Some thoughts on using Roam as an Obsidian person / Questions for Roam Refugees

That is amazing, unbelievable, really. It reminds me of something else though: Google’s Eric Schmidt once said something to the extent that if you want to keep something (an activity?) private you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

Naturally, he did not apply that to himself.


Oh, I get that a lot, but as long as the other dude objects to pooping in public, my argument is made.


Unbelievable. My stomach turns around if I read these kind of things.
Again a reminder that things evolving into “cult”-like proportions could be dangerous at times.
Again glad to see that Obsidian is not blindly giving in to that and keeping its Manifesto in mind. Hopefully Obsidian will not become the next “cult” or when it it his hopefully it will be very positive one :wink:


I was on the Roam train until I tried Obsidian. I was quite glad to find a much friendlier community! Example: as I’ve posted videos comparing Roam and Obsidian, I’ve had a few Roam users basically tell me that I can’t do what I’m doing in Obsidian because it’s a Roam workflow. Sorry, but PKM is not a Roam-only thing!

This is a huge friction point for me in using Obsidian more fully. 1Writer is ok, but to really use it, I’d have to switch to Dropbox. iCloud integration there isn’t awesome, and third-party sync tool support is essentially nil.

I’m currently using Drafts for capture, but eventually I’d love to have a way to quickly capture text on iOS/iPadOS right to Obsidian. Shortcuts might be able to accomplish that but I haven’t gone down that rabbit hole yet…


I think I’d say “devolving.“


Here’s the thing for me.

Let me preface this by saying I love Roam. I adore it. From the Typora-like user interface which makes writing markdown almost trivial to the block-level references which you can re-embed as editable or merely transcluded, it works with how I want to work.


  • The community amuses me but it doesn’t please me.

    I get the whole semi-ironic “RoamCult” in joke nature of the whole thing, but a lot of the people in it are really engaging in serious cargo cult behaviors, the belief that if you act like people who are successful and productive by your estimation you will, in turn, become successful and productive. That’s not just a little creepy – it’s wrong. I can accept a lot of things (after all, I’m a member of science fiction and fantasy fandom) but being wrong is not one of them.

  • The non-locality of my data and inability to really control access to it is really frustrating and annoying, and potentially dangerous.

    I can’t really do anything with my data while it’s stuck in Roam. The promise of an API just means I can expect Connor to ask for more money in the future. I can’t write a quick text-processing script to do anything. I have no control. I have no expectation of control.

  • The price is truly insane.

    My personal database is grandfathered in because I was an early adopter, but let’s be frank – even if I spent all day, every day in Roam, I’d be hard-pressed to justify suggesting that it made me $15 a month in personal profit. It’s convenient – but there are other convenient solutions which are more accessible, more controlled, and which don’t leave me feeling just a little bit creeped out when I talk about them in public.

And I say that as someone who just dropped $50 on supporting Obsidian. A one time fee because it’s a tool that has actually given me a positive response, left me a control of my data, and generally been a good thing – that’s why I’m in.

Now, I’m not completely in. I’m still using Roam on a regular basis because that is where the bulk of my personal information is stored and has been stored over the last several months. The export/import process for the transition into Obsidian still has some problems – not the least of which being that the handling of #tags into Obsidian tags rather than just removing the octothorpe and making them into straight page links, which is more metaphorically accurate, is not an option. Yet. As far as I know.

Yes, I can probably write that editable change myself in a script, but I’m lazy.

In the long run, I think Obsidian will be a better tool space than Roam will be. Right now, they have startup energy. In the long run – well, people still use and love Emacs; they don’t remember a lot of the also-rans in the highly programmable text editor space. Obsidian is more like Emacs than the others.


@LexTenebris: good comment, further completes the Roam picture for me.
There is 1 statement I disagree with:

I have been using Typora for 2 years now, and if there’s one thing Roam does not have is any semblance to Typora.

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I love Typora, no doubt. What I meant was the immediacy of entering Markdown which then gets rendered, no modal editing pane necessary.


OK, clear.

Emacs, OMG - Did I love that editor!
Thinking of it: there is this ORG thing I used for a while to manage some workflows years ago. It was based on textfiles too. They also seem to have a good community that delivers good extensions. I liked it. I like Obsidian more.

When I read the Roam manifesto on their website I didn’t even think of trying it. They lost me when I read that they have ownership of the information. They certainly lost me on the price and not because I cannot afford 15USD/month. Simply because I cannot figure out the return for that cost/investment.

Knowing I use tools like Obsidian to follow up on strategic programs, secret projects and other stuff that the outside world or other colleagues at work can and may under no circumstances access; the Roam idea was already dead before it even started (for me personally).

Here and in other places I read some weird stuff about their community and how they behave. It doesn’t seem like the warm and respectful environment the Obsidian community is in right now. I hope we will be able to maintain that feeling. @LexTenebris certainly has a point on the startup energy.

