Tinderbox Forum

Roam Research - interesting approach to note taking

Interesting. I’m such a Luddite, though, that any app that is purely web-based makes me nervous. Even though I use Dropbox and iCloud. Go figure.


The ability to seamlessly create bidirectional links, and the ability to immediately view and access these within a note (without resorting to export codes, Roadmap, etc) is something I have been trying to implement in TB for some time. The option to collate and display—again, within a note—“unlinked References” is also powerful.


I’ve been playing with this, too, and it does look very interesting. But I know it will take me a while to find out if it is a really usable system. How it is going to connect with other tools (or if that is even necessary) is a question that is in the back of my mind. First impressions are good, though.

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I’m with you on this. Encryption of data (the lack of it) is a big disadvantage in my book. Also the need to be online – I’m often in places where there is no internet.

Roam is an interesting development and will gain features, perhaps. It is not a Tinderbox substitute, IMO.

To me Dropbox and iCloud are fundamentally different to what Roam does. They facilitate syncing of content. If those services disappear, the content is still sitting on your local disks (unless you turned off that feature). It looks like Roam host the content. That requires more trust in them being around so you can have access to your data.

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I agree - it’s a different beast with some characteristics in common and it’s a long way from mature. But I think it’s an interesting experiment and I’m pleased to see some new approaches to note-taking. I imagine that at some point Roam will start charging for the service and that will be a test in itself.

At least (to my eyes), Roam does think about how to address emerging structure (as I noted in my OP). I look at apps ike Notion, about which there’s a lot fo chat right now, and I don’t see any of that - I think there’s less to Notion than meets the eye.


I’ve just been alerted to the possible pricing, of what I assume will be the off-line app, by a cryptic comment on Jack Baty’s blog. Apparently there’s a ‘liftetime’ offer for $10k - or alternatively a subscription at $30 per month.

I’d been playing with it for a while, and like certain aspects of it, but as Paul says it doesn’t replace Tinderbox and this pricing has just made me determined to get a little more creative with my use of Tinderbox.

Yes - those are the figures being suggested by the developer, with the caveats that (a) they’re a long way from being ready to charge and (b) that they’re exploring pricing. The dev’s view on the monthly cost is that it should be high enough so that only people who’ll get real value will pay. Sounds OK in theory, but there’s plenty of competition around.

I’m enjoying it, but it’s a hobby right now

Are there links to developer statements to back this up?

Given that Roam is at this point mainly a plain text outliner with backlinks (whoo hoo), the reported price has got to be a joke.

Yes - the developer has a personal Twitter account where he made this announcement:

Conor White-Sullivan:
“Announcement: May still be a few months before we turn on normal SaaS pricing – but starting now, we will have a lifetime plan available for $10k Legal guarantee - possibly with a code escrow - that you’ll always have access to @RoamResearch + can leave data in your will.”

I can (and have) leave passwords for executors, etc. Didn’t cost me a penny.

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This thread from the Roam Slack contains everything the dev has said about pricing and some interesting q&a. My own interpretation is that the priced version won’t be available for a long time ye - late this year at the earliest. What’s absolutely unknown yet is what features the priced version will include. The devs are still building their feature list, so even they don’t really know.

Devon 9 Jan at 15:42

What are Roam’s plans for pricing down the line? After just a week I feel tempted to dump my entire brain into this thing, but I’m hesitant to do so if I suddenly have to start paying an arm and a leg to access this prosthetic brain

dweb 3 days ago

https://twitter.com/Conaw/status/1214855473876201472?s=20 thread

Conor White-Sullivan :billed_cap: @Conaw


May still be a few months before we turn on normal SaaS pricing – but starting now, we will have a lifetime plan available for $10k

Legal guarantee - possibly with a code escrow - that you’ll always have access to @RoamResearch + can leave data in your will

Twitter | 8 Jan

dweb 3 days ago

tl;dr $30/month ish

Devon 3 days ago

Thanks! I saw the $10k thing, but not the monthly price. Where in the thread do you see $30/mo?

Conor White-Sullivan :billed_cap: @Conaw

@context_ing @RoamResearch Still working out specifics

Right now looking like it’ll be $30/month - cheaper for annual - cheaper for students/non-profits/unemployed

I personally think unemployed autodidacts should always get student benefits - scam that they don’t

Twitter | 8 Jan

Devon 3 days ago

Thank you! Gah Twitter threading

Tomavatars 3 days ago

That’s too much yet for me

Vítězslav Ackermann Ferko (Qwerty) 3 days ago

do they mean 10000 USD ?? like the price of a small car?

Frank McPherson 3 days ago

If $30 per month, I am out.

