Episode 8

John Carter - Radio Webflow Template
Isaac Aderogba
August 3, 2022
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For this week’s episode, I interview Isaac Aderogba, a programmer and researcher based in London. As you’ll see, it’s pretty difficult to fit Isaac and his project into a box. Specifically, he’s building tools on top of Notion to make it the ultimate personal knowledge management machine. but on a higher level, Isaac is researching the best way to manage and access personal knowledge.

Isaac and I discuss:

  • Zettelkasten and personal knowledge management systems and methodologies
  • Doing research versus building a product
  • And following your interests, even when you don’t know where they’ll lead you

Connect with Isaac:

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Episode Transcript

Matt: Hello, and welcome to Working on Something New the podcast for and about makers and founders. I'm your host, Matt Johnson and I'm myself a founder and product manager.

Thanks for joining us for another episode where we interview a maker about their journey, their project, and their vision for the future.

Working on Something New is powered by my company. Taskable: unified tasks and calendar for all day productivity. Taskable is productivity software that helps you manage your most valuable resource - your time - by integrating with the tools you already use to bring everything into one place, helping you plan your priorities and time block your calendar. Find us at

For this week's episode. I interviewed Isaac a programmer and researcher based in London. As you'll see, it's pretty difficult to fit Isaac and his project into a box. Specifically, he's building tools on top of notion to make it the ultimate personal knowledge management machine. But on a higher level, Isaac is doing research into the best way to manage and access personal knowledge.

We discussed Zettel Caston and personal knowledge management systems and methodologies. Doing research versus building a product. And following your interests, even though you don't know where they'll lead, you. Let's jump into our conversation with isaac

Thanks Isaac. For for joining me today. I'm glad we finally got you after about with COVID and a few other stumbling blocks, but yeah, it's, it's, it's great to, to have you on and, and, you know, obviously I know a little bit about what you're working on, cuz we spent a month together in San Francisco, but I would love to hear you.

You know, tell the audience what you're working on your name and sort of what the, the status of the project is.

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah. I suppose, first of all, good to be here and yeah. See you again. It feels like San Francisco was really just like a month ago. I'm sure it's been a couple of months now, but,

Matt: It's been a three or four, I think.

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, exactly. But yeah, I suppose like last we left off maybe I'll just give like quick background actually, just to explain how I got to like this situation.

Okay. So quick overview Where do I start? okay. Look, formal background is in business and law. As I'm finishing college, you actually have this huge growing interest in, I suppose like technology and software development. So I guess like similar to your role now, actually in basketball must have been like the product manager sort of like role.

Matt: yep.

Isaac Aderogba: That's the kinda like position I wanted to like break into in tech. So towards like the end of my final year, I started thinking about like, okay, actually, how can I at least become a little bit tech savvy so I can start to apply for some of these positions? So yeah, out of college was able to get a.

Associate product manager job. Did that for about nine months. Before I realized that actually like development is where all of the fun is at least for me, I actually found that like, you know, the software developers, whatever is actually doing the kinda like interesting pieces of work. And like, I guess I didn't really like being in product manager or like this sort of like orchestrating presence as much so.

Yeah, about nine months into it. I decide to yeah, quit and instead do a bootcamp just like upscale on software development. So I do a bootcamp for a couple of months. That's the point actually at which I win the pioneer competition. So like that's actually what kinda like open up this entire network of, you know, meeting people like yourself, but also meeting people like Dave, who I'd, you know, later become co-founders with.

For this company called to desktop. So yeah, doing the pioneer team for I mean doing the bootcamp thing for a couple of months then yeah, meet Dave end up getting into YC with, to desktop. And then I spent like a year with, to desktop just yes, similar to like yourself and probably most people on the podcast, just trying to like, you know, find a product that works for like a big enough segment of people.

But yeah, about like after a year, I, I kinda like realized that I had transitioned too fast from, I suppose, just learning about software development into like now being like this sort of like, you know, founder presence and like this CPO, that was like my title at the desktop. And when really, I just wanted to like explore a lot more, which I guess is almost like traumatic to the working on something new.

So like title.

So, yeah. I mean, like, yeah, yeah. It was like around that time, but I decided that, yeah, actually, you know, I'm just gonna like, yeah, like step down from, to desktop and essentially like, just spend like the next couple of months, just trying to figure out the different technical areas that I'm interested then.

