Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Robert Haisfield. He is the Founder of Influence Insights, as well as the behavioral product strategist at Spark Wave. Focusing on behavior design and gamification, he applies his knowledge to tech products better accomplish their intended goals.
Norman Chella: [00:00:00] RoamFM
Robert Haisfield: [00:00:04] One of my main goals with my public Roam is that I want people to be able to find what they’re looking for without necessarily knowing what they’re looking for.
Norman Chella: [00:00:15] Hello there. Welcome to RoamFM. Here we dive into the minds workflows and machinations of the #roamcult, the believers of Roam Research.
My name is Norman Chella, and I am on a mission to deconstruct wisdom from all walks of life. So we can understand each other better.
In this episode, we are going to have a chat with Robert Haisfield, who is the founder of influence insights, as well as the behavioral product strategist at spark wave.
Focusing on behavior design and gamification, he applies his knowledge tech products to enable users to better accomplish their goals. Now building his own file-based hypertext system. We sat down to have a talk about how he uses Roam Research to achieve all of this from the belief that thoughts are ephemeral, unless written down, Rob went from taking notes for stand up comedy, penning down thoughts from behavioral science papers and applying that knowledge in consulting.
We also discussed about the behavior of people. What do they expect from entering a public roam and what kind of entry points should we set up to accommodate for them different readers, from explorers to those seeking a specific note, Rob shared a variety of views. So it was really great to have this conversation with him. So without further ado, let’s dive into my chair with Rob Haisfield, founder of Influence Insights.
Well, might as well just get right into it. Uh, Rob, welcome to the show. Now, we just talked about the fact that there is a certain element of chaos, one when presenting your Roam to other people and to trying to write your notes in a way where, well, can we use it to teach other people? Or can we, when going through say tours or somebody else or with, um, how people are using Roam, how can we make it so that it’s easy for people to understand? So. I do want to ask about your public graph in a bit, but let’s backtrack a little bit because I want to talk about your Pre-Roam origin story.
What were you doing before you were stumbling into Roam and how did you meet with this tool?
Robert Haisfield: [00:02:20] So I’ve always been, well, not always for a very long time, I’ve been the sort of person who needs to write down. Everything, you know, I basically, I basically don’t consider a thought as having been had really, if it doesn’t get written down because it’s just a, it’s ephemeral.
Uh, if it, if it’s not expressed in some sort of way, that makes it more concrete, you know, and I think that some of. My habits with note taking go all the way back to like when in college I was doing standup comedy and in order to keep track of like all of my joke ideas, something that I realized very quickly is no, I would not remember the joke later if I didn’t write it down, you know, like, imagine I just asked you, okay, what are all the funny jokes you’ve made to your friends in the last few days?
Like you can’t remember that, you know? And so like down everything, every possible thought, but then I realized, you know, there’s not really like a good way to divide up the quality of these notes. You know, like some of them are just joke premises. They’re like just something that might have an inkling of being funny.
Some of them were ready to present in. So I started doing a little bit more of like note organization. Um, and so like, I’d have a folder for, a folder for joke premises and a folder for, um, jokes to develop in a joke, and a folder for jokes to perform, you know? And so that was kind of like my first, um, My first foray into note, serious note taking like outside of school requirements, note taking is kind of what I’m referring to.
Uh, started a, an app. I launched a product while I was in college. And just over the course of like doing that, you know, I had to take notes. I had to make my thoughts, something that I could reference later, you know, and I needed to. I don’t know, just make it a little bit more concrete in that way. And then, you know, fast forward, like now I’m doing my behavior design and gamification consultancy pretty much straight out of college.
I started doing that and. I just started learning a lot more and learning a lot more in an autodidactic way. You know, like I was reading the papers that interested may, uh, reading the behavioral science papers that interested me. I was, uh, working on products where I actually got to like. Why my ideas and see how they fit onto the real world.
Hmm. You know, like these are the sorts of things that you have to be writing down your thoughts in order to do. Like, my job is literally that I research things and I think about how to apply them into real world context with products. Before Roam, I was using Bear for that. Then I switched to Notion then back to Bear.
And now I’m in Roam and bear. Yeah. Uh, this tool has been really incredible for me because I mean, like I could see myself 10 years in the future, 15 years in the future, uh, still working on behavior design. I mean like the, the principles of it are essentially, I’m using behavioral science principles to influence people’s behavior and I’m doing that with products.
That’s something where there’s going to be a lot of applicability of whatever insights, thoughts, whatever I come to during this time period of my life. I want my notes to be durable, uh, through that. So that way I’m still going to have access to all of these thoughts, um, later, because I would hate to be still working on behavior design or behavioral product strategy as I’ve been starting to call it lately.
