Feature request based on Roam Research

I just began to use the beta of Roam Research (https://roamresearch.com/) which is a bullet based note taking app that is very disruptive. I think I’ll use it for ever now that I tried it.
Why am I pointing to this app in Coda? Because I think you could use some of its feature to make an even more shiny Coda :grin:

Two features comes in mind:

  • Bidirectional linking. I believe that this feature is_🙁 too much linked to a product, but I think that Coda could at least integrate a better linking system to rows and/or anchored words. Roam has the ability to define new pages very easily with the help of brackets.
    For Coda I would love for example to be able to add a new row to a table from the canvas and be able to read from the canvas (which I believe is already possible)

  • The power of Roam also comes from the quick operations. The best way to create a new page or reference another block or add embedded image etc. is to type / and select from the popping list of features.
    This is absolutely gorgeous!
    It is so quick to format or do whatever you want with just one command!
    I would absolutely love a similar command with popup in Coda. Please, do this!

Btw, has anybody here have an experience with Roam and would like to share some ideas?

Thanks!

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Just to be clear to the readers of this article, both products are not competitors, each has their unique strenghts / weakness.*

Dear @tomavatars,

Two weeks ago I informed Nathan Penner about Roamresearch with a more or less the same enthausiastic tone, just to make the Codans aware on what added value it could be if similar techniques where possible to implement for the text sections in Coda.

I started to use it a small month ago, and recently to develop the roll out of a concept of the schema in Coda for the business needs of my clients.
A little bit early, but it looks like they understand better the relations, also because of the “mindmap view” this product offers makes it much more easy to understand the structure and benefits/shortcomings of one schema against the other.

:bulb:
My wish for a mindmap in Coda remains

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Great idea, @Jean_Pierre_Traets.

I would love a Mindmap as well. But for me, the great point of Roam is UX wise. It’s very quick and easy to add and connect things. And this is gold for this kind of tools.

This made me think and come up with this:

UPD: And ultimately this:

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Dear @Paul_Danyliuk,

First of all, all the best for 2020

You did it again, amazing to see how you managed to get this mindmap up and running. :trophy: :trophy: :trophy:

Thank you very much sharing your skills and your enormous source of know how :pray:

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Hey guys, just wanted to add myself to this thread, sorry if this is considered over-proliferation.

And just to yet again illustrate how these links could look at the forum software Discourse will show off, here is my overly-long post mirroring what you are saying here - hopefully all this chatter will be useful to the Coda Product Team:

And @tomavatars I just started experimenting with Roam, a few thoughts on specifically what I like that could get into Coda (this is not duplicated from the other post!)

  • the use of the “/” and “#” really make creating and relating super quick when using the keyboard exclusively. Coda already has dynamite keyboard shortcuts, such as tabbing around rows and tables, selecting multiple items in a drop-down, etc. There’s some additional stuff that could result from this if you allowed, say, creation of a row and assignment to a table all with the keyboard, while in another row.

  • With Roam, I find myself really yearning for the depth of Coda - when I create a linked entity, I could just “feel” how this could look in Coda if I was creating a row with a little context, like a row for a meeting and quickly adding in a time for it. If you could add a row to a table in one operation - from another row - you could then pop open the window and complete fields that are in the destination table’s configuation

  • Really would like to put my heavy vote in for some kind of live diagram that would generate of Coda’s links, whether this be full on Mind-Mapping, or some sort of iteration of the existing Graph. I agree with @Jean_Pierre_Traets that seeing how Roam did this very simply right now is an interesting take on even a basic version we could see in Coda.

Hope that’s helpful!

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Hey @tomavatars one more thing here:

I noticed that in Roam when you have a relationship set up, it will kind of “open” the related item within the “originating” item and let you add to it right from there. This all gets picked up in the “destination” item, what’s more the context of the content coming from the “originating” item is maintained, very cool!

Here is a use of this I could see that is in fact I have been trying to accomplish in Coda:

If you are doing a Product Planning meeting and you want to establish that you are creating a product in the first place and some ideas come up in that meeting. You can record all this at the time on the new “Product Overview” page which you actually create for the first time in the meeting. This would be a row in Coda. In Roam, you’d bullet out the ideas. In Coda, if you have a subtable, you can add in the related rows. Then, later on, the doc can be expanded, but these added ideas are not in the meeting, so they don’t have the reference. That is something my team has really thought would be useful as you can the later see the ideas from the meeting and possibly better recall why they came about when deciding how to prioritize them.

I have in fact been trying to create a way to keep a “mutual” reference between two types of rows like this (Meeting and Idea in this example), and the way I was trying to accomplish this was through a “join table” as @Jean_Pierre_Traets you are describing here.