And that's, I guess, effectively what kind like took me down. This path of like, what I am interested in now is this sort of like augmenting human capability. There's like a lot of, I feel like a lot of word for it's like intelligence augmentation, or maybe some other like terms that people would be familiar with is if you think about, I dunno if you're familiar with like Zyl Castin or like these different method.

Oh, no, really? Zeto Castin oh, it's just like And note taken methodology. And it's been like popularized by someone called sunk Aarons, but it was actually first formulated by this. I think it was like a sociology researcher called Nicholas Luman. But the idea is that anyway, It's like this form of atomic note taken.

So the way most people conventionally take notes is maybe like, listen to a lecture you have like in the digital era, maybe you have like your OneNote open or whatever. And like, yes, I have like this one long page of notes that tries to like compress everything that the lecture are said. Whereas with atomic notes, you're encouraged, like build notes in this more sort of like.

Let's say like card, like fashion where each note, each idea is kinda like represented in each note. So ideally you have this like densely linked sort of network of notes which you can like see popularized with, you know, rom research

Matt: Okay. Yeah. So yeah, I was definitely familiar with that concept. I hadn't heard, so I I'm, I'm sure we had talked about at one point

Isaac Aderogba: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Matt: but yeah. So it's sort of that like idea of having this interlinked knowledge. So you have these different sort of nodes of, of information and seeing how everything sort of connects together, essentially.

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So it's mainly like a methodology, just like a different way to think about taking notes in order to like positively accumulate knowledge. But I mean, I still, like, this is kinda like the stuff that like I start getting into during my free time. And that's when I stumble on this other kind of like concepts, I don't know if I mentioned this to you.

I might have, but it's called itemized operating systems. So, yeah, I mean, it's the fact it's popularized by this other guy called Alexander opener, sorry. His name's Alexander opener. And he is just like himself interested in the future of personal computing. So true how his research is thinking about like, you know, what are like useful primitives that you can give end users so that they can manipulate their own computing environment.

And to make it sound like a little bit more tractable, if you think about. Something like notion. Right? I I'm sure like most people are familiar with notion. Notion is almost kinda like this. Well, it is effectively this like block based editor, but it's also programmable in a sense in that, like you're able to like define different databases.

You're able to specify how those databases relate to one another. So if you look at notion from this perspective of itemized operating systems, you can imagine each database actually hosts in its own collection of items. So if you're interested in. Food recipes. You probably have databases related to like ingredients and like nutrition and like, whatever, if you're interested in, you know, exercise science, you probably have like weights and exercise and all these other kind of things where if you're like me and you're interested in like, so if like accumulating knowledge, you have databases related to the different, like settle cast and note types.

So they have like fleeting notes, literature notes, permanent notes. But the idea is that like, actually, you know, it's helpful to think about like this person. Your personal computing environment in this sort of like itemized sense. So when I started reading that, I was actually also starting to use notion like quite heavily, because I wanted to start being very deliberate about like, actually, how do I organize my knowledge and how do I kinda like think to some of these things.

So then that, I feel like we're finally at the point of like what I was working on at pioneer. But essentially like itemized operating systems. And then at this other side, Memory systems. So there's this one paper by a guy called or two guys, Andy tusk and Michael Nielson, it's called, how can we develop these transformative tools for Toth?

And the entire paper is like, I feel like it's a great introduction for like most people. And I it's probably most people's introductory paper were, are interested in this space, but essentially, like, it talks about like memory systems more broadly. But essentially just tries. Make the case for like actually, how can you create these new tools that enable you to think in almost like tin unthinkable tots that you otherwise wouldn't have, I suppose taught before?

So like, yeah, I was really attracted by that idea. So attracted by this idea of like memory systems and itemized operating systems and like effectively just wanted to try and combine the, do the two in some way. So yeah, what I was working on at pioneer, like during the time there was. Mnemonic operating systems.

So essentially trying to like build an itemized operating system that bakes in like memory techniques into the actual substrate of like how it works. And some of like the experiments that I was working on was essentially. Created this. Yeah. I essentially created this wrapper around the notion desktop app, which would allow me to like, build my own extensions on top of the notion interface.

So, and this is some of the stuff you would've seen. I created this sort of like map, like navigation system as a way that you try, like improve under sort of like graph based view that you would get with obsidian. I created this sort of like universal spotlight search though. So like, no matter what side I'm on, I'm able to just.