Um, I’d hate to still be working on that in 15 years and have my thoughts, have my questions, my ideas all still mainly influenced by recent memory. I want durable notes and Roam has been incredibly helpful for that and starting to turn that into more of a digital garden that I can share and make public has also helped me gain some extra value out of that.
And think more clearly. Through things, you know, so that’s a kind of long winded, long winded answer, but, um, but yeah, Roam has been incredibly helpful for all of my, all aspects of my work, all aspects of my life, uh, for my relationships. Uh, I’m a big fan of the app.
Norman Chella: [00:07:26] Yeah. And that’s why we’re on the show, which is always great to talk about how Roam is quite an activator on the potential, the potential of connecting all of your notes, all of your thoughts that you have pinned down. And I really do agree with making sure that your thoughts are actually written down so that there actually is value there.
Because if it’s just fleeting, then it’s not really worth remembering. And you know, it doesn’t really hold. It’s not really durable
as you say.
Um, I want to know actually, how did you find out about Roam? Is it through Twitter? Like a lot of people talking about it, or is it a matter of you trying to search for different ways to connect or network thoughts, and Roam came up as an option?
Robert Haisfield: [00:08:14] I actually came to Twitter because of Roam, not, uh, I didn’t discover Roam. Well, huh. Okay.
So at the time. When I came to Roam. I had been using some combination of Notion and Bear, uh, where I would use Notion for sort of like project tracking and yeah. And documents that needed a little bit more finality to them. And I would use Bear just for like quick capture all the time, but I didn’t want that to be the way that I was using it.
You know, like I wanted it to be the case that with Notion. I’d be able to have all of my thoughts that are relevant to the project, and I’d have them all go exactly where they need to go. But to do that in Notion takes a lot of work. You need to set up a lot of structure and you need to be very patient with load times.
And I don’t know about you, but like, I have a very, I feel like I have a low, short term memory. If I don’t like, get the thought down immediately, then it will go away half, like a quarter of the time, you know? So I couldn’t, I couldn’t do that with Notion. Um, Bear was more helpful. But at the same time, I wasn’t really using it right.
Like I was using all the hashtags and stuff. And I was using that as my main sorting mechanism. But that still kind of hides things away to an extent. And there there’s this weird balance where it’s like, it’s useful to have your notes in multiple different locations at once, but having that whole file folder structure, um, Because like it’s file folders, but with tags, but having that structure, it just it’s simultaneously encourages the user to categorize a lot more things than they would with a normal file folders structure, because there’s less friction to it.
Um, but at the same time, the more files and folders that you end up having, the harder it gets to navigate them, I was struggling to really make that work. For me, uh, that combination worked for me. And then I think in the Notion Made Simple Facebook group. I ended up coming across some posts that was saying something to the tune of a lot of people who have wanted notion to work for them are finding that Roam scratches the itch, and then it was a link to a tweet thread, I think by like Adam Keesling or just. Jamie Sutton, Justin Sutton, something. Yeah. Thought. And it described Roam as being like a super suit fits itself around you, based on what you put i. And so then I started using Roam. Uh, my first few days on it that were right around Christmas and I reflected on my whole year.
And just starting to see those interconnections, uh, build up had was it’s an incredibly rewarding experience for me. And so then I was like, okay. Now I’ve got to start with some projects. I have like three or four different projects. I was juggling at the time, you know, like one, I had a talk to give at some point, so I needed to collect a whole ton of thoughts and then progressively summarize and narrow it down.
I had a behavioral audit to write for a product, which was a similar process. And I was also working on some, a couple products with spark wave and doing similar sorts of things, just meeting with them, talking with them about some of the challenges that they were facing.
So I needed to track all of that and Roam’s tagging and filtration, uh, it just made that work and I barely needed to think about it. It was an insane experience. Like. I was very much sold at that point. Since then something that I’ve realized is that one of the good things about Roam and really getting involved in the roamcult, is that it teaches you better note taking hygiene and strategies, I guess.
So, so it’s like now something I’m trying to do is I’m trying to, I’ve got a public realm that has a whole ton of thoughts on it, but it’s kind of hard to link and share it with people, especially people who don’t know how to use Roam, really. Because navigating Roam is a whole skill in itself that people need to learn.
Right. And so I’m doing it in the form of a bunch of, um, markdown files that I’m editing in Bear. And one of the things that I’ve noticed from it though, is that it’s just teaching me better habits with linking notes together, instead of just relying on the tag file and folder structure that I had from before.