Alexander Schwarz 2 days ago

@Conor White-Sullivan Did you look at Coda with regard to pricing? I think they arrived at a good model and also had a really healthy exchange with the community in the process

Tomavatars 2 days ago

I can second @Alexander Schwarz for Coda as I’m deeply implied with them

Conor White-Sullivan 1 day ago

Folks - couple things here

Conor White-Sullivan 1 day ago

    1. Roam is free today, because we haven’t finished the stuff that we think should exist before charging — building the payment infrastructure is actually pretty low priority relative to a bunch of other stuff
  1. If you aren’t getting $1/day of value of out Roam - you probably haven’t actually learned how to use it yet — and this is our fault not yours (see 1 for why we aren’t charging yet)

Pricing isn’t going to roll out until after a real onboarding flow rolls out (among other things!)— current thinking is that you’ll be able to extend your free use of the tool by completing some quick tutorials and demonstrating you actually know how to use the features that will really help save you time, think more clearly, and get more value out of past notes

  1. We’re considering a system where users who pay the full price have a few limited slots at a lower price they can give to their friends — you pay the full price when it’s actually obviously worth it to you and you want to start sharing it with other people who you know it will help who are more skeptical and price sensative

  2. You’ll always be able to get your notes out in plain text, and machine readable form - so if you ever feel that Roam isn’t worth the price you can switch to another tool

  3. If you make less than $20k a year, Roam will almost certainly be free

5 is my feeling right now - but lot to figure out there - so it is possible we won’t be able to do this or could cause a lot problems for us - but it’s a strong feeling I have and want to do whatever I can to make sure Roam isn’t something people are priced out of

If you make more than 20k a year - then it’s very very obviously worth $1/day for a tool that actually delivers as much value as Roam does to the people who have learned to use it - so the challenge for us is on user education side — if some of y’all drop off in the process, this is because we aren’t doing a good job there - and as we improve there, business health will improve.

If you aren’t getting at least 10x as much value from Roam as you do from an Evernote or Notion - we’ve failed on the education side - because the people who get that 10x value who we’ve met are pretty normal people solving pretty common problems.

  1. In terms of the 10k — this is something we’ll be offering to probably no more than 10 or 100 people — that’s not the normal pricing.

It’s a way for Roam to make long term promises to people who are making long term commitments to the company. And is meant as a signal to normal users that we aren’t about to pivot into some enterprise CRM tool, or get acquired, or shut down.

10k is in fact the price of a large used car - I lived in a van for a year that cost less than half of that. I’m extremely grateful, and slightly shocked, that one user has already stepped up to take us up on that offer.

Eli Tyre 1 day ago

The deal is I can give you 10k, and I get lifetime access to Roam for as long as the tool exists?

davidad 1 day ago

My understanding was it’s not merely as long as the tool exists: they (Roam) will find a way to legally and/or technically guarantee that the tool will still exist for you (as a lifetime customer) more like as long as the Web exists.

Eli Tyre 1 day ago


Lorenzo 1 day ago

@Conor White-Sullivan The only reason it felt a bit like a shock was that those of us who dive deep into everything you put out, trying to wring every bit of benefit we can from passing references had our thinking pegged to a specific price: $14 / month.

You’d referenced it in at least one video, and that’s the number I personally have been telling everyone who looks at me using it. Clearly I’d love to pay more – I emailed you weeks back asking you to take money that a company was giving me on a use-it-or-lose-it-by-year-end plan – but I think it was just the contrast of a 2.1x increase on the number I’ve been evangelizing.

I also really REALLY want to pay the $10K, worrying only that I won’t comfortably be at my next gig before I can put that together.

Devon 20 hours ago

Would the $10k price give collaborator access to the code too? I’m envisioning you’d have no obligation to accept PRs, but we’d have ability to at least view the code and possibly help accelerate development on features we’re most excited about.

Theo Koster @Theo_Koster

@Conaw @Rahul_Ramc @AnuragBaveja @RoamResearchI would look into the pricing model of LinkedIn. Three tiers: free (limited), professional and corporate, each with a different cost/benefit proposition. They seemed to have hit the sweet spot in the market for pricing levels, especially for the professional tier.

Twitter | 9 Jan

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Not true. It’s only a way for Conor to get $10K. End of story.

If I give someone $10K while trusting that maybe someday they’ll do something I like in return, then I’m the greater fool.


Can’t really argue with that.

I think the 10K’s a non-starter, but if Roam turns into more than just a slick, easy to use outliner, they might get somewhere with $30/month. But not from me - I really don’t like subscriptions for this kind of thing.

I have to say that I am enjoying using it as a scratchpad - anything I want to keep or that has value gets copied into TB or similar where the real work gets done

I think there are some interesting interactions in Roam and I hope excitement around the app encourages other developers to play and build upon them. I’ve used it, watched (probably too many) videos, and followed the founder and general conversation on Twitter for a bit as well. Perhaps I will eat my words and throw my money toward it one day, but right now I find myself wary.

What would you recommend reading for the more recent work?

What would you recommend reading for the more recent work?

Whoo — big question!

On spatial hypertext, everything starts with Cathy Marshall. Tons of papers, all of them unique. Her book,

Marshall, C. C. 2009 Reading and Writing the Electronic Book (Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services) . Morgan and Claypool Publishers.

is indispensable.

