Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Stian Håklev, who is the engineer/learning architect for Minerva Project. We talked about his origin story: diving open science, collaborative communities, and international development and connecting all these findings through Roam, what should get a page and what shouldn’t, using references as an inbox and more, and his thoughts on Roam as a networked thought tool, and how it changed his thinking.

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Norman Chella: [00:00:00] RoamFM.

Stian Håklev: [00:00:03] Interested in open science and just science, making science much more accessible and effective. So I am really interested in, you know, can you harness this kind of creative exhaust, that comes from all this individual thinking and note-taking…

Norman Chella: [00:00:17] 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 talk with Stian Håklev, who is the engineer/learning architect for Minerva Project. We talked about his origin story on life before Roam, diving into the world of open science, collaborative communities and international development and connecting all these findings through Roam. He shares of us what should get a page and what shouldn’t, and his thoughts on Rome as a networked thought tool, and how it changed his thinking. So without further ado, let’s dive into my chat with Stian of Minerva Project,

Going right into the show, Stian, welcome to Roam FM, how are you doing?

Stian Håklev: [00:01:13] Thank you very much. Very excited about this.

Norman Chella: [00:01:18] I hope that you can bear with me as we are plopping through this chat, um, on your experiences with Roam Research. While we have RoamFM’s public Roam graph right here as I am writing notes. So don’t fret if you can hear me typing away on my keyboards. But before we make any links. So between all these new pages that we might make, Stian, I actually do want to know about your origin story.

Because your Twitter thread on all the projects that you do varies quite a lot, but they focus on a few key points. But I would love to hear your take. What is your origin story? What have you been working on, uh, before you stumbled into Roam?

Stian Håklev:[00:01:59] A lot.

So there’s a few different threads, I think that go through my life. Uh, one of them is probably related to international and languages. Uh, starting with going to a quite unique high school, uh, which was in Italy, which was called the United World College. And, uh, this is part of a network, a small network of colleges that follows international baccalaureate curriculum, but has all these people from all around the world, but are not necessarily wealthy at all.

So most of them have full scholarships and it’s very focused on,  international understanding, politics, culture and so on. And it’s, it’s an incredibly intense experience because you’re maybe 16 and then suddenly you’re away from home. You’re going through this extremely or fairly intense kind of academic, curriculum.

Um, so the only people you can lean on are, you know, your roommates from Slovenia or from China or from Zimbabwe, and those become lifelong friends. And that’s also. So it didn’t kind of do things to me. It made it feel like I could be at home anywhere in the world. I wasn’t scared to go different places.

And I also reinforced a long interest I had in language learning. So right after that high school experience, I studied Chinese in university. I took the train to China and taught English there, but my goal was to learn Chinese. And I’ve continued to kind of, I mean, I’ve studied Hindi, I was living in Indonesia.

I learned Indonesian. And also, I, did an undergrad in international development studies, um, which is a bit of a continuation of those two threads of being interested in, you know, how this world that we live in works and also really trying to access, a multitude of, of kind of inputs from different people, different cultures, different languages.

Um, and so that’s one thread and I think another thread is an interest in learning and information. And also I was kind of a geek growing up, you know, um, it was very different 30 years ago with, um, What we have available. But, uh, getting into Linux, um, getting into some, some early programming and the, this, uh, ethos of open source and Richard Stallman and all of this mythical figures, um, being, being very, very fascinated by that.

And then later as I came across, um, things like creative commons where people and open educational resources. Where people were saying, huh? So if the open source, both kind of the ethos, the legal framework of the licenses, but also the way in which the open source community is able to work together in this kind of decentralized fashion seems to be so incredibly productive.

How could we actually apply this to other aspects of knowledge, production and sharing. And so of course Wikipedia is one example, the creative commons licenses that enable you to find images that you can remix, the open educational resources. Um, you know, it’s kind of a huge spectrum of, of ultra resources.

And then I brought in again, kind of, my interest in languages. And so I was thinking, okay, can we create all these open educational resources? Maybe we can translate them, maybe who can actually like bring in these international perspectives. Uh, basically I did a masters in comparative higher education.

I looked at open educational resources in Chinese universities. That was a nice combination of some of those aspects. Uh, both used my Chinese in terms of talking to people, reading articles and so on, but I was also able to publish some of my findings in Chinese journals. Uh, and I, and I’ve got the number of citations.

And so that’s also really exciting to me too, to actually be contributing to that debate and also for people to hold me accountable because I could write almost anything and have my professors in Canada. Um, take it for. Yeah, a good fish, as we say. But when you have the actual professors who are involved in these movements in China, reading my stuff, um, you have to really get it right.

I mean, I’ve always been a self learner. I’m uh, I’m now, I mean, titles are silly, but I’m a senior engineer. I’ve never formally studied the, uh, an hour of computer science in my life. Um, I’ve of course spent a lot of time informally studying. And so I’ve always been very interested in how we can better support, um, self learners and collaborative learning.