Um, so now I’m kind of like doing some combination of that. Uh, I’m realizing the purpose of both and making an effective note taking system, and I feel very thankful to Roam and the roamcult for sort of like making me a bit more intentional about my note taking. Practices like, like I’ve, I’m rambling, but I, okay.
I’ve used Roam for like for six months now or so. My private Roam has almost gotten overwhelming to me, you know, because I think in large part, because I have this huge amount of quantity, uh, I have like over 3000 different pages in it right now. Like you should see my graph view. It’s just idiotic. Um, and it’s like, A lot of those pages were built around essentially using it in the same way that I was using it Bear, but just having a system that worked a little bit better for that, you know, like, like the way that I used to use Bear with like the hashtags and the hashtag sub trees.
And stuff like that is essentially just tagging, that’s what you’re doing when you’re doing all these like very keyword oriented things. It’s just that Rome is better set up for them, then bear is, but at the same time, that’s still not quite the best sort of like. Hygiene, I guess for note taking, um, like with my public room, I’m finding myself using a, I wouldn’t quite call it like evergreen notes because, um, I’m sure Andy would look at them and feel like, Oh, these are just notes.
I, I don’t know, but it’s like, my public roam is a lot more oriented around ideas, you know, like as opposed to like full ideas, as opposed to keywords. Which has, is ended up making it a lot more navigable and in a lot of situations, a lot more usable too, for me, if I’m trying to think through something pretty quickly, and now that I’m doing it in Bear too.
And to be clear, I’m not switching off from Roam for this like, bear is very much just what I’m using for the website thing, but now that I’m doing it in Bear, uh, I’m tagging, I’m linking notes together based around ideas. And I’m also creating index pages for myself, just as I go, I’m creating. Also, uh, what I, what I’m sort of considering like threaded notes too, you know, like where it’s one idea presented big, uh, and… I posted an example of this recently.
Um, let me pull up the note though real quick, uh, speak, just read it out loud and describe something real quick. Uh, it says the title of it is speak to the user with a shared vocabulary. And then I’ll read out the content new users do not yet have the vocabulary to understand the app, that’s a page that I’m linking to.
However, double bracket people start using an app with different prior skill levels, double bracket. As double bracket users, skill level increases, time double bracket. So does their vocabulary. They are able to conceptualize and express desires that they couldn’t express before. So double bracket, user goals change over time.
That is a lot of content to cram into one paragraph because all of those double bracketed pages have their own thoughts written on them. It’s insanely high information density, but it lets people expand on what they want to learn about in a very efficient way, you know?
And so I feel like using Roam for as long as I’ve had and starting to realize some of the challenges with quantity and the keyword approach, uh, has made me switched to more of an evergreen type note approach, which has been incredible, useful and powerful for me. At the same time. Now that I’m going back to bear, I’m also starting to realize, and also now that I’m using queries and a lot more intentional of a way in Roam, I’m starting to realize essentially, like, what is the difference between things that I want to essentially tag, which are keywords and things that I want to just link together, which are ideas, which are questions, which are people’s sorts of things.
Norman Chella: [00:18:26] Wow. The, the need to be able to present these evergreen notes is the one that I’ve always wanted to ask you about because I have your public roam right here, actually. So. Well, we were looking at it right here on the video version and so point this to me for the shared vocabulary.
Robert Haisfield: [00:18:46] Oh, that one’s not in there yet.
Norman Chella: [00:18:48] It’s not there yet. Yeah. Okay.
Robert Haisfield: [00:18:50] That one’s not in there yet, but another page that you might want, you might be able to go to is go to user involvement.
Norman Chella: [00:19:01] Okay. So. In this page in particular, it’s one phrase, one keyword and it’s expansion of one, uh, definitions, and then your interpretation on it. And the, like you said, a high information density either per block or per block that is nested under each one.
I’m curious now, since you have taken a great amount of effort in creating a public Roam, or at the very least a public room being a, a type of digital garden. How do you deal with having a ton of information density that is not too overwhelming and catering in terms of accessibility for those who well, they may not know you that well until they’ve died, like that did a deep dive on a public room and they know all the phrases or all the vocabulary that is very relevant to what you’re thinking about. And the non roam research users who see your digital garden for the first time, but then they see one block and there’s like five different pages. I would love to hear your take on accessibility in a public Roam or like at least in a garden it’s…
Robert Haisfield: [00:20:13] well, in terms of accessibility for people who don’t use it, it’s not, is the answer to that.
Like that’s, that’s why I’m doing a markdown file-based thing, because I want to be able to share this with people. Right. That’s why I’m doing it in public, but, but it’s like, there, there’s a few things that make it so public Roams are difficult for people who don’t know how to use Roam. Right. One is that you are writing well, if you’re writing well in Roam, then you’re doing it in this sort of outline structure.
