Are you deceiving yourself? Let me count the ways.

Until recently I was deceiving myself and I had no idea. That’s the insidiousness of self-deception as described in the book Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute. You can be deceiving yourself, and be the source of many problems in your life and your relationships with others, and never know about it.

It tells the story of Tom in parable form as he learns about the material in the book. As readers we journey with him.

I once heard someone say that if you’ve not read this book you should read it. If you’ve not read it in the last six months, you should read it again. My most recent read was about my fifth (a few reads and a couple of runs through the audiobook). You’re thinking, “Why would I need to read a book so many times?” As I said, I’ve read it before yet it took this read to be deeply connected with the book. One morning I found myself almost shaking as my mind, emotions and body reconfigured themselves to the realisations I was having.

In short, the premise of the material is that we can be blinded to how we are seeing others in a way that causes us to treat them as objects rather than people. When we are doing that our thoughts and behaviours conspire to keep us treating them the same way and we find examples of their behaviour that justifies our poor behaviour.

There have been many times under Covid-19 where I have been very, excruciatingly angry with some people around me. I knew I was angry and am now ashamed at how I was demeaning them in my mind. More so, I would have conversations with others to actively recruit them to my way of thinking.

Leadership and Self-Deception helped me see that I was deceiving myself and show me what was really going on. That was a couple of weeks ago and since then I’ve been mostly unflappable. People that would trigger me no longer do and I’ve felt relaxed and certainly far less angry than I’ve been. That’s a good thing for me, and a better thing for those around me.

If you’ve not read Leadership and Self-Deception, please read it. If you’ve read it before and haven’t in the last six months, please read it again.

Reversing my habit of not taking notes

I write notes all the time. Instructions I don’t want to remember , work I’m thinking through, tasks I have to do. That last is important to make sure I keep getting things done (and I’m a firm believer from experience that if someone says they will do something in a meeting and doesn’t write it down, it won’t get done.)

After coming to Roam Research as a note-taking tool that exceeds the power of any tool I’ve used in the past, I am evaluating my note-taking. You see, there is a lot of information I consume that I never take a single note on.

I might mark something of interest to remember later if my brain can remember it.

Watching and reading about Roam has opened my eyes to note-taking in my own words. Sounds so obvious yet it can be easier to parrot the words of the author, especially in a world of highlight-copy-paste.

This morning was a revelation. I have just finished note-taking on three articles I had saved into Instapaper. Sunday morning, sitting in my recliner with laptop on my lap. Instapaper open in one window on the left hand side of the screen, and Road on the right hand side. Have plenty of time since finishing Ghost of Tsushima yesterday.

Three articles in 15 minutes that I actually connected with. No doubt I would have found them interesting – after all I added them to Instapaper for that purpose. But, I would have scanned them more than read them.

This is a new world I’m happy to belong to. Now to solve the same problem for podcasts.

Ghost of Tsushima

Late this afternoon I finished playing Ghost of Tsushima on the PS4. It’s the last big game I’ll play on the console before moving to a PS5 when it is launched (or whenever after I can afford one).

At the end of each console’s life, the games are as beautiful and environmentally full as they can be. This is no exception and comes right on the heels of The Last of Us 2. As much as the graphics are extraordinary (for none of what you see is real), it is the story that attracts me to this type of game.

In Ghost you play Jin Sakai, a samurai who spends his time repelling Khotun Khan and his Mongol horde from the island of Tsushima. There are many reviews if you want more detail about how the game mechanics work.

I felt connected to Jin quite early on and through him to those he brings to his cause along the way. Many of the early reviews said Jin showed no emotion as a character. I (and a friend who has played) disagree completely. His emotion is what you might call understated but it is all there in the voice, if not always in his facial expressions. It felt good saving the citizens of the island against overwhelming odds.

This is the second ever game I’ve “platinumed” and achieved all the trophies possible. The other game was Shadow of Mordor and the two games have similarities in style of game mechanics and character growth.

Under Covid’s umbrella I’ve played a lot more gaming this year than usual. Building cities in Cities Skylines, hunting treasure again in Uncharted 4 and traveling with Joel, Ellie and Abby in The Last of Us and The Last of Us 2. Now I’m looking forward to getting back into Elite: Dangerous. All of these games take me to new worlds outside of the house, and for my mental health at least, that’s a good thing.

