Author: Ruud Hein

Using Namespaces Instead of Prefixes in Roam Research

Using Namespaces Instead of Prefixes in Roam Research

Some Roam Research users use page title prefixes in order to quickly differentiate between different types of content. E.g.: “B: How To Take Smart Notes” for the book, and “A: How To Take Smart Notes” for an article about it.

Roam Research has a feature built-in with similar advantages and additional features: namesspaces.

Namespaces are, and are simply created, by using a backslash / in the page title. In our examples we might end up with “Book/How To Take Smart Notes” and “Article/How To Take Smart Notes”

Added Advantages

Semi-Automatic Namespace Collation

Typing [[Book/How To Take Smart Notes]] somewhere will:

  1. Create the page Book/How To Take Smart Notes
  2. If you go to the page [[Book]], the link, your mention of the page, will show up under Unlinked References.
  3. If you go to the page [[How To Take Smart Notes]], the link, your mention of the page, shows up there under Unlinked References as well.

Note that [[Book/How To Take Smart Notes]] is just a page title, just like any other, so in and by itself it will not make the page show up as a reference on the Book page.

Folders on Export

When doing an export to Markdown, the namespaces will become folders, and the last part of the namespace will be a regular file in that folder.

This has two advantages:

  1. Natively avoids name collission
  2. File system safe filenames. Prefixing a page title with something like “B: How To Take Smart Notes” can cause problems when extracting your ZIP file in Windows, as the colon is a forbidden character in filenames. Utilities like 7zip can replace the forbidden character with an underscore, but this will break your links to the file in the other files.

Clean Display Options

The initial default for displaying namespace links is to show the whole link.

Using the shortcut sequence CTRL C followed by CTRL L you can cycle through that option, abbreviated, or isolated:

  1. [[Book/How To Take Smart Notes]]
  2. [[B/How To Take Smart Notes]]
  3. [[How To Take Smart Notes]]

The color of the links will change according, so visually it is readily apparent 2 & 3 are namespace links

Data Portability (& Roam Research)

Data Portability (& Roam Research)

Data portability is the idea that you can bring your data “with you”; if you leave a certain SaaS or piece of software, you should be able to export your data.

Many, if not most, companies now allow you to do so.

There’s usually no danger for them to do so because raw data export isn’t the same as having the data end product you’re used to.

I got to think about this a lot again as I’m experimenting with the most excellent Roam Research, and one of their long term promises of assurance is “you can export the data; you won’t lose what you put in”, and I don’t think that’s 100% correct.

To illustrate that, for the remainder of the article imagine you’re subscribed to a service where you 1) upload your photos, 2) which you then edit and mark up


The first thing about data portability is that what we usually end up with when we export our data often isn’t the thing you’ve been working with on a day to day basis.

Evernote exports to an XML format with the file extension ENEX. Roam exports to JSON. For both these services, these are the most powerful, most inclusive export options.

In both cases you’d end up with one large file which contains the raw data of your notes, but not the essence of what you and I think of as a note.

Enex & Json exports. Neither resemble the actual notes you’re used to.

The equivalent in our photo service example is that if you would export your data (your photos), instead of ending up with a set of photos, you receive files with long strings of characters which a programmer could turn into photos but for all sense and purposes they aren’t photos to you. This is not what you’ve been looking at day to day.

The raw data of the enex/json screenshot shown above

Both services — Evernote and Roam — can also export in more readily consumable formats; Evernote in HTML files, Roam in MarkDown files.

Which lead us to the next point.


Depending on the functionality, the features, of the tool you exported data from, the tool’s functionality is the data.

Think of it this way. You upload your photos, you edit them, apply filter, add stamps, annotate, tag, describe. Then when you export your data you get your raw photos, and maybe a series of files describing which edits the system should apply to those photos, and what information. But for all sense and purposes, your photos now look nothing like they did when they were in the tool. They’re unedited, untagged, unannotated.

For a tool like Roam this means that what you built — the carefully built knowledge graph — isn’t what you get when you export your data

If you export to JSON all the data to have another tool that works with exactly the same rules in exactly the same manner rebuild that graph is there — but the JSON export isn’t itself that thing.

If you export to MarkDown the block references aren’t there, the bi-directional annotations aren’t there. Your graph isn’t there.