Right, where. Where, where, like the thing about it is that, like you’re saying, okay, this idea builds on that idea. So that means it’s a block invented underneath the block, or, and that’s also like the reason why you might have sister nodes as well. Like you’re essentially telling Roam the relationships between blocks you’re conveying, meaning through the structure of your writing.
Which is much more difficult to do in a file based thing, you know, like, like just a page, uh, that’s not written in an outline structure. Your main channels of communication are the text, uh, and like the content, right. You know, like, maybe you have access to like headers and such, and that might also be a really good way to do it.
That might be better in some instances than an outline structure, but for people who don’t know how to use Roam, that’s jarring. For people who do know how to use Roam, that adds some extra meaning to what you’re conveying to them. Because even if they’re not necessarily like, maybe even, even if they haven’t articulated to themselves, that that’s how blocks relate to each other.
I think most users end up picking up on it just through the way that filters end up working for them.
Norman Chella: [00:22:15] Yeah. I think that contextual relevance really helps if you know how to use Roam, you know how to navigate through this Roam, but if you don’t and then you get lost, and that’s what I get worried about.
I think you did actually talk about this, uh, and thinking out loud in your, what was it chatting with glue? Is that right? Yeah. Chatting with glue video, which I’ve, I’ve watched her, which is pretty fascinating because within the video you have the comics of chatting with glue and you have your Roam notes where you reread through the notes that you ran down at first glance off the comic, what you’ve interpreted at that time.
And then on video live in front of an audience you want to articulate the thought process behind you writing these notes in front of an audience. So there is like a change in your process of articulation. And what did these notes mean to me? And how can I explain that to you? Right.
So what is the difference between your thought process when writing on a public room and, uh, when you’re trying to articulate, say that chatting with glue video, uh, live on YouTube.
I would love to hear your take on saying your Roam notes out loud and writing them out loud.
Robert Haisfield: [00:23:36] Right? Well, I’d say with regards to my public Roam, I am writing it with a little bit higher of a bar in terms of how clearly I want to articulate ideas, you know? So it’s like, there’s a lot of public rooms out there where people write in it, exactly right. Like they write in their notes normally.
And I just don’t think you can really do that well in a public room and still have it be navigable by other people, you know, like, so one of my main goals with my public room is that I want people to be able to find what they’re looking for without necessarily knowing what they’re looking for.
I was talking earlier about how Rome can be, is inaccessible. A Public Roam is inaccessible to people who don’t know how use Rome, however, the people who do know how to use and navigate Rome. It’s an amazing way to browse through ideas because it’s set up for that exploratory browsing. If you’re using like evergreen note type titles.
And you’re using some keyword type titles and those keywords are more like, um, I don’t know, essentially working as index pages for people like the backlinks, make things more navigable. Uh, hyperlinking very densely within the notes also makes things more navigable as well. I don’t know, like that’s one of the challenges.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve held off for so long on working on a, on a digital garden that is more of a file-based sort of thing, because I really wanted all of the expressiveness that Rome allows me through the structure of it. Um, And all of the freedom that, that gives the people who are exploring through their own.
Now I’m starting to find a couple solutions that seem like, okay. Combined with me, just generally writing more thoughtfully and also having backlinks, and maybe some other like frills, like, um, margin notes. And there’s some stuff I want to do with two dimensional navigation that I haven’t seen anyone done, but that’d be more on the, like, if anyone wants to help me build it, uh, I would really love to have that work.
What can you,
Norman Chella: [00:26:11] Can you, can you explain that for me? The two dimensional level,
Robert Haisfield: [00:26:14] Two dimensional navigation, I mean, it’d be hard. It’d be kind of hard to explain it. Uh, through just like audio. Uh, but it’s essentially, but, but I can give it a bit of a try if you pull up Andy’s notes, um, notes.andymatuschak.org.
So you’ll notice on that is like, if you click on any link on this page it switches the page to the right of it. And now can you open up another link from the evergreen note writing as a fundamental unit of knowledge work page? Okay. Now click on another link. Now go back to the, about these notes and click on a link from there.
It gets rid of everything. I hate that.
Yeah, I think that’s so frustrating because I want to be able to, I just want to be able to like track my way. I want to be able to like see the map of how I’ve gotten through, uh, how I’ve gone through his notes. And that’s something really nice about those, horizontal navigation, but I want to see also a level of verticality to it too, you know? So like maybe if you click on, can you open up a few pages real quick?
Norman Chella: [00:27:29] Just a few. Yeah.