Hit a command keyboard shortcut and bring up the window and like reference anything that exists in my kind of like database of items. So yeah, that's kinda like where we kinda like touched it off. And yeah, so like very much interested in this space, but I think what I'm trying to like do now is.

I guess, like, correct for some of the gaps that I've identified in this sort of like Z cast and workflow, because the whole point of Zeto casting is that like, you're meant to be able to like create these atomic notes and, you know, the end product is that you're able to like publish like some paper from all of those, like different like notes that you've created.

So I've tried to, like, I tried to follow this when I was in, you know, San Francisco actually sent myself the ambitious goal of trying to publish six papers within that month that I was.

Matt: Yep.

Isaac Aderogba: Hoping to like, leverage this sort of like, you know, these like network of notes I was building. But I think, I, I think I published tree, but I think what I also realized was that it's like, there's like a big step between like creating notes and like publishing a paper, you know?

And like so much of like so much of like the, to read on this is kind of like, you know, the papers, just write themselves. you know, you, you But, yeah, I guess you just kind of like learned that like actually, you know, reality is like a little bit more difficult and more nuanced. So I, I think a little bit more about like, what are some of those gaps and like, how can I correct for them in a way that doesn't like necessarily just try and like embrace technology and tries to think about it more from like a methodology methodological point of view in the same way as Zeto Caston did.

Matt: Gotcha. Yeah. So

Isaac Aderogba: Sorry.

Matt: no, we, so yeah, that's an excellent background. I, I mean, one thing got, when I, when I met you, I was just super impressed by your approach to this, because it wasn't like you set out to build a product. It was that you were just super interested in this space and was kind of interesting about this is it's such a, like, there's so much like it's so meta that you are.

You're using you sort of, you're interested in the space and you're using these tools to build a product, to like build a better tool. On on top of the, you know, on top of these different methodologies and there's, it's like, it is very academic and you know, when we're at pioneer, everyone, everyone was there building a product,

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah.

Matt: And you were, you were there everyone everyone's output was, I wanna, you know, double my, you know, revenue or I want to have, you know, five new you know, enterprise clients or whatever it was. And yours was like, I wanna publish papers. So that was like, that was very different. And so it was, it was just really cool to see how you're approaching this.

I guess. Could I try to like sum it up back to BA so basically your pro basically, if you were to say you're and would you say that you're building a product at the moment or is this still very much sort of an exploration?

Isaac Aderogba: I'd say it's very much exploration. There's no like concrete products that would come out of it. Like if, from what I'm doing right now, like, I would hope that like some methodology would come out of it. Some kind of like. Set of steps that like anyone could use to actually build on top of Ze casting, you know, take it from this place where it's supposedly meant to help you like create a paper essentially like try and like fill in the gap that actually takes to create one.

And yeah, just try and like systemize that into like a sort of workflow. So like, I hope like that would be the output of what I'm currently doing, but like, it isn't like a product and a sort of like conventional sense, you know,

Matt: Gotcha. So, so I guess, so the, the fact that you're building it on top of notion, isn't isn't as relevant, isn't that relevant, like notion is just the base tool. Cause that's something that you're familiar with, but really what we've built on top is just this ability to organize notion in a way that sort of Is in line with this sort of Z casting or these nodes, sort of a ROEs way of being able to connect your thoughts together in order to sort of map your knowledge and be able to access the knowledge that you need when you need it around these subject matters that that you're interested in.

Is that, is that a, a good way of putting it?

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah. Yeah. I think that's like effectively what I was trying to do. And. I think part of the motivation for, you know, even trying to like build that infrastructure in the first place is because like, you get this for free. If you're using something like obsidian, they have like these well established, like plugin ecosystems, but like notion for like whatever fricking reason, just like doesn't.

And doesn't like wanna support that. So like naturally, like no matter how expressive a tool is, you're gonna find like gaps like in the workflow. So yeah, I suppose like a lot of what I was building was just trying to like correct photos. Gaps that I had myself identified. So yeah, I mean like less time, more and more I'm spending like a little bit less time coding on the actual like system itself, because what I figured is that like, so like, if, if, so let's say we just go back into the lens of defo Castin for a second, right?