This is in fact a good solution, as I then plan to have subtables giving the full context I’m after in each of the joined tables. But setting this up has also been one of my largest challenges in Coda, especially as in each of my tables I’m using some hierarchy within the table: I have a “Project” table that has a few levels: “Project” at the highest, and also “Phase” which is a child of “Project.” So between the three tables, and hierarchies within the tables, it has been hard for me to get this working without a lot of work and help from the Coda team!

This may involve some complexities I’m missing here, but one thing that occurred to me that would make this simpler would be to allow “instant” relating via the “hovering data” that Coda provides when you mouse over a related row, what’s shown here:

If, when that data is displayed, you could actually jump in and add to it, and the row that you are in when you are adding this data was referenced, you would basically have a duplicate functionality as what Roam is offering, without the need to have a third “Join Table” to accomplish this.

As always hope I’m making sense and this is useful!

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Yep - the unmistakable mark of a graph database.

I believe this relationship is made possible without joins in Roam because the underlying data architecture is a graph database which ironically has nothing to do with charting and little to do with relational database management systems. I suspect it is likely Neo4J under the covers, but others that ring a bell include Titan, OrientDB or SPARQL.

Graph databases - the likes of which are used to maintain the social relationships among Facebook’s 1 billion users - do not use joins. In fact, they are designed to specifically eliminate the need for joins.

Attempting to mimic the properties of a graph database in non-graph database environment is very difficult. Sure, you can implement some functionalities, but there will be some difficult challenges as you think through all of the data model requirements. And whatever you attempt to mimic will likely struggle to achieve expected performance criteria - a sure pathway to customer unhappiness.

I think it might be better for Coda to consider a series of Packs that support different data models. Ideally, this would allow users to alternatively select Neo4J, or other exotic data management platforms to serve as the underlying data storage model to Coda or perhaps a single table in Coda. This is precisely the integration partnership that ElasticSearch has forged with Neo4J to support graph data models.

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Hey @Bill_French, as expert as ever! Very cool to get some explanation of how this all works under the hood, I am learning all the time!

I am also very interested in Reciprocal Referencing across Coda, have talked about it here:

here

here

and here!

Would be curious to get your thoughts on this. I’d hoped it would be a simpler technical implementation for Coda than what sounds like a challenge to bring in some of the way Roam works when you type and generate deep references automatically. In essence, all I’d like to see is the referenced entity in Coda out of @mention have basically a notation about that reference somewhere in its canvas. Krunal from Coda once pointed out to me that you can even see all references as you search for a row. I am petitioning anywhere I can for Coda to introduce this feature, I really need it!

And I really love the way the app hosting the community, Discourse, does this! In fact I just created 4 new ones right now, haha!

PS I have some experience with Elastic as in my day job my company handles classified ads listings and we use Elastic both as a db, and as our search service.

Cheers Bill!

I think I upvoted a few of your ideas concerning reciprocal link references.

Yep, I get it, but conveying this idea effectively probably needs more than words; as you point out, it’s not easy to explain the deeper nuances of these feature requests. Have you considered a simple diagram to make this more evident?

Unfortunately - and especially the case in support forums - readers have just a few minutes to digest ideas. Complex explanations sometimes get passed over.

Hey Bill, sorry I wasn’t aware of that, and appreciate the support. My posting around here in the community needs Coda to keep it better organized, haha!

Yes I am continuing to think about how to present the concepts better, diagram a good idea! In fact, after months on my own with Coda experimenting, while looking at a range of other apps to solve my team’s needs, I am about to make the commitment to go forward “all in” for better or worse! When I do this I’m going to bring in one of my colleagues on my team - an engineer with good DB background. Hoping he can contribute to presenting our case more coherently than me!

Take care.

@tomavatars, just some more brainstorming here as I’ve been using Roam quite a bit.

First, a point about the mind mapping and diagramming. Like @Jean_Pierre_Traets I am in fact doing some outlining of my Coda Schema in Roam, which I’ve been finalizing for several months! I’ve really missed the ability to see more visually in planning my schema across dimensions. Things like I have my Software Platform (my team manages websites), built in typical layers (Front End, Mid-Tier, etc.). Then, my product components reside within these layers… And relate to partners I recruit to use my system… With whom my team interacts via communication tasks…

And All this I’m trying to track in Coda, and make sure I get the relationships right. It’s been a lot of trial and error, but Roam is helping me build this schema first, thanks to the multi-dimension relationships, without me having to build it in Coda, use it, see something wrong, change it, and rebuild.