How to embed OneDrive files in RoamResearch

RoamResearch is a knowledge management tool. It’s not a file management tool. Any document I load into Roam is locked in — not in a way that prevents me getting it out — but in a way that locks me out of all the other things I may want to do with that document. Edit it easily, make a copy, send it to a friend. Yet, storing a document close by any notes I take on it is important as well.

This article describes how to get the best of both by embedding OneDrive files within RoamResearch.

The criteria for success

Having used many tools in the past, there is a set of criteria I have which builds a system that works best of me.

  1. Document must be easily accessible for reading, markup, modification, and copying.
  2. Documents must be able to be renamed or moved without breaking links.
  3. Documents must be shared and quickly accessible across multiple devices and operating systems without breaking links.
  4. Documents must be secure.
  5. Documents must be backed up and quickly restored as part of my normal backup processes.

OneDrive for file storage

Let’s look at file management first. I use Microsoft’s OneDrive as part of the Office 365 subscriptions I have at home and work. In a past life I used Dropbox and you should be able to create a similar solution to this if Dropbox is your cloud sharing solution.

OneDrive integrates with Windows, MacOS and iOS. It gives me access to files anywhere and keeps any changes synced wherever I am logged in. Check items #3 (shared) and #4 (secure) above. I can make a change to a document on Windows and pretty much pick it up immediately on a Mac. Documents are stored behind a username, password and two-factor authentication. And I even get a fair dose of #5 (backup) for online backup just by virtue of having multiple copies on multiple devices and version of each whenever a change is made.

Obviously #1 (file access) comes as a the default.

The magic of the share link

Any file or folder on OneDrive can be shared with another person. There are multiple points in the interface where you can "Share" a link to a file.

Basic share where “Copy Link” provides a URL to share the files.

Each file shared in this way is:

  • Provided by a unique URL that gives read/edit access to the file
  • Useable by anyone on the planet that has access to a web browser and the link.

Now, it is possible to add some security options to a link but if I have tens or hundreds of files to load into RoamResearch it becomes cumbersome.

What this does mean however — and this is critical — is that every file in OneDrive receives a unique number when shared that doesn’t change.

Here’s the link to the file above, a diagram mapping the various states of awareness in the Pathfinder 2 role-playing game.!Ag8laod4ZSw5rEwoPMBBU7X10VQB?e=PnbJVT

In Roam I might write:

[States of Awareness.pdf](!Ag8laod4ZSw5rEwoPMBBU7X10VQB?e=PnbJVT)

There are two ways to stop that link from working. Either I remove the share, or I delete the file. Renaming or moving the file to another folder does not break the access.

So we’re part way there. It looks like OneDrive can potentially do what we need. It gives links to files that can be pasted in to RoamResearch, though the file is not visible inline i.e., embedded. But the share sits against the file and when doing that for personal use, a little too much.

Let’s embed

The syntax we need to embed something into Roam is {{iframe: URL}}. It makes sense to think {{iframe:!Ag8laod4ZSw5rEwoPMBBU7X10VQB?e=PnbJVT}} would work but it doesn’t. It’s not the link OneDrive is expecting when you want to embed a file.

Is there such a thing? Sure is.

Firstly, make yourself familiar with the Embed files directly into your website or blog instructions provided by Microsoft. This gives you the HTML for inserting into a blog such as this.

The code for our previously shared file is:

Note: At this point I have two shares attached to my file. The earlier share and the new embed share. Normally there would only be one, but this shows how crazy it can get. If I had shared a parent folder, then I’d have three.

If you copy and paste this text as is into Roam it won’t work. Too much information for Roam to parse in a form it’s not expecting. Instead, copy everything from to, and incuding, &em=2.

Sorry, did I forget to mention you can’t actually copy that little bit directly out of the OneDrive window where it gives you the code. You have to copy it all, paste somewhere, then copy the URL out. Not my bad interface design.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a link that will show an embedded version of your document in Roam.


You’re done.

Yet, with a couple of different steps we can make some improvements.

Improve your embeds

Let’s look at that URL again.

The key parts which differ from the simple share link of earlier are:

  • The word embed after the domain name
  • The cid value, a unique identifier for the document
  • The resid value, the same identifier as cid but with some extra values
  • The authkey value, which provides an authentication key for access by everyone
  • em=2 which tells the Roam to display the document as embedded, rather than just linked.

Ideally we want a link which:

  • Is faster to create and edit than the embed process given by Microsoft.
  • Works only on a device if you are also logged into OneDrive (security)
  • Can be automatically formatted for Roam using a text expander tool such as Keyboard Maestro, FastKeys, TextExpander or Phrase Express.