And part of that is of course, uh, access to materials, open access, journal articles, uh, it’s the design of materials to make them really helpful to self learners. It’s the communities where people can collaborate on learning and that can be stack overflow, it can be YouTube can be much more specific course sites.

Uh, and so during my masters, I helped co-found something called a peer-to-peer university because basically at that time, We had, we didn’t have MOOCs yet. No massive open online courses, but MIT and some other universities had begun to put, uh, lecture recordings and PDFs online using a creative commons license that would enable people to actually remix or subtitle or do different creative things with them.

And so we thought. And what we need is not really experts because we have all these materials that can kind of act as experts. What we need is someone to take these materials and kind of sequence them, curate them, pick out the best resources, because when you’re starting to learn something, you’re not necessarily a good judge of what is, what is most helpful.

And then we need a cohort. We want people who all read the same article, who can get together and, um, and discuss it. And also we need accountability and motivation and all of those things that we’ve talked about a lot. So, um, so that was an incredible experience of this global community, trying to just figure this stuff out.

And that led me to my PhD, which was looking at what kind of pedagogical theories, but also software designs could actually support these kinds of collaborative communities, because a lot of the educational technology was really focused on having an expert teacher and the love students who have to be graded and so on.

And this was really a different kind of approach. And so maybe we need different kinds of tools and designs led me to a three year long postdoc in Switzerland, which is where I am right now, where I worked on an open source system for, still teacher driven, but very kind of, um, collaborative, um, fully active learning where the students are not just, you know, memorizing things, but they’re uh, contributing their own ideas. They’re debating, they’re maybe doing simulations, that role play all kinds of fun stuff.

And finally, I got to join kind of, I think, one of the most exciting places in the world in terms of, of education and also international aspect, which is, uh, I mean the Minerva project, which is this attempt at completely rethinking undergraduate education and saying.

You know, so we still want to be selective. We’ll charge a little bit, actually a lot less than most of the universities will still charge a bit. So this is not a massive open online course will still take four years and we’ll have an accreditation. So your degree will be worth something, but everything else we’re going to rethink from first principles.

And we’re going to start by saying, A, what do we want you to learn? What do we want someone that goes out after four year degree to actually know and be able to apply? And secondly, what is all of the things that we now as a community know about how learning works? Because even though there was debate, of course, the scientific community, there are certain principles that are fairly well understood and yet are completely different from what happens in any university in the world, uh, including the, the absolute top, uh, Ivy leagues and stuff like that.

Um, and so to me, you know, being able to do something like that at scale where the things that you’re building and it unifies my interest in, in technology. Uh, in pedagogy and we have students from all around the world, 80% are not, uh, American.

And then we actually have campuses in seven global cities. And as part of the company, we are now partnering with the local butter institutions and even companies, uh, all around the world. So, um, that’s I guess my origin story.

Norman Chella: [00:11:20] Oh wow. There’s a lot to unpack here cause I love how it blended that the fact that you can go from, shall we say a background, trying to understand the world from an international perspective, right.

And in diving into pedagogy and the technology behind it, and also trying to foster collaborative communities from first principles. And I guess, more into the Minova project. So I guess in the middle of all of this coming up to when you  stumbled into Roam, how did you introduce the tool into what you are working on right now?

Stian Håklev: [00:11:54] So I have, um, a related, shorter, but still interesting origin story there because while I was working on my PhD thesis, uh, a PhD thesis in education. There is a huge amount of reading that you need to do. There are all these different theories and it’s not like, I mean, I’ve never studied physics at that level, but yeah, my imagination of the hard sciences is that you get this new theory and kind of replaces the old theories.

Um, in education for better or worse, that never really happens. You just kind of, you know, it’s not like the stuff that was said a hundred years ago is irrelevant. You need to know that and you need to know this new stuff and you always need to know who said what and who critiqued, what for whom and so on.

So it’s a real lot of stuff to keep track of. And we’re doing all this reading for several years, knowing that in three years, you’re going to, you’re writing your thesis and you need to know exactly on what page someone made this argument or provided certain piece of evidence. So I’m struggling with this, feeling extremely overwhelmed on the other hand and at the same time, What I’m tracking is this really exciting movement around open science.

And part of that is sharing, uh, making it easier to access the end results. So, you know, the open access journal articles or books or data sets, but there’s also a lot of people experimenting with sharing more of the process instead of waiting for full year or more. Oftentimes. Uh, to see what someone comes up with, um, having, for example, open lab notebooks, where the experiment that you’re doing in your lab today is live on the map and people can come in and say like, Oh, you know, did you try to mix that chemical in this fashion?

And you get this much more and we see a little bit of maybe this collaboration now on the coronavirus. That’s know science is just getting sped up. And I felt, I love this concept, but I don’t do labs. I don’t have lab notebooks, but I read all this stuff and maybe some of that reading would be useful to others long before I finished my PhD.

