Impulse: The Roamans Are Coming

We did this a few years ago already. Things 3 was released. 2Do was gaining traction. OmniFocus was full steam ahead on automation. And Todoist was showing up on the computers of people who had never heard the term productivity. Times were crazy in the task management space.

The fuel behind it all was the perception that the right tool with the right feature set would help us become more effective and do the things on our lists. If I weren’t checking things off the lists, it was the system’s fault, not mine. So, of course, I need to move to a new tool.

And that new app or service needed to have a ton of features so I could pinpoint the exact system I wanted. It needed to be fiddle-worthy.

But as I look back on that period and I reflect on the task management systems I see from these same users, I realize that they aren’t using all those special, shiny features. Yes, there were good advances, but the bulk of users aren’t using all the extras. They’ve gone back to straight-up simple lists, which any/all of them can do quite easily.

And now, since we don’t learn lessons, we get to repeat this adventure from the top. We’re starting to see the same flurry of activity and development that we saw three years ago in task management. But this time, we’re focused on note-takers.

Before you delete this and scream at this email, you should know that I’m far from against note-taking apps. I even have two I’ll recommend here.

I get it, too. It’s nice to embed content from other places and link tools together. Those are features I’m supporting. And if that’s what you want, I highly recommend Slite. (I’m not affiliated with them in any way. Just really like their direction.) But more cases than not, these companies want to go beyond the creation of rich notes and consolidated information. They now want you to spend time in them as a means of “ideation.”

The goal is to create a tool that requires a significant amount of time in the tool to derive true value from it. That’s the mantra behind the so-called Roam Cult or the Roamans. To get the most productivity out of the tool and come up with real breakthroughs, you need to build up a backlog of ideas in the notes and link them together. That linking then allows you to make connections you wouldn’t have previously connected.

And Roam isn’t the only one creating this functionality. Obsidian is doing the same and now Notion is following as well. And to be honest, the only one of these that I understand is Notion. But that’s primarily because Notion isn’t intended to be an external idea generator like Roam. Notion’s goal is to give you flexibility and communication with others.

But probably the most difficult piece of this puzzle to swallow is the pricing model. If you want to get started with Slite or Notion, it’s FREE! If you want to get started with Roam Research, it’ll set you back $165/year!

Sidenote: Roam also uses Segment to collect tons of data on you. And if that’s not a concern, I recommend The Social Dilemma.

Can you get good value out of Roam Research? Yes. Do I think it’s for everyone? No. Is it for you? Only if you are a content creator, doing a lot of writing, or doing, you know, research. Are there other tools that are better and cheaper? Absolutely.

If you want to build an idea knowledge base, look at nvAlt or Drafts. They’ll do the wikilink piece without all the tracking and the expense. And you won’t need to spend near as much time with them to get the same value out of them.

Final note: I’m sure this will set some people off. Or you have an exception that makes it good for you. Or you think I’m spot on! In either case, I’d love to hear from you. Just hit reply and give me your thoughts. :wink:


What Is It Like To Leave OmniFocus For Pen And Paper? [Webinar Recording] - YouTube

For anyone who couldn’t make it to the webinar last Friday. Here’s the full recording.


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