And this is to say that a mind map or network diagram of my Coda set-up would go a long way towards solving this. So I see more and more benefit from this missing feature in my current work in Coda, almost daily:

Mind map plug aside, I also wanted to say that Roam is warming me up to the potential of “blocks” of text in Coda that could be “promoted.” By promoted, I mean converted from text into more database-type records with more depth, such as status, due date, assignee, etc.

I hadn’t been that keen on blocks, which seem to have made their presence felt in Notion, but also exist in an increasing number of apps like Slite, Fibery, and so on. But the way Roam uses blocks is very intriguing from a creative point of view:

If I am understanding correctly, every “block” you write - and basically every bullet point in a paragraph becomes a “block” - has some underlying attributes that allow it to be referenced throughout the app. So these “blocks” function like mini-data records. It occurred to me that you could create similar blocks across Coda, in some places where I happen to use a lot of expanded text, which are:

  • In Canvas
  • In Rich Text description fields
  • In Comments

Then, the idea is you could possibly “convert” them, via right click menu or ellipses, to a row in a table. All the while leaving this block where it is in its “home” in the canvas or Rich Text description or Comment. And creating a reference to the destination row. That destination row can wind up being a project, an OKR, idea to create a company goal, you name it. This would give another dimension of creativity as it would encourage write-up of ideas and similar content without hesitation across Coda, with no fear among more novice users around how to convert this into Coda’s row structure. And if these quick keyboard shortcuts are implemented that Tom talks about, there is great free-flow potential for more creative and less technical types who otherwise might look at Notion or Milanote exclusively. With this level of flow available in Coda, there would be much less intimidation between writing, and integrating this content into actionable rows in Coda.

I really don’t think it would be a stretch for Coda to implement some of this stuff. Would be a great complement to the core structure and power we have. And probably a great tool to encourage more Makers get into Coda. It is the year of the Maker after all!

Sorry to all in advance for the following lengthy comment. If I had more time this would be far shorter.

This is already possible and I’ve done some of this in varying engagements. It’s not easy, and it’s non-trivial for the reasons I mentioned in my question to @shishir during the recent webinar.

Without formulaic access or API support for text objects, both users and developers are somewhat ham-strung to advance the science of utilising text passages as “data”.

This is crucial because – as you make clear – there’s a vast underserved climate of information in text and the need for non-linear linking relationships. From entity extraction, to magical use of NLP and AI-based compositions, text is at the heart of just about everything humans do in relation to information technology.

During the webinar, @shishir was very direct - the underlying architecture supports what we (and many others have expressed in our desires concerning text accessibility and possible transformations). I look forward to the day when a simple Coda formula is able to tokenize a section or a paragraph or a sentence and allow me to exploit the content in new and innovative ways.

But there’s another aspect of all feature asks that troubles me… feature-requesting a product to death.

We’ve seen what happens when a team is pressured into adding the kitchen sink. Microsoft Word presently has 9,258 features. I know this because I was on a team that assessed the viability of making Word fully accessible under the WCAG standards, etc. It gets very ugly when [seemingly] simple writing tools are laden with plumbing fixtures.:wink: And there’s no debate - I’m part of the problem for sure!

In contrast, (and recognizing my own feature addictions) I try from time-to-time to advocate a slightly different approach - encourage teams to build features that make more features possible. Here’s a wild and crazy example -

What if … Coda could embed Python scripts much the same way Observable embeds javascript in web documents? Or the way Python can be used to test ideas in Jupyter notebooks? This is what might magically emerge -

  • Panda Dataframes would allow us to seamless interchange Coda tables and transform them in ways that negate many of the feature requests that exist in this forum.

  • We’ve all asked for data-related transformations, blending, sorting, interleaving, etc. Why not implement a pathway to every imaginable data management challenge?

  • We could build complex data models with speed and nearly without effort. Data processing would become almost trivial.

  • Data visualizations would no longer be bound to the limits of Coda’s visualization features. (the app shown below is 18 lines of Python)

  • Important (to @ABp), a mind map is a simple interpretive process that has been fully baked into many Python libraries. In just a few lines of code, relationship mapping becomes a simple approach that can be applied to arbitrary data sets; texts, lists, arrays, tables, views - with Python it all becomes easily mappable and rendered as we desire.

  • Don’t know Python? Embelish the Python plugin feature with the ability to share “recipies” and reuse snippets. Enable pack developers to openly build and share Python libraries and code generators. Now you have an attraction to those who know and those who need.

  • Big win - Coda quietly slides into the data science arena; a broader positioning is now possible.


