Roam Research, Readwise, and my learning stack

Unlocking Potential is a newsletter by me, Francisco H. de Mello, CEO of Qulture.Rocks (YC W18)


I'm going to write a bit today about my “learning stack,” or the tools I'm using on my day to day to become better at the [intellectual] stuff I care about.


My relationship with reading has changed a bit on the margin. I'm still reading a lot - it's my main hobby - but I've been even more mindful about what I read and what I drop. On the one hand, I won't read something bad just for the sake of finishing. On the other hand, I'm re-reading more of my favorite books and taking more extensive notes about them, which takes us to our next two subjects: Roam Research and Readwise.

Roam Research

Roam Research is a note-taking app on steroids. It's a bit hard to explain why it's good. The interesting thing is that it makes it easier for users to find past notes because they get easily linked to each other. Let me show you an example. Here're some notes I took today after a long walk outdoor:

Each of these bullets becomes a note. And the stuff on double brackets becomes a special kind of note. Let's look at the Michael Porter note, mentioned on the third bullet:

The first gray box, as you can see, it titled “May 16th, 2020” (today's note, which is automatically generated) and because I made reference to [[Michael Porter]], that note becomes instantly linked to the “Michael Porter” page for further reference.

Anyway, the selling point is that it's easier to go over past notes and find relevant thoughts for what you need. To build upon previous notes and thoughts, which is something I felt was missing in Evernote.

Using Roam (it's been maybe three weeks now) has made me take more notes, especially around the stuff I have been actively studying, which are strategy (Porter, Christensen, 7 Powers, etc.), tech history, and product management.

The second tool I've been using is Readwise. Readwise is integrated with my Amazon account so that it pulls all my Kindle highlights and serves them to me on a daily newsletter just like index cards. Here's a screenshot:

Readwise shows me 15 highlights a day. I can favorite them, keep them, or discard them. I can also customize the frequency with which a highlight is served to me. It helps with spaced repetition, which I'm not sure if you've seen, but it's a concept I took notes on.

Readwise has significantly changed the way I make highlights. I now care about what I'm highlighting so that I maximize the usefulness of a highlight for later when it will be served back to me by email. Highlights are no longer random reading aids, but investments in the future.

But I've also been connecting Readwise and Roam. By copying important highlights into Roam, I can make connections with concepts I'm taking notes on, and enmesh that stuff even more.

Two threads

One about Roam Research:

And one about Netflix and some competitive analysis:

That's it. I think this “stack” is quite powerful. Two things that amaze me are how much more learning I get for the effort, and also how much these two apps have driven changes in my behavior. That's the dream of anybody that's building products.



PS: Roam Research is closed for new users. Long story. Anyway, there's an alternative in Obsidian.

PS2: There's a cult around Roam Research. Check this out.