And of course only a small percentage of it will be in the PhD. And so I started, um, and I was much less of a software developer back then. So, uh, well I was trying to do was really hacked together as some kind of a workflow. Using different open source tools I found, um, Skin for reading PDFs, Docuwiki, uh, as kind of a, you know, a Wiki, but a little bit precursor to Roam and BibDesk and you know, so I was using Apple scripts, and Ruby scripts and keyboard Maestro, it was really like Frankenstein, but the workflow that it enabled was actually quite amazing.

And in fact has not really superceded today, um, shocking to me because, and I showed it to a bunch of people who loved it. And a number of PhD students started adopting it, even though it was very simple. And it took me like an hour at someone’s computer to kind of set up all the different components since they upgraded their OSS, it was a lost, so it was not sustainable, but it was a great medium for exploring uh, this, this idea of note taking.

And so some of the things that we’re discussing in our community today, you know, so I’m reading this article, you know, I’m highlighting, I’m now taking maybe higher level notes. How am I organizing this? Um, and of course, what my system was very far from, it is all of the things that Roam enables.

Although I did actually. I did it even experiment with some kinds of kinds of tags and backwards and some stuff that was extremely happy. So when I came up and then, because it was so grateful, I kind of stopped using it myself even, and for a few years, I’ve just been doing things very ad hoc and, uh, starting in Minerva, a small part of my job is still to do research.

Um, and so I was looking for a workflow to really handle that and then. And so when I came across Roam in December, I think it was a Venkatesh Rao  tweet. Uh, you know, the tweetstorm, which I think a lot of the early contributors kind of came through that. And I just, I looked at the interview between Conor and Tiago Forte, who I also have been aware of.

And, you know, immediately I kind of saw, um, both that the specific use case that I’ve been experimenting with extra seven years earlier, um, was taken to the nth degree. But I also saw that what Roam was capable of today was really just an embryo of this much longer term vision, which I share around Memex or just interlinking and much better collaboration, data sharing and I saw the Conor had that vision. And so I thought, Hey, this, this is super exciting to be part of. Uh, I haven’t, I haven’t looked back since I think. Apart from this tool being, being pretty amazing, uh, the community and, and a lot of people have commented on this, but obviously like we’re sitting here, right now talking to each other, probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Um, and, and, and the number of people who have been having incredibly interesting conversations with are even now starting small projects with, uh, because of not the wrong software, but the wrong spirit. Or, or whatever you want to call it is pretty mind blowing.

Norman Chella: [00:17:25] Yeah. Um, a lot of many different kinds of users are really resonating with that vision that, uh, Conor has. And I, I really liked that you’ve noticed, or you’ve tried to make this workflow from years ago. And then you noticed that with this tool by Venkatesh, on Twitter, you see that this is what I was trying to do, like, right but it’s scaled a lot better or there’s a whole team behind it right. And you can probably visualize the vision on your own. So let’s dive into that actually. I’m going to play the idiot here. I’m just going to ask you a very general, surface level question, and you can deep dive into it as much as you can.

How do you use roam? Like what goes in there? What doesn’t go in there and I would love to hear more and more questions about what kind of information is worth getting a page? Like its own page? Is there like a certain method that you use to determine whether or not say something long form should be broken down into more blocks or less blocks or, um, I would love to hear your take on this.

Stian Håklev: [00:18:31] So I’ll take a quick step back because I think it might be informative. And there is this video, which maybe you can put in the show notes where I compare the thing I hacked together seven years ago with a Roam, which I released in December, just when I’d started using Roam for a few days.

So most of my work flow was really focused around, you know, getting bibliographic, metadata, reading PDFs, getting, uh, the clippings into my Wiki, all of that kind of boring, but very important stuff. But then I had a problem. So I have had 20 articles about the topic and I had spent a lot of time. I’ve read them, I’ve taken notes, I’ve taken what I call high level notes, which are kind of my own evergreen or whatever.

And yet the problem was I now have 20 Wiki pages and I needed to get a paper out of this. And so I was really stressed and I was like, I don’t have 20 screens. Like I feel, I felt like I needed more space to put them all next to each other, or I was really not sure how to proceed. And I thought about actually it’s interesting, because back then tagging was a really big topic in educational technology.

Um, there were sort of like social websites. There was this concept of Folksonomy, which was a bit of a, uh, alternative to the traditional formal metadata that, you know, a librarian has like this kind of vocabulary. That’s very clearly defined. Then they say, Hey, let’s just choose tags randomly. And it’ll will kind of emerge.

That was kind of a very new idea.

So I started actually putting these things into Taskpaper, I’ve never used Workflowy or any of those. Taskpaper is a little bit similar. I think it just has the hierarchical bullets. I always use the BibDesk site key. So for people that don’t use BibDesk, basically it’ll generate a unique text identifier for each paper, which could be last name and Johnson 1990.