It's this methodology that's. Aspiration should help you be able to like publish papers or like maybe, maybe let's not say papers, let's say like essays or like other kinda like pieces of work that you can share with the community. So like, as I kind of explained before, like the problem is that, like you have these like network of notes but you don't, there's like, no, like structured way on, like, how do I actually like take these notes and like convert it into like this compelling paper?

So there's actually like this other associated methodology called knowledge synthesis. And by this guy called Joel Chan and it's quite similar to like Ze Castin, but it, I think where it perhaps does a little bit better is that it firmly orients itself in this in this sort of like idea of like the literature review.

So if you're kinda like writing a paper, you'll realize that like a literature review was one of the first, like parts of that paper. So he kinda like walks through like all the different, like different note types, which once again, they have like parallels and data cast them, but he effectively says that like, actually the product of this knowledge synthesis is essentially like effect an effect, a really effective literature review.

But when you think about that and you take that in the context of a paper, you kinda like realize that like a literature review is like one very small part in the paper. So actually like Ze Castin. Knowledge synthesis, which I'm describing out right now can only get you as far as the literature review, but there's other aspects there's like, what else is there?

There's like abstract introduction. There's the discussion, the methodology, the results. Like these are like what, all of the things that like were unaccounted for when I was also going through that process of like, actually I have the notes, but I don't have like the rest of this. The rest of this sort of like Like there are like atomic, like units that actually required to publish a paper.

So, yeah. I mean, like at the moment in time, like what I'm trying to like, think through is in the same way that like atomic notes, like just lowers the barrier for you to like essentially compose your thoughts into like the sort of like list your review at other sort of like atomic, like artifacts that you could produce.

That's a little bit more oriented in the sort of paper side of things. So what I'm playing around with it right now is like, there's like an idea of like atomic posts, which live parallel to atomic notes. So I think like this might be like an interesting way to like, think about the kinda like problem.

Yeah. So that's where I'm currently, currently trying to think through and.

Matt: So would you like if like, if you're gonna have to like classify yourself or this project, or sort of, you know, what you're, what you're doing, would you say that you are, would you, would you consider yourself more sort of on the academic side of things here? Like, is this an academic enterprise pursuit to sort of contribute to human knowledge?

Or are you out here trying to solve a problem, whether it's for yourself or someone else and, and therefore. You know, you said you're not building a product, but are you, are you a technologist or are you an

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Matt: like, how would you sort of distinguish that? Cause it's just sort of, it's like a very unique, you're feeling a very unique space and it's, and you, you always wanna classify something,

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah, I know

Matt: what, what box can I put you in?

Isaac Aderogba: dude, this is like, this is 100% what I was grappling with. Like at pioneer, like in San Fran, it was kind of like, you know, like I explain, like I did YC, so it was kind of like, in my mind, it's like, I should be like a startup founder and like, I should continue. Build products and, you know, try and like get things that like people want and like make lots of money and so on.

But I think like what I really realize as I've done this sort of like, like exploration and just like really, like, I'm just learning for like the sake of learning almost. And just trying to like discover I'm finding that, like, I actually. Do quite enjoy this sort of like research lens of like, I don't know, like what the answer is.

And even if I found the answer, I don't necessarily wanna like productize it. I just wanted to be able to like generalize my learnings and like share them with others. So I think if I were to put myself in a group or like some category, like even maybe like right now, I think I'd be like leaning a little bit towards yeah.

Like you. Being like a researcher. And then just trying to like, you know, learn as much as I can stumble across like interesting problems. And then try and like condense and generalize those learnings for people who could they themselves can build on. And then yeah, I suppose like those are the builder blocks of those knowledge almost.

So, yeah, I guess, yeah. Research, I guess is

Matt: It, yeah. It's, it's interesting though, because there are a lot of, I mean, especially in the UK and you see a lot of I mean in the us, I suppose, as well, but a lot of research coming out of universities that gets spun into a company or a startup, and it, it tends to be in sort of, you know, the biological or medical or, or, you know, more of the hard sciences.

What's interesting, which is with your approach and, and maybe this isn't as novel as I think it is, but it feels pretty novel that you are, you are, you're definitely, you know, doing an academic pursuit. And then turning that into software as opposed to something more in the hard sciences. And are there, I mean, do you know of other examples where, where people are essentially academics that then turn their sort of knowledge into like a software as a service, if that is sort of the model this would be like, is that, or does that, that feels pretty unique, right?