Robert Haisfield: [00:27:30] Okay. Now, if you imagine, if you clicked on the pitching out corrupts within page and it opened the up above. The note to the right, you know, so you could scroll up and down through that.
Uh, and, and, and then those, every thought that you linked to essentially ends up getting connected to where it was clicked on from. And so you’re able to track multiple trains of thought. Um, you know, like the way that you would imitate that right now is by opening up multiple tabs in your browser to get the same general experience.
But I, I just like having the spatial element, haven’t been able to find anything that will let me do that yet, but I’m calling that one of the unnecessary, but cool things at this point. Uh, but I’ve really loved that. There’s some other things I want to do that would be based on that too. But, um, those are more like longterm. I just want to get something out on the internet soon.
Norman Chella: [00:28:32] I would think that what you just described is akin to something like a family tree, but you’d have to memorize where you explored. So this is like a second order of where you looking at these notes and then where you are clicking on these. If they’re all on the third column, oh for our audio listeners we’re still on Andy’s notes. Um, if they’re all on the third column and I can scroll between all of the notes on that same row, or at least on that same hierarchy, then I guess it can help.
I’m not sure if anyone else can find potential value from it, I can understand that. What do you, what do you think that that would be really useful in say Rome, I can see that being very useful, but then that will take up a lot of real estate on your screen.
So I’m not sure if that is just another excuse or another potential avenue for you to just be overwhelmed by notes. Like it, and Andy’s notes is already extremely exaensive. And maybe the limitation in that having these come up horizontally limits your ability to explore. But that may be a good thing because you want to make sure you don’t get too lost.
But then that it might be just dependent on user. It might just be dependent on the person reading the notes, because I may find that a little bit too directionless.
Robert Haisfield: [00:29:58] I mean, I like getting lost. I love getting lost, not going to lie. I think that’s what I think that’s the fun part about. Uh, hypertext is that it’s so well set up for exploration.
Uh, it’s really beautiful. I think one of the challenges with getting lost is people like to have a thread back. You know, they want to be able to make, yeah, exactly. They want breadcrumbs. They want to be able to track their history through this. You know, they want to be able to navigate back to where they’ve been and they also want to have some conceptualization of what’s left.
You know, uh, I think, I think if you solve those problems, then you can get rid of a lot of the challenges with, uh, the user experience with getting lost. And I also think that, yeah, it does take up a lot of screen in her face, but zoom is actually pretty awesome. Um, not many people do it right. And they don’t like, like I’ll literally as I’m uh, as I’m taking notes, like you’ll see this. And, uh, I have a tour that I did on of my public roam on the keep productive channel. If you actually go to my public roam and click on a few in the sidebar, uh, and open up a few through like shift clicks. What you’ll find is that like you can zoom out and you can see everything at a glance, uh, just the titles, you know?
And so I’ll actually like, I’ll even say though, too, for the sake of the writing experience, uh, I think 2d navigation would be fun, but I think what’s even better is just free form, you know, where you’re able to. Have notes come up and pop out windows, you know, like that’s been one of the lovely things about writing and there is, I have a, I’m able to just, I literally have like 20 different notes open on my screen.
I use a big monitor and I have them like layered on top of each other. They’re overlapping each other in some situations they’re kind of in piles, you know? And. Sometimes though I’m able to use Apple’s thing where you’re just able to like see all of the windows that are open for an application. And so I’m able to see all of those with all of the titles of each of those notes.
And I’m able to understand at a glance, what I have available to myself, if. Those piles were intentionally made by myself and they’re just zoom out, zoom in, then that’s even better navigation too. You know, like the problem isn’t quantity. It’s how you’re visualizing the quantity. Yeah. I don’t know where to go from that, but, but yeah, I think, I think that you raise a good point that. I think that you raise good points.
I think that those are. Challenges that could be solved, uh, as opposed to full on critiques of the idea. If that makes sense.
Norman Chella: [00:33:08] Yeah. Yeah, it does. It does because it’s, it’s a matter of accessing the notes. It’s really the methods in which we can explore these without losing ourselves are without the value diminishing and exploring it in the first place. Because I feel like digital gardens serve as a really good filter for a certain set of people. You can have someone on the internet where they have a private Roam, they have a personal website, which is, you know, typically a blog with lots of posts and articles and whatnot. And then you have your digital garden.
First of all, the term digital garden isn’t as popular. And like, it’s not like everybody has a digital garden and hypertext the term isn’t as popular as well. It’s already a filter because one, you have to know what that is, or you at least be curious enough and two for you to find value beyond the first few pages, just it’s only really interesting to those who are willing to be lost.
