note Taking App by Zsolt Viczián

After a month of using it, I am definitely comfortable, sometimes still lost. February will be the month going from Novice to competent user on the Dreyfus’ “Five-Stage Model of Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition”. I just read it. Speaking of Reddit, there is a RoamResearch community and in a pinned post, are some thoughts on how to work on projects. That’s my next adventure.

What are you best practices for Roam Notetaking and writing? Feel free to share in the comments or email to pauli@icodeforapurpose.com

By Birgit Pauli-Haack

web + mobile strategist & coder 4 nonprofits. #nptech #WordPress - @gutenbergtimes host Gutenberg Changelog podcast https://apple.co/2Xece9H biz @paulisystems

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