Marshall, C. C. 1998. “Toward an ecology of hypertext annotation”. Proceedings of the ninth ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia, 40-49.

is outstanding. The early

Shipman, F. and Marshall, C. C. 1999. “Formality Considered Harmful: Experience, emerging themes, and directions on the use of formal representations in interactive systems”. CSCW . 333-352.

is an important corrective to one hazardous strand in our research area. The core papers on VIKI and VKB are really key. Marshall’s frequent collaborator Frank Shipman and his notable students including Francisco Revilla and Haowei Hsieh continue this line of work.

Another important area is computational representation of argumentation. This goes back to Toulmin, and see Conklin, J. and Begeman, M. L. 1988. “gIBIS: A Hypertext Tool for Exploratory Policy Discussion”. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems . 6, 4, 303-331.

Though it is remembered as a research dead end, Aquanet had lots of influence on Tinderbox and much else: Marshall, C. C. and Rogers, R. A. 1992. “Two Years before the Mist: Experiences with Aquanet”. ECHT’92 . 53-62. Also the work of Streitz et al

Streitz, N., Geißler, J., Haake, J., and Hol, J. 1994. “DOLPHIN: Integrating meeting support across local and remote desktop environments and liveboards”. CSCW 94 . 345-359.

and the Nanards.

Nanard, J. and Nanard, M. 1991. “Using Structured Types to incorporate Knowledge in Hypertext”. Hypertext’91 . 329-343.

I think Heiko Haller’s work fits in this tradition, though he might not agree.

Haller, H. and Abecker, A. 2010. “iMapping: a zooming user interface approach for personal and semantic knowledge management”. Proceedings of the 21st ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia, HT ‘10 . 119-128.

So does Simon Buckingham-Shum

Kirschner, P. A. et al eds., 2003 Visualizing argumentation : software tools for collaborative and educational sense-making . Springer.

Okada, A., Buckingham Shum, S. J., and Sherborne, T. 2008 Knowledge cartography : software tools and mapping techniques . Springer.

On trails, visualization, and engagement, see Polle Zellweger. Andy van Dam at Brown has just started doing some terrific new stuff. Also:

Roundefinedner, Rossner, D., Atzenbeck, C., and Gross, T. 2019. “Visualization of the Relevance: Using Physics Simulations for Encoding Context Proceedings of the 30th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media”. HT 19 . pp 67-76.

David Kolb’s philosophical work is pertinent:

  • Kolb, D. 2012. “Story/Story”. Hypertext 2012 .
  • Kolb, D. 2009 Hypertext Structure Under Pressure . In Reading Hypertext, D. G. Mark Bernstein, ed. Eastgate Systems, Inc.,
  • Kolb, D. 1994. “Socrates in the Labyrinth: Hypertext, Argument, Philosophy”.

Possibly useful for Tinderbox and Storyspace are

Bernstein, M. 2003. “Collage, composites, construction”. Proceedings of the fourteenth ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia . 122-123.

Bernstein, M. 2002. “Storyspace 1”. Proceedings of the 13th ACM Hypertext Conference . 172-181.

Bernstein, M. 2011. “Can We Talk About Spatial Hypertext?”. Proceedings of the 22nd ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia . 103-112.

There remains a ton of good work in the knowledge representation milieu before AI Winter: see for example Lenat, D. B., Borning, A., McDonald, D., Taylor, C., and Weyer, S. 1983. “Knoesphere: Building Expert Systems with Encyclopedic Knowledge Proceedings of the Eighth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence - Volume 1”. IJCAI’83 . 167-169.

The best and most thoughtful study of digital aesthetics — an area this line of work cannot ignore — is

Spuybroek, L. 2011 The Sympathy of things : Ruskin and the ecology of design

Never properly published, Ted Goranson wrote About This Particular Outliner, perhaps the most thorough study of any software genre to date


Dave Winer wrote extensively on outliners and on the borderland between writing and code in knowledge management tools. https://scripting.com.

I’ve got a huge volume of a History Of Information Graphics. (Rengen and Wiedmann) next to my desk and I have great hopes for it.

Stian Håklev has an interesting and pertinent thread this morning on Twitter: https://twitter.com/houshuang/status/1217367073157812224

I’m omitting tons of stuff here: the entire canon of the Southampton crew (Wendy Hall, Hugh Davis, Les Carr, David Millard, Dave DeRoure), the important work of Adaptive Hypertext (Peter Brusilovsky, Paul De Bra), Intermedia (Norm Meyrowitz, Andy van Dam, George P. Landow). But I’m out of time. Apologies to all I missed in this fast and slovenly pass.


It seems the ACM digital library’s citation info has a typo here as the lead author of the paper is Daniel Roßner. Clearly the OCR chocked on the ß, thus Ros+undefined+ner.


Thanks for such a comprehensive list. Lots to explore there!