And you can just put that all around on a, in a text file, and then you can turn it into really beautiful citations. So I will just use that, so, the Johnson 1990 at an indent, I would put a few points and I would maybe indent again, I mean, this is really old stuff for Roam users, but at that time that was felt kind of fresh to me.

And I realized that by putting it in this hierarchical format, if I now look at a, because the problem is that in the Johnson paper, there were four different things. So the one was that his methodology was really unique and other things that he identified a key term, a third thing is that he, you know, contradicted someone else.

And I wanted this to be in completely different parts of my paper. And I realized if I tag a line here, I know a lot about that line. I know that it belongs to the parent because it comes from this academic paper Johnson, 1990, but I also know it has these children. And so, I mean, again, this is so obvious to Roam users, but really seven years ago it was not.

Um, so I wrote some some kind of script, so basically just went through a text file. It wasn’t a live or dynamic. They would take a text file, that’s marked in this way, and it would generate so that I can see methodology, and I would see Johnson 1990. And I mean, these are good references, but, you know, um, And to me that was completely revolutionary the way I was able to, to seamlessly kind of extract information that way, but also always keeping track of where it came from, because that was so key.

So, uh, I mean, that’s, that’s really where I saw the link between that and wrong. So to answer your question, um, I, when I first, the, I I’ve used wikis for many, many years, both personally, and also in educational contexts for a lot of collaborative learning. And so one of the things that struck me as strange when I started using Roam was actually the daily pages concept because I felt I’m not really a journaler.

You know, I’m not one of those girls who are like decorating their bullet journal on YouTube and stuff like that. Okay. You know? Well, that’s fine. You know, there should maybe be an option to not have it, but whatever. And now I think it’s one of the absolutely most brilliant things about Roam.

Talking about human computer interaction and design,

we talk a lot about affordances. Design affordances, like the way that the, uh, door handle is shaped, so it’s kind of signaled whether you should push the pull or these kinds of things. They’re not things that enable you to do something that would have been impossible before. Um, but they’re, they’re, they’re kind of almost like nudges.

They gently, they make certain things easier. Just like maybe Twitter makes shit posting easier or, you know, YouTube comments makes attracts a certain kind of usage. And so the daily pages, they just, you open it and sit there and like, well, I don’t know. I might as well write something here. And the thing is it really, it teaches you that you don’t have to worry about the pages.

I think that’s the really key thing, because if you have any traditional Wiki system, this includes TiddlyWiki and you know, all of the cool wikis systems, the first thing you ask yourself is like, okay, which page am I gonna open? Um, and in Roam, You know, you, you just start typing and then you figure it out afterwards because very often information wants to live in multiple places.

And so I’m personally now for the last few months, I input 95 to 99% of my content on my daily pages. But I, I use links of course, very, very frequently. And the thing is for me, if you clicked on, for example, if I click on your name in my Roam, there will certainly not be anything on that page. There’ll be a lot of link preferences.

And to me, there’s almost no distinction. The only distinction becomes when I want to clean that up when I want to organize it and I have experimented and that’s where I think it goes into a little bit, you know, this idea of a, of a notes hierarchy, uh, whether it’s evergreen notes, you know, other things like that, that even I have a few videos where I experimented with um, different approaches, uh, to kind of, so for example, I realized that for Zettelkasten, I had like 70 or 80 backlinks or linked references. Um, and I’m like, because I just keep seeing interesting stuff around it and I’m like, okay, that’s, that’s, um, hard to work with. And so in that case, so for those kinds of pages, I kind of treat the linked preferences as an inbox.

And what I do is I put a hashtag P when I process a, um, a linked reference and I filter that out. And so I basically went in and I either said, Hey, this is irrelevant. Or I’m going to, you know, out drag it, or maybe if it’s a daily page, I don’t care about it. I’m just gonna move it or whatever. And once I’m happy with it, I do a, a hashtag P.

And then it disappears then. So now my, for example, Zettelkasten or WikiData I did a bunch of research that we could date, I also had like a huge amount, and now it’s like inbox zero, but that means that the next time I see stuff, it’s going to pop up. So it’s like go to that page again. And I’m like, Oh, I’ve got four.

I might put them in, but that’s really. That’s not like the norm. What are the topics that I really care about, where I do a lot of research. Um, whereas for you probably I’ll never do that because you know, or maybe in a few years who knows, but you know, for a lot of things, I just have to three or four or five things and it’s really okay to just keep them in the linked references and find them there.

Norman Chella: [00:26:07] Yeah, I can see the potential worry or the potential anxiety behind having 70 to 80 linked references on one phrase. Cause I have had that, uh, for, uh, I’ve tried to do an experiment where I would turn a phrase into a page. And just out of curiosity, uh, like for example, I would use the phrase I want and turn that it into a page and then just connect the references and just to see what happens.

I now [[Regret]] that because now you have like a hundred plus references and they all mean different things. And it depends on the purpose, right? Because if you have an intention behind linking those, the first place, it makes sense. Like, are you going to use or create something, whether it’s a post, an article or a podcast or a video.

That requires that linkage to exist in the first place. That’s probably where referring to link references as an inbox is probably a really good analogy for that. I should actually consider. Are you okay with having many different pages, even if they have like just one or two references?

Stian Håklev: [00:27:13] Yeah, because I mean, again, like, you know, a page is a tag and a tag is a page and the link is a concept and the concept is a tag and a page.

So, you know, like if I have a meeting with you, I will definitely link your name. And if I hear someone mention a book, I will definitely link that book. And it’s quite possible that I had never come across that book again. And in that case, it doesn’t hurt anyone, but. It’s really cool when, you know, suddenly I, and this happens more and more, and I’ve only been using Roam for four months.

I mean, I can’t imagine, you know, after 10 years, but, uh, that you, you know, you say, Hey, I’m gonna have a meeting with this guy and you should click on his name. You’re like, Oh, here’s a Twitter thread from him like four months ago. And Oh, this guy like mentioned him in this podcast. I’m like, that’s pretty neat.

So it’s so cheap to do it. It’s just silly not to, in a way, um, for those things that are, you know, like, as I said, the names places, um, Books companies, um, podcasts, all of those things. The thing that I’ve been struggling more with is this concept of Zettelkasten or Evergreen Notes, which is so popular.

And I did read also over Christmas, the Sonke Ahrens book, uh, How to Take Smart Notes. And of course I’ve been following Andy Matuschak very, very closely. Um, and I’ve been thinking and you know, I love browsing his public site. And yet I have some real reservations for myself about how, you know, this concept of evergreen notes didn’t, didn’t fit to me. It seems way too polished.

And I’m like, I don’t have, like, it seems like an ebook that is just like, like a hyper textbook. And I’m like, I don’t know, you know, that doesn’t fit me. And so what I’ve come up with after quite a while, because the nice thing about Roam is. You don’t figure it out on day one.

And it’s not like Notion where you sit down and like design your information, architecture, least. That’s how I feel it is it really? So a lot of things that I’m doing now, I’ve kind of slowly, slowly integrated like daily templates or spaced repetition. And so, so the thing that right now seems to be kind of useful to me is I have a concept prior that called emerging concepts, which is somewhat similar to evergreen notes, but it feels different to me because it’s much more tentative and it’s really, um, it’s an attempt at… you know, they’re all as you think about. And sometimes they’re very concrete.

Like I’m thinking about this podcast, I’m thinking about this book, thinking about Nietzsche or Freud, right? Those are very concrete things, but then you’re like, I’m thinking about how we could better learn collaboratively. And that’s not a, you know, given that there’s, that company doesn’t exist yet or that organization, or that project isn’t, it’s not a project, it’s a thing I’m thinking about, but keep coming back to it.

And I realized, um, or I think about the fact that a lot of people on Twitter are saying, you know, you should, you should learn to do some, something like the goal of learning is to produce or to make something.

And I’m like, huh? Is that really always the case? Like, what if I want to learn about playdoh? It’s like something in my bread. And so I find that giving it a title that could be, you know, long could be a sentence, could be a question and then just. By having that now, when I have new thoughts about it, or when I see things referred to it, I can pack it.

And then over time, it’s like this pointillistic cloud, um, maybe it converges to something. And so, for example, I thought a lot about what would an ad hoc book club look like? And I started adding things and I started having conversations with people and now that’s become something a little bit more complete.

So I’m actually probably going to try out and I have a lot of other ones that are, you know, some of the, so there, again, like some of them, I just have a bunch of backlinks where I think about stuff on my daily pages, or I see things in a, in the reading and a few of the other ones I’ve actually kind of written up something.

And then I also publish them in my digital garden.

Norman Chella: [00:31:33] That’s the ad hoc booklet, I stumbled upon that when I was reading through your digital garden. It it’s, it’s fascinating to me because I’ve never, ever considered the concept of it, an emergent concept to be enough on a digital garden, because I’ve seen multiple digital gardens where they have say hypertext, or they have polished notes, like you mentioned.

And I’ve always thought that that was the standard, the de facto, Oh, what should be on your digital garden? Like that kind of question you’ve always tried to answer that. Andy’s digital garden is like the standard, but I I’ve read, I’ve read through your notes actually on your, on your garden.

And I’m like, Oh, I relate a lot more to this because my notes, I’m not trying to insult you here, but my notes are very chaotic. So they may not end in complete sentences. They may have links from other places. Um, their references are not, not to any standard in any academia. It’s more like copy paste from the URL and, and I’m just like, okay, whatever. And I just tagged the name.

I know that you wrote in one of your Twitter threads, that you have an eventual goal to like curate all the resources and links in your digital garden, but I’m just curious now that you have Roam in your hands and you have all these. Emerging concepts, uh, to be posted there more and more. Do you have an eventual, like concept that you want to turn into something more evergreen or something more? I don’t want to say evergreen, or concrete, like something that I can maybe interact with.

Stian Håklev: [00:33:00] So when I, when I wrote that in my Twitter thread, actually, I wasn’t so much referring to the current content on my Roam. But the more that I feel like throughout these projects, whether it’s a peer to peer university or, um, the software that I developed, I generated a huge amount of kind of artifacts.

Um, design documents and insights and discussions about pedagogy at peer to peer university. And it’s all kind of scattered in my email in, you know, all kinds of different websites on my YouTube channel. And I feel like oftentimes when I’m emailing with people, I’ll pick out stuff and I’ll go spend a bunch of time finding it.

Now I try to, whenever I do that, at least I kind of also recorded it in Roam. So it’s easy to find next time. But I would like to just go through and, and, you know, like I think there was a massive amount of value created through peer to peer university and all of our discussions and it’s really not available anymore.

So like, one of the things I’d love to do is just kind of dig through that. And like for anyone else in the future wants to do something similar, you know, maybe they can learn something from us or maybe can generate something. So that was what I was referring to there. But in more general, I have been thinking a lot about this.

You know, we have, we’re kind of spoiled for choice these days. We have so many possible publication channels available to us and I really liked sharing my ideas. I hope that sometimes they’re useful to others. Uh, I also really like getting feedback or finding collaborators. Uh, and so I, you know, and so sometimes I think like, well, I have this, I’m thinking about this thing.

Or I know a lot about the certain thing. Should I make a Twitter thread? uh, should I try to write a digital note that kind of makes it to my digital garden? I have a newsletter now. Um, and, um, you know, uh, I think, and I haven’t written for a while and part of the reason maybe it’s because I started quite ambitiously by having like, certainly complete articles, whereas I know a lot of newspapers or newsletters or kind of, you know, here’s five links that I’m thinking of.

Whereas I was trying to write something solid, which I really enjoyed. But of course it takes a lot of time. Um, I, you know, I see that people are putting out eBooks, uh, like for example, like these Visakan, Venkatesh, and those, uh, Tiago, they’ll kind of repurpose content they have for eBooks, there’s podcasts, I’ve actually had the crazy idea to maybe start my own at some point. Uh, there’s YouTube.

So I’m like, what do you put, where, where do you put your effort and how do you move things? Through a hierarchy, right? So maybe you start with notes on your Daily Page and, maybe a tweet, maybe get some feedback, but then like time is also limited. I don’t have my own social media team standing by.

So if that’s a typical emerging concept, by the way, that’s a typical thing that I don’t know if I have one right now, but that’s a typical thing that I could like ask myself. And then as maybe now we’re discussing with you, maybe tomorrow I’ll discuss with my friends. I’m kind of slowly having the nuggets there, but just going back to the digital garden thing.

Uh, so yeah, one of the things I’m really thinking about a lot is collaboration. My PhD was on collaborative learning and they’re really spent a lot of time looking at different interfaces for interactive kind of meaning making. Uh, and, and there’s a lot of really rich actually research there that’s very not well known by our community and which I’m hoping to I know somehow, uh, share with, because it’s hidden in PDFs and stuff, but there’s a lot of good value there, I think for us.

Uh, and then the, the, the interest in open science and just science, making science spectrum more accessible and effective. So I am really interested in, you know, can you harness this kind of creative exhaust that comes from all these individual thinking and note taking.

And, you know, like, so for example, Joel Chan, um, has been sharing his Roam with me and he’s actually, he’s an academic researcher in this particular topic and is using his Roam, you know, for literature notes and stuff like that. And even though he didn’t at all, tried to make it useful for others, because I overlapped so much with him in interests and we share, maybe even though we’re from different disciplines, we share a lot of, I guess, background.

I found that incredibly useful. And I could see what he was working on and provide comments and discussions and stuff like that. So like this idea that undigested notes are not useful is, seems to have been kind of just accepted by our community, but I don’t agree with it. I think under many circumstances they can be useful and maybe we should even lower the barrier somewhat to sharing them.

And then also want to think about. Um, how we can better, for example, interlink digital gardens or what are ways in which, you know, uh, we can, uh, have interlinking links or we can subscribe to each other. We can have these kinds of things feed into, um, some kinds of hivemind. I dunno, these are all things I’m thinking of.

Norman Chella: [00:38:13] Can you imagine, sort of like a town or a city where multiple gardens exist. And then, you know, you make some sort of pact where all the links were linked to each other. Like you would link to somebody else’s garden. Somebody else else’s a link to yours. I would think that that will be possible if we start having potential collaborations or ways to link to other graphs on Roam.

So for example, you like Joel opened up his graph for you to see am I, my assumption is that that’s like, um, Maybe either by screenshare or is it actually like become a publicized graph and then he’s allowed you to like get access to, and I’m not sure, but say that we have private graphs and you have like certain access, like you gain access to like someone else’s graph by consent.

So let’s say I have my own private graph. You have your own private graph, and then we give each other access and you put a specific hashtag or a specific page. To say like, Oh, Norman can access this page, these following pages. Right. Page eight, like one, two, three, four, five. And then from there I can like add blocks if I feel like it, maybe that might help, you know, like that would be, that would be insane.

Stian Håklev: [00:39:22] Yeah, I think there’s no doubt that that’s the vision for Roae. It’s like not to come for another year or two. And I think that’s why. There’s a lot of experiments now with publishing, you know, also because Roam is so low to load, and then there’s some security issues. So a lot of people are putting a lot of time into, you know, uh, I have a workflow that goes, kind of does that.

I can tag certain pages and they’re automatically published to like a Gatsby, but it’s, again, it’s, it’s back to that like pretty hacky workflow that isn’t something that most people would be comfortable with, but to try it out. Um, so I think Conor is definitely interested in that and. Um, I would love to see it somehow interoperables across tools because like, why shouldn’t we be able to link with Obsidian or with, uh, you know, the opensource from Chrome or even TiddlyWiki, as long as there’s some kind of basics.

Um, standards that could be further in the future, I think. Yeah. Like thinking. So there’s like, you know, there’s me just having access to your page, maybe subscribing to certain key words and seeing updates there’s um, you know, maybe you could have, uh, like the same kind of concept of an inbox so if we work,  if we werea  community and we were all taking notes on evergreen notes and you kind of see like the linked references, like, Oh, here you go.

And then we could also actually help each other curate that common space so that instead of just having 500, I go in and I kind of like sort of things. And of course, then. Yeah, we may have to argument, we can fork it. So, I mean, it gets into really complex design issues, but this is nothing that people haven’t actually thought a lot about earlier.

There was some, like, there was a video by, I think Drew Millshot, I think his name was, was just talking about iRoam and eRoam, that was actually a really brilliant kind of prototype. I can send you the link. A brilliant prototype of how some of this stuff could be. And, you know, you could also imagine, um, the, so one thing is, is just really explicit linking or even like, you know, we all tag exactly the same book, title and stuff like that.

But, um, Semantic technologies. These days are pretty potent and you could very well imagine something that suggests. So if I’m writing about ad hoc book clubs, and you’re writing about, you know, um, collaborative groups working on, I don’t know, a philosophy that even though we don’t use the same actual words, that it wouldn’t. Be able to suggest that, Hey, you guys are in the same social network and you know, these words are pretty similar.

Um, and the meanings seems to overlap a lot. You even like linking to the same three things or whatever, maybe you should look at what he’s writing about and maybe you should like actually collaborate with them. Cause that’s, you know, for me, it’s not just like all this knowledge, like I can go on Wikipedia. That’s great. I love Wikipedia, but it’s, it feels very impersonal.

One of the attractions to me of being able to see your ideas, do some of your ideas or some of these ideas is that I can, you know, they’re, they’re not fixed. Um, and they might inspire me. The thing I liked might then feed directly back to you. Um, so it might actually create all these interpersonal connections that we can start, like building stuff together.

Norman Chella: [00:42:34] Yeah, those interpersonal connections are probably one of the best. Uh, not only in trying to build like your own digital garden in general, but they were willing to share part of like our progress and using Roam or, um, what we’ve learned and then how we, how we deconstruct that. And I think that using the word deconstruct is like the entire point of Roam to take something in, put it in there, deconstruct it to however context is most relevant to what you’re working on and then from there, you reuse it or think on it or create something out of different connections like that. That’s why I like this tool. It’s just so interesting. Despite the slow loading, I’m not sure about it on your end for me. It’s not that bad because I think it’s because I’m GMT plus eight. So maybe not that many users on at the same time, maybe that’s one factor, but I do have a few more questions to close this off.

And then we could talk a little bit more after, cause uh, probably want to check out which phrases should be pages, but. Stian, how would you describe Rome to someone who hasn’t started using it yet?

Stian Håklev: [00:43:37] So, one of the interesting things to me about Roam is a lot of the things I get excited about are pretty niche. And you know, most people around me wouldn’t be interested. And with Rome, although it’s a little bit rough on the edges right now, but like I talk to my, my brother who is, um, you know, operating a bike store. And I, and it goes around the country. Um, other bike stores looking at their, um, workshops because that’s his background, like as a, as a, the workshops, he’s an expert in that.

And I was like, look, imagine if you were like, you know, in Bergen and you’re listing the workshop and you noticed a bunch of stuff and you know, you could tag it like this, and then like later you come back, you want to make a report. You can very quickly see all of the workshops that have this issue or all of the workshops at that issue.

Or maybe you have certain issues with certain bike brands that you want to actually keep track of when you go to visit that factory in Germany. And you’re like, Hey, actually, we have five issues with a chain or like, you know, the marketing, right? So, and then my wife is a filmmaker and of course they deal with massive amounts of information, both in their research, but also like when they’re editing the film, but they’re just trying to keep track of all their clips, their plot lines.

And again, you know, yes, it’s possible that not everyone has come to see Roam and see what it is. So I can come up with a use case for almost anyone it’s just like, that is like genuinely that they, they find useful. And to me, like the. You know, the hierarchical bullets and the backlinking, uh, meaning that you can have these things that are living in lots of different places.

And it’s living with a context because we haven’t had backlinks before, uh, in, in some wikis or blogs and stuff like that. But then it’s just like, here’s 500 pages that mentioned this word. That’s not, I mean, that’s cool, but it’s not, it’s, it’s very, very different from seeing like, you know, from this book.

Here’s the one paragraph where like Nietzsche talked about becoming, and here’s a quote and I just love one thing. I’m really fascinated by it. This is a little bit of insight. How using Roam trains you to think differently? I’m pretty sure there’s an effect there because I’m pretty sure that I am now when I’m going for a walk in the forest, I’m listening to podcasts or I’m just thinking.

I think more interconnectedly um, because I’m, you know, I’m used to working in Roam and I love, you know, I’m reading a about Alexander technique and I’m like, huh, this is kind of like, you know, drawing with the left brain and the right brain. And this is kind of like the meditation book I was reading. And this is kind of like that book about pedagogy and attention.

And, and it’s just, it’s like a rush for your brain to, to, to be making these kind of connections to me. That’s, I mean, that’s, that’s the beauty of, of Roam

Norman Chella: [00:46:41] and final question, but you’ve probably already answered it with the last bit right there. What does Roam mean to you?

Stian Håklev: [00:46:50] To me beyond what I just said, it means having a long time perspective.

Um, I was an academic for most all my life. And although academics are kind of same or taking the long perspective and going deep, unfortunately in modern day society, it’s an extremely stressful career and being a postdoc, I physically had the time limited position that I knew after four years, I would lose my job no matter what.

And probably the next job would be in a different country. And I didn’t know where, and so, and I needed to publish certain amount of papers. And so there was a lot of stuff I looked at where I was like, this is going to take me so long to learn this new theory that I’m just gonna skip it because I need to publish now. I need to get stuff out. It’s too late and I can’t go back and do another PhD. And now since a year, I’m working for a company where I’m doing a lot of the same stuff, and somehow I have a much longer term perspective and there are so many things that I want to learn as a person and also related to my job and to projects.

And now I kind of say, you know, what, if I want to learn ancient Greek philosophy, I want to really understand Piaget, which is, you know, educational theorist. It’s probably going to take me 10 years. That’s okay. You know, I’ll start now and imagine 10 years how much I’ll know.

And to me, Roam is the companion on that journey where I can read something today, I can know that it’s going to be there in 10 years, but also that my understanding of what I just read will continue to improve. I might move it around. I might link it to new things. Um, so. And, and it gives, yeah, it’s, it’s like a calm feeling that you, that you can capture something you can build on that it’s not written in stone, but it also, doesn’t kind of just wash away with the water.

Norman Chella: [00:48:53] I love that the calm feel like I understand it a lot. I feel that every time I open up room, I’m like, what can I write in here that can serve me for the next 10 years or even way more than that. Uh, and with that, I think that’s a very good note to end on Stian. Thank you so much. If we want to reach out to you to find out more about Minerva project or find out more about how you use Roam Research, how do we contact you?

Stian Håklev: [00:49:17] Probably Twitter is the easiest way. Um, I, my DMs are open, um, if not, um, I’m pretty easy to find. Um, so I’m, I’m the only one with my name in the world I think. So, um, I can’t hide, and there’s a lot of stuff out there on my YouTube channel, on my blog that I’ve been keeping for 14 years, my newsletter, which you can put a link to and I will come up with a new issue soon I promise and I, my digital garden, which I’m kind of slowly building out.

Norman Chella: [00:49:46] And of course, links to all of these will be in the description right below as well as the public roam graph. Which the link to that as well will be in the show notes. So if you just want to have a look at all of the bi-directional pages that we will be tinkering on, then you can check that out.

Stan, thank you so much. And I will talk to you soon.

Stian Håklev: [00:50:04] Thank you.

Norman Chella: [00:50:05] Thank you for listening to the show. Make sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcast listening app and for a full version of the show notes to this episode, you can check out the public Roam graph. The link to that will be in the description right below for more updates, comments, feedback, and suggestions.

You can reach out to me at roam FM on Twitter, keep roaming your thoughts, and I will see you in the next episode. Take care.