Wikipedia is cool. And important. But I’m thinking of something else today… I’m thinking of local wikis, personal wikis.
When I was studying for my doctoral exams I plowed through dozens of books in a wide variety of topics. On my best days, I headed a new file with full bibliographical info, either scanned or typed in the table of contents, briefly summarized each chapter and made bullet-pointed lists of quotes I thought I might use at a later date. On my worst, I’d make some random comments about whatever part of the book I’d read, maybe dismissing it as: “basically coming from Y perspective, not much new, just louder and in English…” or some such. These now exists as Word files scattered across several directories.
I was looking over an Internet Archive scan of Frere’s Use of Sarum the other day thinking, “Gee, wouldn’t it be handy to have a table of contents or a list of chapter headings somewhere accessible for this…”
I’ve become convinced that the best way to handle this, to group my files where I can access them quickly and easily is to migrate them to a wiki.
Hard drive organization between research and sources has long been an issue for me but the more I think about it, the more logical a local wiki is to managing it all. Especially for maintaining text and image files, the ability to create logical but non-linear structures of organization is key. There are some free wiki sites out there (like free blogging sites) but I opted to go with a more more geeky approach: I’ve downloaded mediawiki–the same wiki that Wikipedia uses–to run on my test server. (Mediawiki requires a MySQL installation and I’ve got one there.) I haven’t had time to fool with it yet and certainly plan not to until the dissertation is done, but I think these are the way of the future.