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah. I, I, I'm not sure if there are like the ones, I guess one that I can think of is, are you familiar with oh my God. I think what's the name again? I think it's like tools and crafts, actually. I don't think that's the name. Let me just Google this really quickly. There's this product called news. Maybe you're familiar with it.

It's this Mac app that's essentially like, yeah, essentially trying. Essentially built like a better canvas for someone to explore their thoughts using the apple pencil. And that came out, that came out of this research lab, which I've forgotten the name of unfortunately. But like when I think about like, what other examples of people who have, you know, probably done this model of like research first and like software being spun out of it.

That's like an example that comes to mind actually. You know, I, I know how to find the name of this place because I know related project. Project came


Matt: was just thinking about, I suppose, like swift key sort of, I think started as the project in the university as well.

Isaac Aderogba: what's fifties.

Matt: swift swift key was like the, it was like the better keyboard. I think Microsoft acquired it and it, it sort of, it did a lot of predictive text and I think it had, it was the first one to have like the swipe to type.

And so it was just trying to make the, the mobile keyboard better. And they're using, I mean, I think, you know, they're using a lot of like clever technology to sort of. Predict what the next word would be. And cause, you know, I, I feel like that's a huge problem for me. Like I've fat thumbs and I'm trying to like type and you know, I, so I started swift.

It just makes it easier to to type. And I do think that they, I, I feel like they might have started in a university or it, it might have started as like sort of research project as well.

Isaac Aderogba: yeah, no, that's probably like a good example. Sorry, actually, as you were speaking, I just remembered the name it's ink and switch. That's the name of the sort of product oriented research lab. So like, yeah, they do like a lot of great work around this. But then like, there's also like, I suppose yeah, I guess like indie researchers who are also sort of trying, trying, I'm not sure if I trying to necessarily productize their work, but when I think of, I gave you an example of Andy Matia wrote that paper.

I know for a while he was working on a product that tried to essentially generalize his learnings in a way that made it. Super easy for other people to adopt. He hasn't spoken much of it recently, so I'm not like sure about the current status, but I think that's fine. I think like that's generally the way these kinda like projects go, you kinda like have a strong direction.

Maybe you realize that there's some facet of the problem that isn't quite working as well as you thought it may have. And then just kinda go back and yeah. Reiterate and. Yeah. Experiment. Yeah. It's very like similar to like software, you know, and like

startups, just like, you're just trying to like experiment very quickly.

Matt: Yeah, there's, there's a, there's a sort of scientific method to it. So yeah. So how would, I mean, how you're approaching this in a way that, you know, it's, it's definitely not like a Le you're not, you're not following a, and, and then since you're not building a startup or not sort of anticipating it, so, you know, you don't like, of course you shouldn't follow this methodology, but it's very much different than a, than a lean startup.

You're you're doing a lot of work sort of underground sort of building this or, and sort of researching it, how. Would you, how would you, if you were to say, oh, I want to build a startup and in this space, like how would you approach it differently

Isaac Aderogba: If I were, if I were to say I wanted to build a St space, how would I approach it differently? Let me think about that for a second. And I suppose like differently from like what angle?

Matt: Well, I think

Isaac Aderogba: if,

Matt: Yeah. I'll give you a little bit more like con like, cuz I, I just, I mean, like I said, I just thought it was so cool that how you were approaching this, it was like you're writing papers and you're just, you're like, you're going so deep into this, this, you know, niche. I don't know how niche is, but this, this very specific subject matter.

And you were, you were becoming an expert in it and you were trying to know every last thing you could know about this, this, this area, right. You're re reading all the research papers. And, but, but you had, so you're spending all this time sort of becoming this subject matter expert. Whereas, and, and so.

Is that what you, if, if you were to say, I wanna build a product, say, say you move into a different space next. If I, I wanna just build a product, would you, do you think that this is an approach that you can use also to build a product or to build a startup? Or is this very much an approach you'd only use sort of, because it's an academic pursuit and then if a product comes out of it, you know, fine, whatever.

But, but if you're, if you're, if your goal was different, how would you approach it differently? If that makes sense?

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah. I, I think, yeah, I think I was interested. I, I'm not sure if this is an approach that's as well suited to sort of like product building. because like they share like certain similarities, but effectively, like what, like a lot of research, at least what I'm doing, I don't really have a clear idea of what the end like goal is or the end picture.