Lots of support will be needed to keep this great thing going. I did a donation too because I really believe in the Obsidian idea and way of thinking. With more than 40 years of ICT behind me I know there is still a bumpy road ahead. Hope the core team will make the right decisions. Not blindly following Roam (which seems to be the case right now) to give only one example. Difficult choices will have to be made. Hope they will always keep the original Manifesto at hand when making the final call.

I will do my best to support the community with everything I can do!


Its along winded response, I might suggest grabbing a cup of tea and may be a piece of cake?

My story began last September when I discovered Roam. It was quite the personal revolution for me and my work. I came on board when it was free and to this day still have a fully accessible free account. I emptied my Roam database completely in April. At the end of May I signed on to Obsidian. So I gave up using something that was and still is free for me, storing my notes in Google Drive rather than use Roam. I was over the moon to discover Obsidian.

My reasons are multiple.

In my work life I am in part story therapist working with groups and individuals with some of the most damaged stories. I realised this type of system based around backlinks and networked thought was revolutionary in a simple way for personal development and in particular deeper therapeutic type work. I wanted to build a program of therapeutic journalling for my clients using a roam like tool

Problems became very apparent that Roam was unable to offer any real solid confidentiality for both the journal entries of my clients or my own notes about myself and my clients. Secondly I work with people on the extreme edge of life there really is little money in the world of broken stories. Poverty is a big factor in there world and as a grassroots worker I am not particularly flushed myself. Roam is now narcissistic-ally over priced. My clients cant afford that and there would be no way with the lack of confidentiality that I could get Doctors, our NHS or grant funders to cover my clients costs.

Obsidian offers what Roam could not. Free for those with financial concerns, safe locally stored owned only by the person writing the note. Visible only to the person writing the note. Safer than a hand written journal left in the house if you do not live alone.

Then there is the cult.

I have worked with cult survivors. I feel like one right now. Not a nice cult.

More rambling

I find that Obsidian does what I used most in roam the obvious linking and discovery but also the use of embedding transclusions I think you all call them ( I am not tech savvy) into pages and specifically embedding a paragraph (block refs). I also find the search is quite functional and operates more or less like roams queries enough for most of my needs (I would like a list of search terms if anyone has one? For example how would I search for ‘all notes on Freud made last week only’.

I do have problems to a lesser degree in regards to not being able to access obsidian in a useful functional way when on mobile but I do feel this will only be temporary matter and a better solution will appear soon enough. At the rate that developers are improving this product I am more and more hopeful of Obsidian. I think it already is a strong contender against Roam and in the not to distant future will outshine it and its cult.

I already find Obsidian more useful and more enjoyable to use than Roam and yet I have hardly discovered everything you can do in Obsidian.

I also love how I can an endless amount of Vaults.


++(++) (did I say ++++) 1 to that :wink:

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Nice! Keep that going!

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This is great. Thanks for writing it out! And thanks for helping people. I do hope the developers see this and feel some satisfaction from creating a product that is helping people who really need it.

Do you create a new vault for each client or do you have them mixed together for the benefit of making connections?

I’ve been thinking about creating a vault for students that would be only kept on my hard drive or on the university provided Google Drive. How have you found the sync to work with google drive?


Suppose you use the App provided by Google to sync your Google Drive with your local drive? (Like OneDrive and other ‘drives’)

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I need to give it another try. Last time I tried it out, it didn’t seem to work as smoothly as Dropbox. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I had to give it permissions and relaunch it all the time. Or it couldn’t update itself? It wasn’t worth it at the time, but maybe Obsidian would make it worth it.

I heard that a lot from the OneDrive App too.
It has NEVER failed me once.
I can make it crash whenever I want…
With usecases that are soo far fetched from real world situation I don’t even bother :wink:

You should expect from Google stuff it would work…

My experience with google is that they are great at search and having more than one person edit a document, but everything else is … almost … just fine.

I’ll download and try again for sure.


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I am an Apple adept for 12 years now. I want change it for the world.
I know it’s a cult thing too :wink:

Than again I am using Apps from other providers to get things working. You’ve certainly mentioned me using OneDrive which is not the Apple ecosystem.
That’s because Office365 is a big part of my working environment too. Works great on OSX by the way.
Sometimes it’s not simple finding Apps to work with OneDrive.
ICloud and Files gives the possibility to move thing around though.
But this is another discussion

There are benefits to both options. Personally I keep them all together as my notes on clients are reflective notes and are interwoven into my own personal development. So I learn about myself as I help (mirror technique) and I help by being interested in learning about them. I am on my second build this weekend as in building a better workflow now I have got to grips with Obsidian a little more, so I may change my mind on this over the weekend

If I worked for an agency like a school for example I would separate into 2 vaults as the Agency would own the data so I would not want them being able to see my own stuff or even ideas while I am thinking them out.

Google Drive sync seems fine but I have only just last week moved my vaults into it so will have to monitor it a bit longer

*And thank you. I am fascinated with peoples stories, their David versus Goliath, Rocky off the ropes or randomly amazing adventures and movie plot worthy story-lines