And maybe that’s because our definition of losing ourselves in somebody else’s notebooks, it’s so fascinating because the greatest value that we can get from that empirically is finding out how the other person thinks. So if I go through your digital garden, you can think about 10 different fields. You can talk about behavioral game design.
You can talk about gamification. You can talk about all the talks that you’ve done. All the references that you’ve created are now posted on your Roam. But I think that most greatest value that I can think of from exploring your notes is how you think as you go through these fields. And
I guess Roam is like a really, really good primer in exploring that potential, uh, for anyone who wants to either start their own garden privately, or even publicly, but. It’s just a matter of that balance.
Robert Haisfield: [00:34:52] Yeah. I think that Roam definitely like it goes back to what we were talking about earlier, where the outline structure is very expressive. Outlines and block references, page references.
It creates a very expressive writing experience. So it is much easier to get, um, a sense for how the other person thinks, uh, in Roam, like I, I can say confidently that there are a few pages in my public Roam that show a process that I use to think through things. And it’s modeled in a way that I couldn’t model in a normal like writing app, you know, uh, it’s modeled visually, but I would hope that people gain more value out of it, but just seeing how I think, you know, because otherwise that would mean that my thoughts aren’t useful, you know.
Like what I really want, what I really want to happen again is I want people to find what they’re looking for. Quickly, even when they don’t know quite how to articulate what they’re looking for.
If they do know what they’re looking for, then they should find it immediately. Um, and so I think that’s a little different from having the user get lost.
Norman Chella: [00:36:15] Like intentional searching. Right.
Robert Haisfield: [00:36:18] You can think about the way people search for behavior in a few minutes, different ways. Some of them include focused search, which is when I’m looking for a specific piece of information and I know where to find it.
Um, and so that’s where like a search bar is incredibly useful, um, or auto-complete texts in double brackets or parentheses. Then there’s also exploratory search, which is when people are looking for some sort of information, uh, they just don’t quite know how to articulate it. So someone might come to my website and they might really want to learn, like, what is behavioral product strategy, you know, or, uh, But they might not know, like quite the words that are, I used to describe it and I want them to still find it anyway, you know?
Um, like I actually had someone tell me a little while ago that they were considering a switch to consulting and they ended up finding my page in my public Roam about how I made the decision to pursue consulting over a PhD. And so I considered that a success metric right there. And then there’s also exploratory browsing, which is when you’re not really looking for anything, you’re just kind of seeing where your interest takes you.
And I think that’s more where like getting lost comes into play. Uh, and I’m kind of trying to design for all of those as I’m writing my public Roam. Um, and especially at, well, I mean, Also, uh, with the one that I’m doing for my hypertext, whatever, you know, that’s what I’ll call it. Like instead of a digital garden, it’s my hypertext, whatever.
It’s my open notebook and yeah, I just want people to find the information they’re looking for quickly. This time around since I’m forced to work with some of the constraints of being on files, as opposed to being on blocks in a database, um, since I’m being forced to grapple with some of those constraints, it’s also making me a little bit more intentional about how I’m designing for all of those factors in the way that I’m writing it.
We’ll see where that goes.
Norman Chella: [00:38:40] I’m excited. Cause it’s like multiple attempts and having a notebook open to the public, whether it is a public room or a hypertext, whatever. I think of it as a notebook adventure game.
Robert Haisfield: [00:38:51] Okay, I like that.
Norman Chella: [00:38:53] cause it’s it, you know, and you’re like, I mean, you, you, you focus on game design, gamification behavioral design.
So you probably noticed this like RPGs tend to have open world, um, maps or environments that cater to a wide variety of behaviors. If you give someone a controller and you put them in that game and you’re giving, you’re giving them a role to play, what will they do? We can’t tell them what to do, but we can give them the many options and the options they choose as a reflection of one, their character to their interests and three, their willingness to so if you were to do your hypertext whatever, as some sort of adventure game, And it’s not like a hypertext has a strict definition, right? Or a digital garden. You can choose to map it out. However you want. I just think of it as a game because it’s really up to the person, how they explore it as long as we can give them the tools to do so.
And I think that’s maybe one of the shortcomings of a public Roam. Maybe it’s used for a very good, intentional purpose. As long as you have these, like maybe a guide or like maybe like a start here page on.
If you are this kind of person do this. If you are this kind of person do that. Or if you’re just exploring, you know, go wild.
Robert Haisfield: [00:40:12] Yeah. The way that you phrase that is really great, because that very much falls into one of the, the main ways that I like to look at gamification and behavioral product strategy. It was expressed very well by you expressed very well also by a friend of mine named Javier Velasquez. I’m going to rely on both of your explanations for this because I love it is.