I love that atomic post stuff that I actually start talking to you about. That's only something that's really like emerged in my notes, like over the last few weeks as I've started to like probe around the edges. So if we had like this like talk like a month ago, I probably wouldn't still, I probably wouldn't have a promising line of attack for like how I would think about like actually publishing and distilling more work.

And I think like that's quite different from like startups in that. Well, I suppose it depends on like what, like stage you're at, right? But usually there, there is this sort of external pressure from an investor and like, you're really trying to. Figure tunes out in like this quick iterative way.

Like when NYC would have like these essentially weekly or biweekly kind of like meetups and it's kind of like, you know, what progress did you make? You know, what, you know, how many customers did you talk to? Sort of thing. So I, I it's like there's some similarities, but I feel like a lot of research is a little bit too bottoms up and I think you need a.

I think for like, yeah. Product building. It, it, it does benefit for you to have like a somewhat opinionated view of the world. And like right now, like, Quite UN opinionated about like, which some of the more promising interactions, but like, if I was building a startup, I think I'd probably like to , you know, orient myself somewhere at least, or like some hidden insight that I have that I think I can do like much better than others.

I just don't think I'm there quite yet, but I feel like when I do transition there, that's when it's gonna become a little bit more I suppose like similar to like, sorry. I'll probably become like a little bit more familiar to, you know, the conventional sort of like, okay, sweet. Ask someone, I think works.

I'm going to like, try and like create a sort of like minimal prototype. I probably, I probably wouldn't even like code it out to be honest with you, because most tens you can probably like model in notion or like use some, maybe use retool or I dunno, some tool to kinda like spec it out. But like, you're just like in a completely different context of like, okay, I have like this promise line after that, let me try.

And Not necessarily just validate it, but just, you know, build something that I can show people so I can get their real honest, like feedback on it. It isn't enough to like, talk about it. You actually kinda like have to

Matt: Yeah.

Isaac Aderogba: you know, like build something like minimal and like have people actually use it in order to get their real kinda like, you know, opinions.

Matt: Yeah. I suppose it changes when you're, when you're pursuing knowledge for knowledge's sake. Like you are now. Then kind of that's the, the end in, in and of itself is that that GA you've gained knowledge. You've learned, you know, you've, you've hopefully contributed as well. Whereas when you're a startup, it's like, you can't just spend.

Months and months doing that, you know, it's like, you don't wanna spend, you don't wanna spend, if the end goal is to build a startup, you don't wanna do that. You know, you don't wanna be like heads down in a vacuum for three years and then just pop out and be like, Hey, I built this. And everyone's like, I don't really need that.


Isaac Aderogba: Yeah,

Matt: you, like, no matter what that approach won't work. So so

Isaac Aderogba: I, I think, I think what's interesting as well, is that. I'm not sure if those approaches can even coexist because like, initially when I can like stop that desktop, like this was like my frame of context. I wanted to like, explore and like, just like, like learn like a lot more about the world.

But effectively, you know, I had like a. In the same way that like a startup, my investor pressure, I had like fucking bank account pressure of like, you know, my, like my funds are running ads. So like inevitably, like what I spent like a considerable amount of time doing, like, as I was trying to do research was I was also trying to like build products on the side that would hopefully, you know, generate enough money to like support my research.

And inevitably, because products. Tough. And they require like, you know, attention and efforts. You just find that that's taken up a little bit more of your time. So like right now I'm in like a really like good position where I'm working. Part-time

Matt: Mm-hmm

Isaac Aderogba: So like this is four hours a day, but like, It allows me to like, dedicate all of my free time to words, research.

And like, I don't have to deal with these sort of like, like startup problems that like would inevitably like come up, like, you know, after you quote unquote clocked out And like applies for indie product as well. Like even if you have like only 10 users using your product, like if someone's stuck, they're gonna like ping you a message.

And like, you're gonna like get out of bed. Like you're gonna try and like support them and like try, you know? So it's kinda like, I, I feel like it's difficult for both of these like lenses to coexist.

Matt: Yeah, I think, I think doing what you do, you need to be able to clock out and clock

Isaac Aderogba: yeah. You know,

Matt: Yeah. There's, there's, it is impossible to, to put so much. Yeah. I think, you know, the human brain can only handle so much. And if you're, if you're trying to do all those things, it's just, yeah, it's just too much.