What a tool does with or for your data can be transformative up to the point where getting your raw data back is almost useless.


Planning, and testing, a Data Exit Strategy, is as important as your Backup Strategy: you don’t want to find out if it works or not by the time the rubber hits the road.

Before you commit to a tool, see what it exports how. Compare that end product to the value you hope to get from the tool; is what it exports of equal value as to what it contains, what you put it?

If not, how would you recuperate that value upon exit?


Of course this goes further than this and touches on the Uniqueness Of A Tool: the less unique the features, the easier to replace, but also the more untouched your data will be.

E.g.: a plain text editor is easy to replace as all it has to do, and all it produces, are plain text files. Using a plain text editor which can insert images would create a Tool Dependency: to see and use the feature you would need that tool.

Daily Outcomes & Life Review Template

Daily Outcomes & Life Review Template

A template that helps you set the 1-3 things you really want to get done today, followed by a look back at the day prompting you to look at what you did, what you learned, and what goes well.

To hit all the right notes in a day can be hard. There are so many should‘s that if you count them all up it seems as if they consume the whole day.

Counting your blessings, looking at what you did for yourself and for others, taking stock of what you learned, these are all things that sound great but fall by the wayside as soon as we really hit the grind.

As always, let’s make it automatic instead. Let’s add these key notes to our daily template.

Here’s what that looks like. You can copy and paste this into Evernote or download this ENEX file (right-click and save as…) and import it into Evernote.

Of course you can use the copy-and-paste version of the template anywhere: put in in Springpad, in todo.txt, wherever.

In Evernote I have it in my Templates folder. When I close my day and review this note I click to the pinned template in my favorites bar and copy a new version to my Daily Outcomes folder (on Windows I use the shortcut keys CTRL + N, C, N to copy the note template but if you prefer just use the mouse).

I title each day’s note with the date and name of the day.


Today’s Successful Outcome:

End of Day Review

What did I do today:

What did I learn?

What can I improve?

What kind act did I do?

What did I enjoy?

Three Things I’m Grateful For:

Rethinking Social: Where Do I Invest My (Life)Time?

Rethinking Social: Where Do I Invest My (Life)Time?


These days between roughly 9 AM and 5 PM this is the screen that welcomes me when I (try to) visit a social networking site. Using bookmarklets I can still post but I can’t visit, browse, read, or otherwise kill time.

Why Block?

Self-control is a limited resource; I need it for other things.

Making choices ahead of time and then setting it up so it’s automated and you’re cranking widgets is much more efficient.

Automate your decisions.

Yes But Why Block In The First Place?

checkbox Calm.

I want things to slow down.

The hurried rush of this, then that, 10-second touch-base here, press Like there, has got to stop.

The payback came quickly and is still building. A sense of calm. Expanded focus. Heightened concentration. Much longer time in The Zone. More books that I read more calmly. A richer InstaPaper list. Less media snacking. Balance.

checkbox Procrastination feeds on distractions.

"Before writing this post let me check email — oh, and I should be social and not ignore an @reply on Twitter… Well, might as well do a full round then and make sure Facebook and Google+ are covered too."

It doesn’t take that long. Maybe a minute or two if it’s really just a quick round? Longer if you stumble on "stuff". Much longer if you take into account the task-switching time.

checkbox I want to make my relationships count.

The first people to go to are the ones around me. The second my close family and friends I can only reach online. Then my social network.

Rethinking Social: From 300 To 30 Facebook Friends

Rethinking Social: From 300 To 30 Facebook Friends


Last week over a period of two days I unfriended most of my Facebook people.

I went from 300 people I know the names of to 30 people I know. Immediate family, friends. A handful of online people I know from the pre-social web days.

Easier To Share

  • Sharing with the core is easier when there’s nothing but the core.
  • I wanted to go from having to filter whom I post to, to sharing family news and photos without a second thought.
  • While I can share and exchange anywhere else with any setup, for many sharing == Facebook. I have to be here for and with them.


Relations consume time, attention, affection. Of each I have a finite amount. Where should I best invest it?

Besides the question What’s the return of a Like on status update of someone I only know by name I increasingly realized; who cares?

There’s a difference between the reaction of my mother and you when I show you both a photo of me holding a baby.

There is a level of caring for that directly influences the level of caring about.