He said behavioral economics sets up a choice architecture. So that way people are more likely to pick a specific option, game designers, aim to give the user meaningful choices where all of the options are equally valuable. They just represent different play styles that suit each of the player each time the players, you know, and, and so like then the way that I think about, you know, designing for behavior change within products is that.
Yeah. I want to figure out like what people’s play styles are like, what their goals are, you know? And then I just want them to be successful at accomplishing their goals, given their play styles. Um, and, and so that’s something that I think comes into play when like writing something hyper text heavy, like if you’re taking it seriously as a medium, like, I don’t mean like, like, I think there’s value in just sharing your notes as you normally take notes to the public.
But I, but I think that it, I think that thinking about how to do hypertext writing, right, is it’s own thing entirely separate from writing in a normal writing as we know it, you know.
Like normal writing, as we know it, has you ordering ideas? Uh, Whereas when you’re doing like this hypertext writing, then you’re essentially creating a book that rearranges its pages for you to get you the requisite knowledge to solve the problems that you’re trying to solve or whatever, you know, to accomplish whatever goals, to find whatever information.
And I think something else you mentioned reminded me of entry points. Yeah. It’s really important to design for entry points. I have like a few main different areas that I like to write about. You know, like I’ll write about behavioral product strategy of write about gamification. I’ll write about. Ways. I like to think and learn.
I’ll write about career decisions. I want to kind of like also map the entry points when I’m going from one of those topic areas to another one of those topic areas. What are the areas where they cross pollinate a little bit? Um, so that way the user can course correct or jump into different areas of interest if they don’t come to the original starting point, you know?
So like, and something that Andy’s notes I think do really well is it’s an incredible starting point. He has the about these notes page, uh, which has a few different paths that he might get you started on, you know, like he might get, you started about how evergreen notes work or he might get you started about working in public, you know, and, and each of those veers off into different areas of his notes. But like because it’s so densely linked, people are able to come back and find their ways through these different areas. And when you reorder those pages, when you put something, you know, into a new context, then that thing that, you know, might take on new meaning.
And I think he does that really well and that’s, I’m trying to do. I’m trying to like figure out a starting point that’s sort of going to group people into the general place, styles and goals, you know, that they might have in coming to, uh, coming to my hypertext, whatever. And I want them to, to be able to, from there, efficiently find what they’re looking for. And then also jump between paths because they’re not always just on one path, just designing for all these entry points and thinking, what are the entry points into all of these notes? It’s really powerful. Like something I didn’t mention in my workflow earlier is that like I’m writing these notes for my hypertext, whatever, and my in Bear, but I’m exporting those frequently into a folder.
On my computer, which I load up as a vault on obsidian because Obsidian actually has a good graph view. They actually put some thought into the way that the graph view is implemented. And it’s actually pretty navigable at the size of notes that I have for that. Did that answer the question, whatever it was?
Norman Chella: [00:45:40] I’m going to be very honest hearing you talk about this. I was currently in the behavior of exploratory listening. ie. I really was just genuinely curious about what you’re going to say. I actually forgot my question, because what you were saying, which is so interesting that I was like, Oh, okay, wow. Um, kinda connections between trying to have these notes up here, uh, and allowing for different entry points.
A lot of, um, a lot of standard blogs would have that like start here page where they would, you know, map out potential user journeys, put it into form of questions. And then your answer should be on this start here page. So like, are you interested in a then if you are go here, are you interested in B? If you’re interested in B go here, right?
You have that, uh, I call it an instruction manual because we tend to be very multifaceted in that we like so many different things. But an instruction manual for how to understand me or how to understand Rob, right? Like if you were on your public Roam, how to then me having that will be very useful. So I check out obsidian actually.
I’ve never been tried it out. Yeah. If there is a value in the graph view, I don’t find any value in looking at my own private Roam graph view, because like you said, you have like what 3000 pages? Uh, I. I look at my graph view and it’s so overwhelming. It actually gives me a headache. Yeah. So I don’t, I don’t actually get anything like out of it.
I’m just looking at this really pretty connection of dots and it looks like a modern art. I’m never going to look at it ever again. So. Maybe I might do something with that, but, uh, we’ll see. We are, uh, coming up on time, although we’d love to have a few minutes to just look through all of these live, uh, screen-sharing notes, uh, as I’m hearing all of the, and all the terms and the phrases that you’ve brought up.
But I do want to ask, now that you have a roam as an effective tool, part of your workflow, right? You’re working on your file system hypertext adventure. You have your private Roam, your public Roam, and you have all your projects right now, do you have anything that you’re working on that you want to share with us?
Uh, and how Roam helps you with that?
