Vlad's Roam Garden

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Bringing knowledge and conversation closer together

One of the core workflows that Roam enables for me is assembling insight around new ideas (& defining terms) through backlinks

You'd mention a [[concept]] in different contexts:

day-note-first paradigm of interacting with notes is very complimentary to this

when writing about another idea and a connection occurs to you

Later, when you go to the concept page - it will have a lot of usages examples with rich context around it. Even though you haven't deliberately written about it.

You can use this assortment of context-rich backlinks as a direct thinking aid. Or if you decide to engage with the note deeper - you can hone your understanding by synthesizing the assortment of references into a text summary.

As a consequence, linking to things in my knowledge base is a very ingrained motion for me, when I write anything. And I miss an ability to do that in the contexts when I write outside my notes.

Referencing ideas in a conversation

One context in which I have this itch particularly often is texting. For me - writing a message in a chat has a flavor that feels very similar to creating a fleeting note.

I want to be able to refer to concepts that I have in my knowledge base as I talk to people & have that note-usage reflected in my notes.

This seems particularly relevant in the context of team knowledge bases and a group conversation

you should be able to reference things from your collective external brain to make the conversation more informative

and, as a side effect - solve the perennial problem of "team wisdom is spread in small bits through many channels in Slack" at the same time

Reflecting on this itch - it occurred to me that the mix of knowledge management and chat can be a source of a variety of fruitful interactions.

Intersections between knowledge-management and chat

you should be able to reference the pages from within the knowledge base in the course of the conversation

when you talk about a concept in a chat - that should be reflected back into the knowledge base

Have different lenses on the same conversation (document focus vs chat focus)

Currently, the comments in collaboration tools (Google Docs, Figma, etc) are disconnected from your standard communication medium (e.g. Slack)

That causes a fragmentation of your conversation

you need to follow it in several places

you never sure where have you talked about that particular topic

and when you try to search for it - you need to cover several places

At the same time it's valuable to have conversations in-context.

We can make this situation better by having one messaging medium and presenting different lenses on a given conversation, based on your context.

This solves the fragmentation issues mentioned above and allows you to present the most appropriate conversation UX, depending on the situation.

Channels are a great way to organize your conversation and allow you to follow the specific things you really care about.

As with other hierarchical system - having many channels tends to add friction at the point of information entry - you have to decide which point in the hierarchy you need to place the message/note at. And many people find it quite frustrating.

As an alternative - one can follow a model similar to Roam's daily pages:

Most messages should originate in the few "core" channels (like general or random)

When you mention a concept in your message - that message will also automatically be reflected in the "concept stream"

Which is basically a channel that receives all the messages containing a reference to that concept

As well as any new mentions of the concept from the knowledge base.

When you read the message in one of the streams - it marked as read everywhere.

With this approach you gain an ability to very granularly subscribe to the things you care about, while minimizing friction at the time of sending the message.

<application specific components in chat>

Messaging as a fast ingestion layer

It's not easy to "just combine", say, Slack and Roam because of the siloed nature of modern apps.

My hope for this post is to highlight this potential for interaction and to hopefully make it more likely it materializes in one of the products out there.

Of course, as an engineer one way of changing things I'm unhappy about in the world is building new things.

It didn't seem wise to build a new product around this and competing with both Slack and Roam, though. While I think implementing these ideas would make both note-taking and messaging better, it's by no means 10x improvement over the incumbents πŸ™‚.

I've recently arrived at a way to conceptualize this as a facet of a broader problem - messaging is a cross-functional concern that many projects need to re-implement and it'd probably be good to have something like "Stripe for messaging"


this is of-course a part of a broader issue of lack of interoperability

but these particular domains seem particularly _well suited _? to go together

the notion of "virality" for ideas or mode of conversation

when used in the mode of you sharing things with "unitiated" people

Tana people expressed interest in solving this and have some experiments with mixing in conversation into their product, it's very early-stage and not available publicly though

https://fibery.io/ talks about this as a part of their vision, but they haven't started working on this yet as far as I know.

Prior art on tag streams

Google Wave had it all