The above 3D dynamic visualization built with 8 lines of Python code (another 10 lines to collect the data).

    dfRevenueMap['lat'] = pd.to_numeric(dfRevenueMap['lat'],errors='coerce')
    dfRevenueMap['lon'] = pd.to_numeric(dfRevenueMap['lon'],errors='coerce')

    # set up the inp selector
    fdList = sorted(dfRevenueMap['FD Name'].unique(), reverse=False)
    selectedFDs = st.multiselect(
        'Select Fire Department Name(s)',
        fdList
    )

    if (selectedFDs):
        dfFilteredRevenueMap = dfRevenueMap[dfRevenueMap['FD Name'].isin(selectedFDs)] 
    else:
        dfFilteredRevenueMap = dfRevenueMap

    # get the geo-midpoint of the data
    midPoint = (np.average(dfFilteredRevenueMap['lat']), np.average(dfFilteredRevenueMap['lon']))

    # mapboxgl chart
    st.deck_gl_chart(
        viewport = {
            'latitude': midPoint[0],
            'longitude': midPoint[1],
            'zoom': 11,
            'pitch': 50,
        },
        layers = [
            {
                'type': 'HexagonLayer',
                'data': dfFilteredRevenueMap,
                'radius': 200,
                'elevationScale': 4,
                'elevationRange': [0, 1000],
                'pickable': True,
                'extruded': True,
            },
            {
                'type': 'ScatterplotLayer',
                'data': dfFilteredRevenueMap,
            }
        ]
    )

If this is the Year of the Maker, then 2021 must be the year of Users Buying What Makers Made in 2020.

Bill, as impressive as ever. I wouldn’t mind engaging you directly to solve my team’s software development issues, as well as our Coda set-up needs, haha!

With things like reciprocal references showing up around Coda, more manipulation of text into rows, visualizing these relationships, and the potential of the text around Coda being more readily “convert-able” to rows and data, I think you have about 90% of my desired features covered! I’m not sure if you would include those in feature bloat, but I’m hopeful most of what I am looking for is a matter of just surfacing stuff in the existing Coda architecture. I am no developer, but we use Python extensively on some of our platform (as well as Elastic Search we discussed earlier), and this all sounds like a dynamite implementation of it!

This is primitive compared to what you just wrote, but much of my desire for the reciprocal references and easy manipulation of text has to do with somewhat successful use of Confluence/Jira for a long time. As you may know, you can easily manipulate text in Confluence into Jira issues, and references are picked up all across the two apps. It was the one probably redeeming feature of an otherwise failed experience with my team and Atlassian. Also, although I just said “easy,” that is with caveats: The process in Confluence to link with Jira was simple to understand, but it took many clicks, highlighting with the mouse, and generally those two apps were S-L-O-W. So as I work in Coda, I long more and more for being able to see these wonderfully quick relations I create in Coda show up in the destination I point them to! And you can really get a sense of how well that can help with usage of a tool by seeing how Roam is manipulating this concept.

And apologies for another long post, but I thought I’d also shed some light on my own use of MindMaps /visualization. Again, hope this is helpful as I know the Coda Team likes use cases!

We wanted to create a “Feature Map” of our Software Platform. The idea was to show the relationships between components in the various tiers of the system. So, a webpage where you sign up and submit your resume (one of our sites is a job site) would have a link to the db in the Infrastructure level where that resume data does in. If there is a parsing process, the link would also incorporate the mid-tier parsing service we built. In the end, the opportunity is to wind up with a “live” diagram of our system, that will update as we adjust links in Jira, a we were still using it at the time. This eliminates the need for the likes of Lucidchart or Miro, which typically are used by a dev team building a static diagram of a Dev Platform. Then, they build completely separately in the repositories, and have a nightmare to keep the diagrams updated.

After @Paul_Danyliuk’s SVG example here…

and now reading your thoughts, makes me even more aware about how this should not be that hard to accomplish. And, I think if Coda came out with this natively, they would have a potential disruptor in the Diagramming Software space. Unlike the market leaders I just mentioned, Coda actually is a place teams will maintain the structures that they represent in external tools in Lucid and Miro.

And I am in favor of paying for doc making through Coda as soon as you guys figure it out, too!

Take care.

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Well I wouldn’t if they expose these features in a way that makes it possible to craft these features (and many more), not necessarily provide exactly those features. Rather, build for a future of possibilities.

I think we have written the start for a book. :wink:

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And I need to get back to my day job, haha.

Really hoping the Product Team shares your vision Bill. Will be eagerly looking out for your next words of wisdom, all the best!

If Coda’s future (or anything for that matter) is dependent on my wisdom, we’re all in deep trouble.

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