Lifetime is really precious and I need to use it as genuine, relaxed, and joyful as I can; the relationships I live need to be real.

It Was Strangely Difficult

Weird but true.

Sometimes I clicked away a name and it was a Name, you know? Someone who is someone in the industry. And for a moment it made me feel like "there goes a valuable contact" or "I could be considered important merely by association, merely by the fact that this Person has friended me back".

I don’t want to be that guy, want to be way beyond all that, super mature and such, but there it was; a pang of oi…

Other names were hard to click away because it felt like ending an era, ending a period in my life.

But The Result

For the first time in a long time I go with real fun and joy to Facebook where I know I’m meeting with my clan. It’s a smaller place but it will do.


Elsewhere my social web is different.

Twitter is my public network although there too I trim. I share differently there too.

I’m rearranging my abode at Google+ Plus, liking the place quite a lot. Less of a water cooler than Twitter it’s a place where I look far beyond the SEO industry I work in.

Evernote Data Pruning: How To Keep Evernote Useful

Evernote Data Pruning: How To Keep Evernote Useful

The best way to keep your data clean & useful is to regularly do some easy tending and pruning.


Face it, when you started using Evernote you weren’t sure what to put in. Or you followed the idea of "dump everything in it" to the letter and now every search has way too many irrelevant results. Or you realize that your "how to use Evernote as a cookbook" period is over and you no longer need those entries.

Or you wish you would have tagged some notes. Or you would like to move personal notes to one notebook and article clippings to another.

An easy way to tend to this data household chore is by doing a search for notes created on that day in the years before.

Example: if today is December 28 then I can find the notes I made on December 28, 2009 by typing:

created:20091228 -created:20091229

The format there is since date, before date, and the result is a list of notes created on the since date only.

To view other years I simply change the year. My data goes back to 2005 when I started to use Evernote so it takes 5 searches.

I’m done with my data pruning in 1-2 minutes usually.


  • I delete a lot of material that is outdated or no longer piques my interest.
  • See times gone by as I come across log entries.
    evernote data pruning date search
  • Add or remove tags
  • Move items to new notebooks
  • Consolidate notes, tags or notebooks
  • Tweet older but interesting material
  • See the big(ger) picture in areas of interest
  • Get ideas for blog posts, articles


I use the same pruning procedure in PersonalBrain. The reports tab lets you pick a start/end date.It’s a bit more clicking with the calendar it has but it’s pretty cool to have your data in order.

You’re Just Being Interesting With Your “Information Overload”

You’re Just Being Interesting With Your “Information Overload”

Twitter’s Ev thinks Twitter can help you overcome Information Overload.

That’s Sillicon Valley thinking. Information "overload" is a Sillicon Valley type of problem. Such problems are mostly a matter of choice, exist in a very small sub-culture — and have virtually no baring on the real lives of normal people.

Read More Read More

The Return of the Nickname

The Return of the Nickname

Not having an online presence is starting to be as odd as not having a telephone number at all. A “what’s up with you then?”

Besides the fact that it is just … odd … it’s also increasingly impractical. Like not having a car to extend the range within which you can work, not having an online presence is limiting the number of times you’re going to be accepted for a job.

Why You Have To Be Present Online

cocktail party

When nary the geek could get online and “do” HTML to make a web page, online presence needn’t apply to everyone.

When Geocities made What You See Is What You Get (sort of…) web page designers or when Blogger launched – you still didn’t need an online presence because back then being online was just that: being online.

Since the rise of social media and now social networking it has become: being online.

Nicknames & The Second Profile

Back in the day” we used nicknames. Remember? Online was dangerous and you needed to remain somewhat anonymous.

So when Jane would join a fishing board she would be “flylady18” or when John would sign into his parenting forum he’d be “DaDude” or something.

What we experience now is that by being online as ourselves, we have no privacy. The lady going to the beach while “sick” is spotted via Facebook and fired. The disgruntled employee airing via Twitter has made a company enemy for life.


So the next wave will be regular people maintaining multiple social networking accounts; one under their own real name and at least one other under an assumed name.

These nickname profiles will enable people to be themselves online without fear. To vent. To talk about books, songs, movies, artists, that are otherwise just “not done”.

They’ll allow people to be on vacation, post to their close friends and relatives and not have the boss expect them to therefore be in reach of the telephone and thus work.

See also: