Quo vadis, Roamresearch? Delta or Beta?

Update: Check the great discussion on this topic on Twitter. The author of Roam — Conor White-Sullivan — makes many good points there in response to this story.

Original story:

I will not lie. I am getting a little bit upset at Roam. I still really, really, really like it. I still think it is revolutionary and it is a great tool. Nevertheless, there is a little bit of disappointment growing in myself. The reason? It is more beta than it was a couple of months ago.

Let me explain it. When I joined the Roam, I knew it was beta — or sometimes almost alpha. The loading times were so much worse than today, frequent backups were necessary, and I was often unsure, whether my changes were saved at all. But the simplicity of the design was overhelming: write [[ ]] and you create either a link to an existing page or you create a new page. Write # and you have a tag. The beauty: Tags are the same thing as pages! And you can rename a page or a tag anytime. Moreover, there are no folders, just the connections you create. This is simply fantastic.

Now add blocks to the soup: You can refer to them by typing (( )) in a similar way as to pages, and they are almost the same thing as pages. You can refer to them, you can embed them, you can do so much fun stuff with them. Add a little bit of spice, e.g., simple yet functional TODO. Moreover, the internal code is inviting for modifications with custom CSS thanks to a very clever structure. Finally, there are some half baked features but very promising: tables, kanban, diagram, versioning, adding reactions… They do not work perfectly, especially the diagram is an abomination — but hey, we are in the beta! And we can explore it and play so much with it.

Now let us move a couple of months forward. We are getting new features at an amazing pace! Pomodoro, delta, new keyboard shortcuts in Emacs style… (ehm?). But I feel that Roam is more beta than before. Why? The number of half baked features is simply growing and growing while old problems remain: The page embed is still just a better link, graphs are unusable, linked and unlinked references become cluttered very quickly, the diagram is as bad as it was many months ago, there is still no autocompletion for [[ ]] in the page titles and so on. Now add that POMO cannot be set up to any other time than 25 minutes, the delta is just barely working, the gap in features regarding blocks and pages is widening, and the GUI? Some features are accessible through the right click on the bullet point, some only through / command, some has to be remembered and entered manually. Moreover, some features are not accessible on touch screens at all.

Man! The list can go on and on. Yes, all these new features have great potential but they are so rarely finished that they are becoming stumble blocks rather than improvements to the design. How I wish a little bit slower pace, how I wish a little bit more thought into their integration and focus on the broken parts of the system. I really hope that following updates will not add new features but fix the existing ones.

Hey, I still really, really, really like Roam. In its core, its design is great. I have just a little worry in my mind and I want to share it with you. Long live the Roam. And as always, please, #roamcult — don`t burn me. I am just a humble duck expressing my opinions.

Just a humble Roaman duck.

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