Protocol Source Code
What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.

AR, elections and the #RoamCult

AR, elections and the #RoamCult

Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from the future of the FCC to Sundar Pichai's biggest test.

(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get Source Code every day.)

As always, let me know what you think, and what you'd like to see more of in our weekend edition. I'm, or you can just reply to this email. Thanks! Onto the good stuff.

Best of Protocol

Before AR glasses, prepare to be immersed in sound, by Janko Roettgers

  • Did you sign up to get Janko's Next Up newsletter yet? Sign up! The first issue was fascinating, with a deep look at how the future of augmented reality might be audio-first. Headphones might be a more important gadget than you think.

Tech CEOs are staying out of a fight to fund California schools — except for Zuck, by Issie Lapowsky

  • I saw a billboard the other day that just said "TAX BILLIONAIRES PROP 15." Turns out Prop 15 is a bit more complicated than that. It's about real estate taxes and school funding, and has much more to do with tech (and especially startups) than you might think. Issie's look at who's for and against it — and the one big name helping fund the whole thing — is fascinating.

Jessica Rosenworcel could be the FCC chair under Biden. She certainly sounds the part, by Emily Birnbaum

  • "Don't look away," Rosenworcel said to Emily. "We just saw two students on social media sitting outside of a Taco Bell to grab a free Wi-Fi signal just to go to class. This is happening in the United States of America. Shame on us for not making fixing the homework gap a priority, because it's within our power to fix this problem."
  • Also: Read Emily's piece on who, other than Rosenworcel, could be Biden's FCC chair.

Silicon Valley's new stock exchange opens for business, by Biz Carson

  • It's a tale as old as Silicon Valley: Person sees thing, decides thing bad, tries to reinvent thing. This one, Eric Ries' Long-Term Stock Exchange, is an interesting attempt to rethink an American institution for a more sustainable future. The case he makes for it had me nodding along more than I expected.

This K-pop single by a group composed entirely of video game characters is No. 1 on the Billboard charts, by Seth Schiesel

  • The only way to make this a more perfectly 2020-on-the-internet story would be to somehow make it about TikTok and the election, too. But even as it is, it's a weird, fun look at how intertwined the entertainment world is now. And also: The song's kind of great!



Stronger care…from more efficient operations

In a defining moment for healthcare, it's even more crucial to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. At Philips, we are committed to providing intelligent, automated workflows that seek to improve patient care. More efficient healthcare means stronger, more resilient healthcare.

Learn more.

Best of Everything Else

How video chat fuels the American deportation machine — The Verge

  • Sure, we've found it's possible to have meetings and conduct some business remotely. But what changes when you're watching people plead for their lives on the same screen you're going to watch "The Office" on later? This is a great story about tech that is both intensely personalized and totally impersonal.

Google's Sundar Pichai is a really nice guy. Is that enough? — The Wall Street Journal

  • Somebody pointed out to me a few days ago that Google has never really had hard times as a company. No big layoffs, no catastrophic failures, just up and to the right forever. Now Google faces everything from employee dissatisfaction to antitrust regulators. Can Sundar Pichai, the nice guy who mostly likes to take care of people and let them work, take control of his company in a new way?

  • While we're stuck under the orange, sunless sky, this is the music app you need right now, I promise. Chill vibes forever. (And now in iOS form.)

The photographer peeking at your phone — The New Yorker

  • I am the world's worst phone-peeper. If you're near me, and on your phone, there is a 100% chance I'm also looking at your screen. Do I feel good about it? No. Am I capable of stopping? Also no. Because as photographer Jeff Mermelstein found, you can learn practically everything you need to know about a person just by seeing their phone. Mermelstein's new book, "#nyc," is full of these photos, which feel like candid shots for the digital age.

GOP Senate nominee Jason Lewis founded a social network where people promoted a pro-Hitler documentary — BuzzFeed News

  • Everywhere you look, there's a new social media platform promising to let people do whatever they want, outside the censorious eye of Big Social. Turns out, when you let people do whatever they want, it's going to go badly a lot of the time.


Get into Roam, the notes app everyone's talking about

You might not be able to get into Clubhouse yet, but you can certainly start using the other app that everyone in tech is obsessed with. Roam Research, the "second brain" app for notes and research, just raised $9 million and is now a $200 million company. (These numbers are nuts, as we discuss on this week's Source Code Podcast.)

A warning, though: Roam is not for the faint of heart or the short of time. It takes a while to really figure out how it works. (Oh, and side warning: There's no offline mode or mobile app, both huge bummers.) But there are some good guides out there, and I've watched and read them all as I've started using the app. So if your Sunday's going to be spent moving all your notes and lists and to-dos into Roam, here's a few places to start.

  • Roam: Why I love it and how I use it, by Nat Eliason. This is the blog post everyone directs new users to. It's a solid explanation of how Roam works and describes its slightly wonky mental model. (If you want to go really deep, Eliason also has a Roam course you can take.)
  • Speaking of that mental model, it's called zettelkasten, and here's a good explainer. Like I said: This is not for dumping all your crap and worrying about it later. This is an all-caps SYSTEM.
  • This chat with Kevin Rose and Roam CEO Conor White-Sullivan. It's long, and windy, but it's a good intro into what Roam is, and how both White-Sullivan and his product see the world. (He starts showing his own Roam at about the 17:45 mark.)
  • All the YouTube videos. Shu Omi has a 28-video series on getting into Roam, which you can skip around pretty easily. Another YouTuber, Anonym.s, has 37 videos going even deeper.
  • Roam themes. Roam is many things, and one of those things is ugly. But it's easy enough to style or add a theme, and if you're really feeling ambitious you can redesign the whole thing to your heart's content.
  • Roam browser extensions. Roam is approaching feature development in a really distributed way, more like old-school Twitter than anything else. Developers can do almost anything on top of Roam — and you'll want to use some third-party stuff to really make it work.
  • RoamPublic. A cool directory of publicly available Roam databases, so you can get a sense of how the system works by using it to read and annotate, say, the U.S. Constitution.

Oh, and make sure you start tweeting about Roam as soon as possible, because apparently the one requirement for every Roam user is that you tweet about the app constantly. #roamcult.



Stronger care…from more efficient operations

In a defining moment for healthcare, it's even more crucial to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. At Philips, we are committed to providing intelligent, automated workflows that seek to improve patient care. More efficient healthcare means stronger, more resilient healthcare.

Learn more.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

Recent Issues

The best of Protocol

The confessions of SBF

Your holiday book list

A tale of two FTXs