Neil's Noodlemaps

Personal Wikis

To me, a personal wiki is (currently) a kind of digital form of a commonplace book - that is, an electronic scrapbook to record my thoughts along with snippets of things I see or hear elsewhere.

The purpose is to help me note-take, organise my thoughts, and think through new things. A type of personal knowledge management, I suppose.

I like the idea of calling a personal wiki a digital commonplace book, as there is lots of history to draw on from commonplace books.

Kicks calls wikis a type of hypertexting. I don't feel I am actively building a hypertext, like I'm not intentionally focusing on that kind of non-linear hypertextual navigation. But it is definitely full of hyperlinks and they're a big part of the utility of it. I guess a personal wiki is-a hypertext, with its own special focus.

I tend to use commonplace book, personal wiki, and knowledge base fairly interchangebly.

1 Content

What do you put in a wiki? Whatever you want! It's your wiki.

For me, I feel it's a lot more than just a set of 'facts' that I've discovered about my particular interests. It would then just be a really poorly maintained subset of Wikipedia. I think the point is to make sure not to lose the personal and the personality. (That which Wikipedia deliberately avoids).

Wisdom, not facts. We’re not just looking random pieces of information. What’s the point of that? Your commonplace book, over a lifetime (or even just several years), can accumulate a mass of true wisdom–that you can turn to in times of crisis, opportunity, depression or job.

How and why to keep a commonplace book

I agree with that, except to de-emphasise wisdom a little. I don't want to feel a pressure that what I put in here has to be wise. It's a place for percolation. It might turn into wisdom eventually.

2 Audience

Personal wiki audience. I think that a personal wiki should be primarily 'for you'. Keep the barrier to writing in it low. It's not performative. If it's a jumbled mess, that's fine, as long as you can navigate through it. If others' happen to find some needles of information in your haystack, great. But that's not the goal. If you want to concretely share some info with the wider world, shape part of your wiki into an article.

In terms of removing friction to writing, it has certainly helped me to think of it as for me 'first'. I guess it is for me 'first' as opposed to me 'only' (which would be an entirely private wiki - which is also fine).

I think the important thing is whatever motivates you to write, at the same time as removing the friction. So, for me personally, having it semi-public is partly a motivator for me, as its something I occassionally point people to a particular page.

But at the same time, I let it be pretty unstructured, because if I thought it had to be perfectly coherently and well-formed I would rarely write in it.

3 Why have one?

I find writing too hard to want to spend it on things that disappear

– Martin Fowler (What is a Bliki)

At first my reasons were very similar to Nick's reasons:

  • writing my thoughts publically makes me write them a bit more carefully
  • my thoughts are fuzzy and vague in my head, they become more real outside it (and may self desctruct in a cloud of stupidity)
  • it provokes debate, which helps me refine the arguments: 1+n minds are better than 1
  • I think I have something to say (we'll find out right?)
  • I get sad at the state of debate in the world
    • news and media normally tell gossipy stories about anything but the underlying topic
    • in-person debate usually veers dramatically off-course and debates a well-worn set of less interesting topics instead
    • blogs or "point-in-time" publishing systems don't produce an always-up-to-date sof thoughts

I think my reasons have changed slightly over time - my wiki has become perhaps more a way for personal notetaking, for shaping my thoughts, with less emphasis on the debate straight away.

The social part is definitely important though because I want to learn through discussion. Don't just want to be typing into the void, in dialectic only with myself. The stream is perhaps more for that - networked learning, connectivism.

But is that its own thing? I guess so. You could technically have an entirely private stream and garden, if you wanted. So making it public is more for the networked learning aspect?

Combined, the blog/wiki combo helps me think more about what I learn (through wiki-ing it) and learn more about what I think (through conversations on the stream), I'm really digging it.

I think we need to better foster that though in our social software - currently it feels optimised for aggro. If you say a wrong thing, make a mistake, you're more likely to be piled on rather than helpfully educated.

I have found it has aided massively in helping me form ideas. I've built up enough mass to have gravitational pull for other ideas now. New articles I encounter, things people post, I feel like I'm in a good place to relate it to what I already have thought about.

4 Structure?

4.1 Paths and threads

How do you show someone around your garden? Connecting the dots. You can provide some paths to some degree in the wiki itself. But also turn it into articles from time to time, your own curated path for the here and now.

4.2 Wild or tended?

h0p3 has a home page entry point that is carefully curated and groomed, but which is several layers up from a complete chaos of link dumps, raw drafts and random introspections […] These layers run a spectrum of accessibility—there is always a learning curve before you hit the bottom. You start with a doorway before entering a maze.

Notes: We’ve Got Blog (2002), Kicks Condor

I think this relates to paths and threads. People can take any route around, but it's good to provide some kind of path.

4.3 Page size

5 Personal textbooks

6 How personal?

At the beginning, I'm keeping it pretty academic. I'm not putting anything about my personal life, or more personal thoughts, in here. Mainly just as I'm hesitant to share that stuff. But it's a personal wiki, should it have personal thoughts? I guess somewhere you have to make the distinction between personal thoughts and public and private thoughts.

Stuff that will never get published, but benefits from collecting and connecting the dots.

Ideally I'd like to have some parts of my wiki private/encrypted, so everything could be interlinked, but only what I choose to share is ever shared when I publish. I need gevulot.

The simplest solution might be just to separate them out into different wikis. I am currently just using a separate org-roam private wiki.

7 Some personal wikis for inspiration

8 Wiki tooling

9 Backlinks

This page last updated: 2020-05-24 Sun 14:28. Map. Index. All recent changes.