This is what we do.

  1. Open OneDrive in a browser
  2. Navigate to the file you want to share
  3. Click on that file
  4. Copy the URL, from the start, up to right before &parid
  5. Create your {{iframe: }} item in RoamResearch
  6. Paste the URL
  7. Replace &id with &resid
  8. Add &em=2 at the end.

Ignore any line wrapping you see below.

I hope you can manage steps 1-3 without guidance. My full url is

and I want to copy just (step 4)

An understanding of Web Query String formatting may help you identify the right point.

Steps 5 and 6 give me:

{{iframe: }}

Step 7 gives

{{iframe: }}

Here I’ve modified the &id=392… in the middle to &resid=392… (c’mon, Microsoft is famous for being consistent)

And finally, step 8, add the &em=2 instruction to embed the file.

{{iframe: }}

This is what it looks like in Roam once done. There are some good controls for resize and zoom at the bottom of the window.

Important to note. If not signed into OneDrive, this shows up as a grey box indicating the file cannot be accessed. Log into OneDrive in your browser and it will show.

Wrapping up

Let’s go back to my original criteria.

  1. Document must be easily accessible for reading, markup, modification, and copying.
  2. Documents must be able to be renamed or moved without breaking links.
  3. Documents must be shared and quickly accessible across multiple devices and operating systems without breaking links.
  4. Documents must be secure.
  5. Documents must be backed up and quickly restored as part of my normal backup processes.

How did we do?

  • OneDrive meets critiera 1, 3, 4 and 5 out of the box
  • Sharing links gives us 2
  • Using the final steps shown above, we get security in Roam as well

For me an ideal solution.

Now to create those text expansions to make it even faster.

Welcome to my digital garden

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With new ideas and wonder
And possibility all in a row

I’m about half way through the Roam FM interview with Maggie Appleton. Maggie has just described her digital garden as a placeholder for ideas to grow and ripen in public. That struck me as very much what the garden in Quantum Gardener has always meant. It’s never been a place for me to write the perfect words. I don’t have time for that and the value isn’t there.

My digital garden has always been a place for sharing ideas that I have in the hope they trigger ideas in others. A place for conversation, reflection and thinking. In conversation we never hold back for the right words before speaking (though sometimes we should) otherwise we would never say anything.

Whenever I was reorganising or curating my PersonalBrain the term I would use was "gardening".

I’m hearing lots from people using Roam Research as a staging area for collating ideas before publishing. I can understand that as an academic you need to do that with a high degree of rigour. For many others however, perhaps Roam is your garden shed with seeds and once you’re ready you can take them to your garden for your ideas to grow in the sun and be enjoyed by others. Even a budding seed can be full of wonder.

The Wickedness of Covid-19

"In planning and policy, a wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognise. It refers to an idea or problem that cannot be fixed, where there is no single solution to the problem; and "wicked" denotes resistance to resolution, rather than evil. Another definition is "a problem whose social complexity means that it has no determinable stopping point". Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems." Wikipedia contributors. (2020, June 17). Wicked problem. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:12, August 3, 2020, from

This sounds exactly like our response to Covid-19. Some will no doubt argue that actions taken or not taken are correct – from the point of view of their professional knowledge; but no one person or body can comprehend the full social/economic/menta/wellbeing effect of it all.

Even when this is done and dusted, we will never know if we’ve taken the right actions. All we can do, as at any point of decision, is make the best decision we can at the time.

They Gave Us Laughter (revisited)

This is a revisit of a post originally from May 20th, 2012.

The world has moved on once again and we’re now in uncharted territory. At a time when my daughters are coming into adulthood I’m conscious of a wave of experiences they are missing out on and will never have a chance to regain. But they will have different positive experiences in their lives. Of that I’m sure.

I love things that make me feel a strong sense of nostalgia. Many of us do. Yesterday I watched The Muppets after missing it in the cinema earlier this year (twice in fact). My post on Facebook said it all.

I laughed. I cried. I spent most of the movie doing both.

A can of TaB took me back to my uncle’s house when my brother and I would holiday there. The sound of a modem dialling had me laugh out loud and attract the stares of my girls who didn’t understand what I found funny. Most of it it was the Muppets themselves. Sometimes we don’t realise we are missing something from our lives, and how important it was to us at the time, until it returns. Time travel happens when we least expect it.

