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.

9 thoughts on “Wikification

  1. Derek the Ænglican

    I’ve thought about the Anglican wiki before… Again–not until the diss is done…

    I imagine that in a few years wiki type systems will be appearing for easy installations on Mac/Windows systems.

    In the meantime, a robust public use system will still be best handled by linux/MySQL engines like Mediawiki.

  2. John-Julian, OJN

    When you get it rolling, I’ll offer to help.

    After six years of research for my big Julian book (which yesterday went off to its first trial publisher), I’d like to save/share a whole bunch of stuff.

    Let us know……

  3. Derek the Ænglican

    Father, I’m definitely going to take you up on that offer! I hope the book reception is favorable.

  4. Erika

    Read _Everything is Miscellaneous_ by David Weinberger. I admit I’ve not read it myself, but my dear husband has talked about it so much lately (“It changed the way I think about metadata!”), I feel as if I have. Anyway, seems as if it might interest you re: the capabilities of organizing information in the current age.

  5. Jonathan Jarrett

    This is similar to a thought I’ve been having lately. A long time ago when I started on my thesis research I began to build up what is now a huge set of MS Word files with embedded links to each other in, containing lists of where various people, places or phenomena turned up in archives. The idea was that they would keep each other in sync. Now this is a horrendous way of doing things, partly because it’s proprietary, mainly because it’s incredibly high-maintenance and also because it generates files that after a while the most modern versions of Word on the newest shiny machines choke on or baulk at. So for ages I’ve been thinking, I should really turn those occurrences into individual HTML files and rebuild the archives listings from the ground up as HTML documents linking those files. Effectively I’ve been thinking of `wikifying’, or at least hyperlinking, my main data files. But it’s a huge job and the sort of people I know who could advise on it would all say, “Well, I could write you something in Perl if you want to do it under Linux.” And that might well be the best way but there’s any so many extra languages I have time to learn and really Arabic should be next :-)

    So I may watch with interest for details of your progress on this…

  6. patrick

    There exist much easier solutions to using wikis to store your personal stuff. They two easiest that I found are:

  7. Derek the Ænglican

    Patrick, I’ll have to check those out. I am looking at it with two things in mind, though. One is personal organization, the other is public presentation. I’m thinking of something that I can use to organize my stuff but expose parts of it as a public site. I’m still thinking the whole thing through…

  8. Nate Long

    Probably not as good a solution (particularly for public presentation), but so far I’m a fan of MS OneNote for this type of thing.

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