It's too much like after hours work on your, your product and, and then trying to do this stuff.

Isaac Aderogba: I think another interesting thing you kinda like honed in on was when you kinda like, talked about like pursue knowledge for knowledge sake. I actually had like a similar conversation with a friend when I was essentially just trying to like, tell about all the stuff I was doing. And he was like, dude, like, you know, how do you like, blah, blah.

I'd love to be able to, you know, like learn more about this. And like, initially you kinda like try and just say, oh, well you just need to do X, Y, and Z. But I think the truth of it is that it's just fun. , you know, it's like, I just, I just enjoy like doing this. I just like enjoy probing around the edges. Like it isn't just, you know, Specific to note taking methodologies.

A lot of my free time as well is also spent on like, I'm really trying to like, fundamentally understand how neural networks work. So it's like, it's fun going down these like rabbit holes. Like there's no like, oh, well, what are you gonna do with that neural network knowledge? Are you gonna productize it?

It's like, no, I just like wanna, I'm just having fun, dude.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, some people play video games and you're you're, you're tooling away on, on research. So I, this is gonna real.

Isaac Aderogba: my girlfriend work some weekend and she asking me like, what am I gonna do today? And was like I'm problems.

Matt: Like, have you heard of the pub Isaac? You could, you could go down there and hang out with your friends, but I, you could bring your, you bring your chalkboard with you and you could you can do some math problems over a pint. This would be hard to a question for you to answer because I don't, you probably just, you probably don't know yet, but if you were to, if I were to, so I'm gonna force you to say in five years, This project will look like X, like what solve for X

Isaac Aderogba: Oh, interesting.

Matt: Or actually

Isaac Aderogba: I, I think, you know, you know what I think, I think so, like I. Like one, like, like interest and area that like I do come back to a little bit is around, you know, like. I think there's a certain with like notions, like block based editor. Right. And like, I think like, as you probably will probably see more often, like more people are gonna like follow this, essentially like paradigm of, you know, essentially like breaking up a document into like these different blocks that can be composed in different ways.

But some part of me also wonders What comes after the block based editor, if anything, which makes me think about like, well, actually, if you think about like a block like what is it like really composed of? So you obviously, you have the conventional examples of like paragraph blocks and like head and blocks and like quote blocks and so on.

But the actual like structure of those blocks are essentially have these sort of like. Like these subject predicate object relationships. So like a block, which is a paragraph, essentially just like a sequence of sentences. And each sentence is either trying to like, you know, there's something trying to like act on something else.

So I dunno, I think I just like wonder about like, actually, can you go like a below the block and actually try and like, reason about like your document in terms of. Like triples instead, it's this idea of like a semantic triple, which essentially just compresses the, you know, Isaac is the subject, likes is the predicate.

Math is the object. And like, actually, you know, if you really look at the block, you just have like a bunch of these different semantic triples. And there are like some, like there are like editors to manage these triples. They usually called ontology editors, but they have, they weren't built in a way to be manipul.

In the sort of like block based sort of paradigm that like notion of spoiled you with. So I think like there's like really interesting, like opportunities when you start to think about what does the future of these texts sort of like interfaces look like, and like actually is there like a step beyond and the end user program and the like notion is afforded us.

For example, maybe I, I dunno why, like it isn't possible in notion, but when you think about. Most let's say tools for task tools. And you think about like how they allow users to extend the products. It's usually like extensions that like, sort of like live up the peripheral. But what if actually you made the actual block structure of the document, like customizable itself.

So actually a user could contribute their own blocks if they wanted. So if I was interested, I could create like a calculation block that like has like special properties. And there's like a, there's like a startup working on this. They're called the block protocol. But it's just like, I think it's like one of many directions that are actually like, quite interesting.

When you think about like the evolution of, let's say text editors, you know, like what's the, what's the next text editor look like? So I think if I was going to product tie something, it might be somewhere and like that area. And just like some more of the, maybe like interest implications that come when you actually think about actually, how can.

Build better interfaces to, so I interact with the like atomic units of knowledge that actually exist inside these blocks. So yeah, I don't like, I dunno what product comes out of like what that product is, but like, it'd be pretty cool.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. So it's sort of like like instead of a notion, I mean, they have some like widgets that you could put, like plug in, but essentially, like why can't you just plug in any sort of widget that you want, whether it's like to do calculus or to do, whatever that might be. I mean that the sky's the limit.