Robert Haisfield: [00:47:59] The best ways into my thoughts of things that I have to share. Yeah, no, it was pretty much just to follow me on Twitter, @roberthaisfield. Well, I wouldn’t say, or especially though to look through my public room, because for now I don’t have my, my very crafted experience.
Uh, I don’t have the crafted file experience built and ready yet. And that might not come for a little bit. Well, maybe by the time it’s. This is, this is published. It will be there. Uh, but. But yeah, just to like go through my writing that I have in my public room, or if it’s available at the time, my hypertext, whatever, uh, that’s really the best way to get, get in line with my thoughts.
Uh, send me a DM on Twitter. You can contact me there or contact me at my email address email@example.com.
The things that I, some of the things that I’m really excited about with Roam is taking a more intentional approach to it now that I’ve experienced a lot of it. And now I’ve experienced my way of using others with that knowledge, having to deal with sheer quantity, really learning how to use queries.
Well, and also how to link notes together in a way that’s actually helpful. Those are all things that, you know, I’m very actively learning, but I’ve learned a lot since, uh, when I first started using Roam. And so I guess like one of my biggest pieces of advice that would go along with, but is, do not be afraid to burn everything down and start over sometimes.
Yeah, I know. I know. But just bring in your big ideas and know where you can find the things when you need to find them. Uh, And I think having that, like, like I can very much see myself going into a sort of situation where I have like a master database and I will work on another database that is more condensed and so that way it’s more, uh, conducive to, to specific knowledge work tasks. And. That one’s going to be a little bit more curious, curated as to what I put into it, but then periodically, I might just go ahead and import that into my personal, like my main master realm to lead everything in the other one and start over.
I think that that process of continuing continually refining, pruning, and improving on ideas, it’s very liberating having like a fresh, something fresh every once in awhile, you know, like, uh, so. Yeah. Like I definitely see Roam, like at least having one Roam database that just becomes the master and will have everything that I accumulate over years or even decades, uh, if the product goes so well for so long, I sure hope, I sure hope it does. And I’m sure rooting for it.
But having these more condensed version versions of your notes that are built with the processes that you learned, it, it gives you a lot of freedom, um, that I’d highly recommend from time to time.
Norman Chella: [00:51:51] Yeah that multi-Roam structure. I’m also thinking of exploring it. That way, because I see it as one really long progressive book that we’re writing and it’s just full of word vomit. So many drafts, so many things like articles, posts, whatever that we’re just sharing it on there. And it’s great. Right? Because Roam can accommodate for all of this like huge bunch of texts and huge bunch of resources share. That’s great. But what about us? Right. Like even if we have like a massive database, how does that give value to us? Like the author to the writer and the one who is actually in charge of the database? So I think I never thought about actually pruning it out by doing a hard reset and only filtering out the best of the best ideas.
I never would have thought about doing that because I’d be so scared of deleting potential blocks or pages that I [[Regret]] deleting and I’m like, Oh no, I forgot what I wrote three years ago, but I’ve already filtered it out. I’ve already pruned it. Maybe you can have like a really big archive they’ve database.
And then you just have you think of it as two modes, right? You have your master raw database and then you have your filtered best of the best, uh, database. And then maybe you can like filter it out by having it one hashtag on your raw database and be like, this is posted and by posted, it is transferred over to the database with like a last update date on there now.
Yeah, I do. Uh, we are running out of time, but I do want to, I mean, I would love to keep continuing of course. Um, but uh, we just to close off the conversation, there are a few questions that I would love to hear your answers on them. So how would you describe Roam to someone who hasn’t started using it yet?
Robert Haisfield: [00:53:41] It’s a hard one. I’m not gonna lie. I still don’t think I’ve really figured it. Uh, but, but, but I think that the Excel for texts makes a lot of sense to people. Uh, when you expand on that a little bit, it’s text that lets you work with texts and transform the text into new outputs, you know, in the same way that Excel lets you transform data into new outputs.
It’s built for that. Um, So, so that’s kind of how I, how I describe it. It’s a place to put all your thoughts, everything you learn, everything that you think might provide value in the future, where you can be relatively sure that it’s going to come up again when you need it. So that’s how I generally describe it. Yeah.
Norman Chella: [00:54:36] Final question. What does Roam mean to you?
Robert Haisfield: [00:54:42] I am Roam. Roam is me.
Norman Chella: [00:54:49] I mean, I’m honestly going to share that, that same answer because let me like it, I’ve never had a tool that allowed me to write down my brain and interconnected text form, if that’s the right way to say it. So I get what you mean when you say that. Alright, and on that note, Rob, thank you so much and I will see you on Twitter.
Robert Haisfield: [00:55:16] Sounds good. Have a great evening.
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