Org-roam is not that much technology


Looking on my old files, I always had tendencies to systematize my writings and work towards the ideal of something like a personal wiki, but there was always a QWAN missing. I would have been grateful to receive #org-roam many years ago.

Back then, I knew of wiki-style solutions for Org-mode, such as that automatic radio links thing with CamelCase, but they felt unnatural to me and many didn't extend outside of one file without some elbow grease. I was always forced to wonder if a new heading should be top-level or nested under some other or what – this is a waste of psychic activation energy. I continued to depend on filesystem hierarchy to some extent. It was difficult to find long-forgotten things among my writings – you can't ripgrep for what you don't remember.

The difference between back then and now is technologically a small thing, but it unlocked an explosion of productivity. It is the following, sorted by importance:

  1. org-roam gives me a single hotkey for letting me pick from headlines known to the org-id database, to insert a preformatted link in one step (or to visit it)! Wow! This turns out to be crucial, and I no longer understand why anyone would bother to write anything without such a mechanism at their fingertips. If I could send just this component (org-roam-node-insert) to my past self…
    • It could be upstreamed into Org itself, it's not actually a Zettelkasten-specific thing.
  2. org-roam doesn't mandate a hierarchy. I still use hierarchy many places by nesting notes, but I'm not obligated to make one up when there's no natural hierarchy to the topic. I don't have to think at all about where to put a new note, which turns out to be important.
  3. org-roam has backlinks. I don't check them often, but the ability to check is reassuring.
  4. the occasional visualization thru org-roam-ui – IMO a psychological big deal in the beginning

I was held back from adopting org-roam for a couple of years because it seemed to be a Big Thing to learn. In reality it's just two commands in day-to-day use: org-roam-node-insert and org-roam-node-find.

The moment I was sold on org-roam was seeing org-roam-ui visualize my own notes. That experience carried me over the threshold and lit the fire.

Created (2 years ago)