Ryan Muller: Fractal Inquiry, Spaced Repetition, Education


Mar 29 2021 • 1 hr

In this episode, we talk with Ryan Muller, the author of Fractal Inquiry. Focusing on learning and education at Google For Education, Ryan wrote Fractal Inquiry in pursuit of a system for building knowledge in Roam.

It covers the tools you need, plus six tips and eight use cases in building your knowledge graph through one of my favorite methods of knowledge expansion: questions. How do you develop the right questions to dive further into a field/thought/idea?

We talked about:

  • How evergreen and atomic notes are tied together via questions, using fractals as an analogy
  • Ryan's origin story, how he dove into note-taking and spaced repetition, from learning languages to other fields
  • Fractal inquiry: What is a fractal? How do you shape the right questions? What constitutes a good and bad question? When should you delete them? When should you filter them out?
  • Would a public fractal inquiry graph work?
  • The education system and how the field as a whole is slow in growth compared to others.

If you're on the journey to cultivate a quality knowledge graph, Look no further. Let's dive into my chat with Ryan Muller, the author of [[Fractal Inquiry]].


  • 5:19 Ryan's origin story and obsession with spaced repetition
  • 7:11 Discovering [[Stian Håklev (侯爽)]]'s research system
  • 9:47 Combining the spaced repetition system with block references
  • 12:56 When do you stop inquiring into one atomic idea?
  • 15:26 What is a fractal, and how does it help with questions
  • 20:38 Can you do fractal inquiry in a public graph? What do you need?
  • 23:39 Current focus on macro-economics
  • 27:13 Formulating useful questions using spaced repetition
  • 31:20 A very small percentage of Ryan's inquiries in his graph are future-oriented
  • 34:04 Changes in education, learning with YouTube and Minecraft
  • 39:00 Where the US education system may be going and where does Roam fit into that
  • 48:32 Excited feature request: more support for incremental reading in Roam
  • 51:37 [[How would you describe Roam to someone who hasn't started using it?]]
  • 53:35 [[What does Roam mean to you?]]
  • 56:12 What compelled Ryan to start asking more questions in the first place? + How to do it in Roam


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