Why I like Roam over Bear for improving my thinking

Roam Research is one of the most innovative note taking apps on the market. While that sounds trivial on the surface, a closer look shows a powerful tool for networked thinking.

This note is part of a small series highlighting my digital ecosystem.

While I’ve been using Bear for note taking and writing for years—and even wrote about how Bear is for networked thinking—there’s something about diving deeper into exploring “networked thought” that really calls to me. While Bear has the ability to cross-link individual notes, Roam goes so much deeper and thus makes the ability to build upon and improve ideas that much easier.

Here are some recent thoughts of mine after immersing myself in Roam for a few weeks.

1. Roam shows you all the possible connections to the concept you’re currently thinking about, on a single page.

  • Whether you thought to link content together or it never crossed your mind, if there is a mention of keywords, that content will be resurfaced for your consideration whenever there is the faintest-yet-still-existent link. That’s powerful.

2. Roam makes it easy to manage what you’re looking at by providing toggle dropdowns to expand and collapse content.

  • While Bear is definitely a less distracting writing environment, Roam’s toggle dropdowns make dismissing irrelevant content a breeze, which might be a more valuable feature. This really helps focus.

3. The value of Roam is its automatic bi-directional note linking, block-level embedding, and flexibility. The value of Bear is its beauty, privacy, and mobile app.

  • Roam lets you see relationships between notes that previously went undetected, which sparks the human mind to make new connections and boost creativity. That’s powerful.

Based on my short time using Roam, I very quickly came to believe that the more words you put in Roam, the more useful the software becomes, because the more content there is to connect, collide, and spark novel ideas.

Throwing all of my ideas in one big bowl and letting them mix around pays immense dividends.

The true value of Roam is the way it facilitates thinking, which helps improve ideas by forging collisions and connections the mind might not see on its own.

Bear can do this as well, but it does not provide as much serendipity as Roam, which I think might be the key: Roam creates serendipity and collision of ideas.

This influx of cross-linking, dynamic referencing, and the linkable chaos that these apps create feel, to me, like something entirely new, and that bell is not going to get unrung.

Roam helps you build compound interest with your words and ideas. In essence, Roam helps you think. Does Bear help you think? Not at the same level as Roam.

I thought about ways of using both Bear and Roam, but quickly decided that would not be kind to the mind. By choosing to put some content in Bear or any other app, whatever that content may be, it will not be in Roam and thus will not be able to generate compound interest on your thoughts, notes, and ideas.

So where does this leave me?

I’ve only touched Bear a handful of times since this note was created late in 2020.

Roam is where I think, and also where I work through projects. I’m using it as a blank workspace for both freethinking and structured projects I’m working on. It’s basically my second brain, as it has all my reading highlights, daily notes, project materials, and so much more. I use other tools alongside it—perhaps too many, but who’s to say?—though Roam has certainly been taking over in the best of ways.

Like everything in life,my digital ecosystem is always evolving. And I can already tell how it’s been helping me evolve along with it.

It helps me with content and thinking for my digital garden, which helps me build a body of work.

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