But, as Roland Deschain says so frequently in his quest for The Dark Tower, the world has moved on. And I have moved with it. I wonder what my daughters will have for nostalgia in their future?

We are just starting this Covid-19 journey in Australia. Don’t think it’s anything otherwise.

Today the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Australia has crested 16,000. In my home state of Victoria, cases have been rising steadily from the start of July with today a country record of 700+ new cases in a day, and the number of deaths reported daily increasing as well.

These are not as severe as many other places in the world and for that I am glad. However, there is a prevailing attitude, pushed by the media, that we are in a "second wave" which is sure to peak soon (ie. tomorrow) and that afterwards everything will be fine.

A basic analysis of the numbers involved show this can’t possibly be the case.

There are 25 million people in Australia. A statistic I heard early on was that 80% of the population would be infected. That’s 20 million people. If it’s 8%, 2 million people and at 0.8%, 200,000 people. By now we’re 1% of the original 80% statistic so pretty conservative.

16,000 of 200,000. There is a very long way to go.

Remembering the small tasks too

I’ve been a proponent of the Getting Things Done methodology for many years and I use OmniFocus as my implementation tool. Each day it presents me with 2-3 focus projects and a list of recurring tasks for that day.

It works well, except I’m conscious there are a lot of small tasks that I am missing. Not missed in the sense that I forget to do something, but missed in the sense of not taking small actions to move projects forward.

With the large tasks there is often a component that takes several hours of work. I’m wondering today if I should cut that back by an hour — these tasks often not that time dependent that I can’t — and focus on smashing out a number of the small tasks instead.

Moving from TheBrain to RoamResearch

Last week, long time personal knowledge management fellow traveller, Matt Mower, introduced me to Roam Research. Over 20 years or so we’ve been crossing paths looking for a personal knowledge management system that gives more than it takes. The best candidate for that so far is the recently launched Roam Research and as I’ve written about in the past, the only way to really trial any kind of software is to throw yourself into it and put yourself in a position where you rely upon it.

To that end, and based on what Roam Research offers, I’ve decided to withdraw my investment in TheBrain‘s way of doing things and shift my content to RoamResearch.

This is not going to be an article on why I am changing. A quick Google search will show there are plenty of people spruiking the benefits but if you really need something, start with Nat Eliason‘s video What’s So Great About Roam Research.

A quick primer on TheBrain

The core concept that drives TheBrain is that of the Thought, a node that links to parent thoughts, child thoughts and jump thoughts (same level). Each thought can have notes and files attached, and be typed.

Relationships between thoughts are show as connecting lines in the Plex and as you build connections some thoughts become more central than others. When you select a thought all related ideas are shown as well.

It sounds good and it is but there are some problems with the technical implementation. I have been a user of TheBrain (previously PersonalBrain) since about version 4. It’s now 11. The notes editor is kludgy and on two separate Macs, performace degrades quickly after any extended period of use. Ideas do come together over time, but compared to Roam Research, require more effort. Linking thoughts to text notes is slow. Things have improved, including sync and mobile, yet the software now has the feel of multiple parts that don’t quite fit being held together with some difficulty.

Brain Surgery

Pulling apart my existing brains, requires

  1. Individually dragging each file associated with a thought to a folder

  2. Deciding to load those files into Roam Research or to leave them external

  3. Creating pages in Roam Research to copy notes into

With several thousand files that’s a bit of work (shows how impressed I am with Roam Research doesn’t it). That list doesn’t sound a lot to do technically and is the same you’d expect moving from any one personal knowledge management system to another.

What did I learn from doing this?

There is still a lot to be learned from the "simple" mechanical process above.

  • I had created a lot of hierarchy still in TheBrain. Much of this was hierarchy to provide organisation where organisation wasn’t required. I had groupings for Types of Technology, Types of Scientific Discipline, Types of People and they weren’t ever used.

  • There is a tendency to add knowledge that I know. What you say, isn’t that the point? Yes, but I know who wrote Harry Potter and David Copperfield. There is no need to track that relationship in TheBrain or any similar system.

  • Files are a problem. My approach will be to organise into broad category folders on the file system and use OneDrive shared links in the new system to access them in-situ. With OneDrive, if you move or rename a file, the link remains the same. Too often I need to access a file outside of the personal knowledge management system I’m using. My current categories are:

    • articles – and books
    • instructions – manuals, how to etc
    • memorabilia – ticket stubs, school reports
    • finances
    • personal – items other than finance needed to operate in life