I, of us

Isaac Aderogba: Yeah, effectively, you know, you can make, I, I it's like you can, I gave the example of like a calculation block, but you also have like code blocks, right. That actually execute code

Matt: Yeah,

Isaac Aderogba: opposed to just like, you know, statically render it. So yeah, I dunno. I think there's like interest in like areas kind like there.

But yeah, like there's no like concrete product I can think of. There's just. Interest and like avenues that like, I I've seen like kinda like come up in like my research, like a lot as I kind of go about it. So yeah. That's definitely, definitely one. Actually, at some point I might have said to you, like, I actually am still considering like writing a book on how to craft these rich text editors.

Because like, actually, as, as I was working on like the notion extension system, I've got like really familiar with this sort of like tool kit called pros mirror, which essentially like allows you to build these rich tech editor. And like, I feel like I could actually like the, I could actually distill that knowledge for people in a way that would lead to there being, I suppose, more variety of rich sex editors on the web, but also like a better variety of them.

Because yeah, like, like I really love notion and like, I've tried to use other tools, but

Matt: Yeah.

Isaac Aderogba: yeah, like the text I didn't experience really isn't the same. And I think like some of that is just down to like building these editors actually. Challenging. So it could be useful to, you know, maybe try to help some folks out, like in that area.

Matt: absolutely. Well, awesome. Yeah. Thanks for all that. I, you know, we're, we're up against time here, but is there anything that you wanted to share or anything I should have asked you that I didn't ask?

Isaac Aderogba: I don't know. I feel like we've actually talked about, I feel like I've talked a lot. I feel like I've just

Matt: That's the point. That's

Isaac Aderogba: chatter, chatter, chatter. So no, I think you've, you've done like a pretty good. And yeah, just allowing me to kinda like talk shit. I feel like,

Matt: No it is. Yeah, no, it's we had, we had some really good chats in San Francisco. I, you know, we, we got to walk together a few times

Isaac Aderogba: yeah,

Matt: over to the, to the coworking space and we had, we had a bunch, it was just super interesting hearing how you're approaching this and. You know, what I really love about this, this interview particularly is you I've talked to a couple content creators.

I've talked to, you know, quite a, a few star founders, but, you know, I guess I was like trying to, like, I'm trying to classify things on the website. Like how would I classify I Isaac? And I guess, you know, I would, I would consider this just research and that's, and that's really, it's just a really interesting approach that cuz you come from.

Sort of this technology world, you know, and you're, and you sort of decided that you wanted to sort of do this academic pursuit, but you still have this idea of, you know, still working on a product at some point, you know, and being a founder. So it's just, it's just interesting. You don't see that sort of transition very often, but.

But just to see someone pursuing something, cuz it's just super interesting and, and being so passionate about it, it, it was, I'm really glad that you got to, to share with the audience and, and hopefully inspire some other people to sort of take that approach as well. So yeah. Yeah. Thanks for, thanks for jumping on.

How, how can people find you? I mean, I don't know that you have a website for your, your pro what's actually I don't. I think I asked you this what's do you have a name for the project or is it just, just Isaac plugging away on something?

Isaac Aderogba: Yes. I mean, I just have like, My website, it's just like Isaac And I just like, there's not, not unre about like what I'm doing there. It's just like a collection of notes that like, people can wonder through if they're interested in. But yeah, otherwise you can just find me on Twitter at Isaac kava as well, if you're interested in some of this work.

Matt: Cool. Well, awesome man. Really appreciate you taking the time. It was great catching up and hopefully we can chat again soon. I'm I was talking about some of those about this the other day, but maybe we'll do like a we'll catch up in like six months or something and, and see, see where you're at and see how things have changed.

And I'm sure I'm sure it'll be drastically different by then. So it'd be, it'd be awesome to see, to

Isaac Aderogba: no, that would be cool. Yeah, let's do it.

Matt: Sweet man.

Isaac Aderogba: Well. Yeah, no, it's been good, man. Thanks for having me.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely.

that's it for this week's episode. Thanks to priyanka for joining. us If you enjoyed the episode, please be sure to give us a follow or review on your favorite podcasting app. You can also follow me on Twitter @mattcrail or @wosnpod. You can find all the episodes of the podcast at

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Matthew Johnson
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Matt is the co-founder and CEO of Taskable, and an internet tinkerer.

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