Why I'm Leaving Roam for Obsidian

I'm a huge fan of Roam. I still am.

I've been using it consistently for about a year and a half.

This was when I started using Roam.

I've tried other apps along the way: Workflowy, Athens Research, Bear, etc. But I always ended back at Roam. It just worked for me. The feature set all aligned to give me the experience that I was looking for.

But I'm deciding to leave Roam based on a few factors:

  • Community management
  • Cost vs competition

Community Management

In the early days Roam's community was super exciting. People were trading ideas and setups and workflows. And those things are certainly still happening, but lately the culture has started to turn a little toxic.

Recently, me and several other people, were permanently banned from the Roam Research subreddit. It was seemingly random. Sure, some people love to hate on Roam for absolutely no reason. That's annoying for sure. But several of the people who were banned hadn't made a post in weeks. I hadn't commented or posted in 23 days. Another user hadn't posted in 70 days!

It's one thing if they said, "We are shutting down the subreddit because the Slack channel is more active." Or if they gave any reason at all. But there has been no response anywhere as to why they banned loyal users. Did I say something? What happened?

I mean, people in the r/BearApp subreddit make some pretty harsh jokes about how Bear has been working on their Panda update for years. But the team at Bear just gives a normal response and moves on. They take it in stride.

I understand that handling annoying people can be tough at times, but you would think by now that they would have figured out how to manage them.

I'm not super upset. It is upsetting that someone at Roam felt that banning people and not explaining why was a good idea. But I'll move on and not think twice about it.

But they should hire someone to handle the community.

Cost vs Competition

This isn't necessarily just about which one is more expensive or which one is cheaper. It's about weighing both of those two things together.

We are getting to the point where all the new PKM apps have all the main features you want: bi-directional linking, backlinks, block references, unlinked references, etc.

So if all the apps have nearly all the features you want, then what makes them different from each other? I think a big part of it will come down to which community you want to be a part of.

After spending some time in the Obsidian and Logseq community, I really like it. I like it a lot actually.

So even though I like using Roam more, is it worth $15/month more than Obsidian? I paid $48 for a year of Obsidian sync, Roam is $180 a year. That's a huge difference. Is Roam worth that much more? Maybe. For some people it definitely is. For me, it's not anymore.

I've mentioned in a previous post that my 5 year old son has an incurable, rare disease called cystic fibrosis. Since we have quite a few medical bills, I have to really analyze what I'm spending money on. Roam isn't making the cut anymore. Obsidian is giving me more value and the community is a lot more fun. I'm also using it in conjunction with Logseq which has been pretty awesome.

Final Thoughts

I still like Roam and I'm still following how it progresses. I don't hate Conor or Roam. I still like them. I think they are just trying to deal with growth. I also think they need to understand the value of handling your community of users a little better.

I may go back to Roam in the future, but at the pace of development of apps like Logseq, Remnote, and Obsidian it seems unlikely. But who knows.

From this point forward I'm an Obsidian and Logseq guy.

Icon by Gavin Nelson!