I’ve always been partial to the term Off Brain Storage. I more or less pulled the term out of my ass one day to describe exactly what I needed…a reliable means to keep track of miscellaneous attention deficit inert ramblings that I would find useful in the future. Although this blog has helped out with creating a searchable database of random information, there’s quite a bit of stuff that I need to store that’s just not appropriate for public consumption. Information wants to be free and all that jazz, but there are some aspects of my life that I’d rather keep private.
Rewind to my entries quite a few months ago about indexed personal archives and search engines. I never really made any headway into the project and still can’t find anything that runs well and does everything I need. Haystack looked promising, but wouldn’t even launch on Panther. The Pepper Keeper is getting quite close to what I need, but isn’t quite there yet.
Enter the Wiki! I ran across these things quite a few years ago, but never really thought about implementing it for personal information management. Over the past week, however, I’d started playing with PhpWiki and TWiki to start a knowledgebase at work. Amazingly, PhpWiki turned out to be exactly what I needed to keep track all of the random garbage that my brain spews out that usually goes onto a 3×5 index card, never to be looked at again!
Basically, just start typing. As a new thought develops, simply come up with a WikiWord for the subject change (MountainBiking, ToDoList, BillGatesSucks, etc.) and a new page gets automatically assigned to that WikiWord. Click on the WikiWord to go to the new item, and start typing. Simply by StringingWordsTogether, the Wiki automatically knows that that’s a WikiWord.
The system is completely free-flowing with no structure whatsoever. Items just randomly flow together in a jumble with no real hierarchy. Pages can be linked by including WikiWords to existing or new thoughts. You can create a WikiWord and leave it blank if you don’t have time to fill it in at that very moment. And, most importantly, there’s no coding required! Just type naturally and use a few markup codes (*bold*, _italics_, !!!Headlines, etc.) and the Wiki automatically converts your drivel to HTML. Everything is stored in a backend database like MySQL, DB, GDBM, DB4, etc. and data can be slurped up by any program that understands the schema!
Overall, the system works exactly how I think. The hierarchy I use to keep track of textfiles, notes, and articles I’ve written is haphazard at best. Using a Wiki, I can just start entering data as I think of it and worry about sorting it all out later! Plus, there’s a built-in search engine that can be used to mine for nuggets of information! Since I usually get hung up on organizing information and never actually get to the point of creating it, this will help out a lot. I’ll finally be able to just start composing something, not worry about how it looks, and not worry about losing the info. No matter where it gets saved in the Wiki, it can be found with the search engine or linked to with a WikiWord from any other page.
Time to start copying and pasting all the contents of my hundreds of ToDo and Notes textfiles into PhpWiki…