Neil's Noodlemaps

Personal Wikis

To me, a personal wiki is firstly a kind of digital form of a commonplace book. It is also a kind of personal knowledge management.

Also a type of hypertexting. 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; however, don't want to lose sight of the prominence of hyperlinking. I guess a personal wiki is-a hypertext, with its own particular focus.

1 Content

As I'm starting my personal wiki / knowledge base, I feel like I shouldn't just be trying to recreate Wikipedia… obviously that's not my intention, but if it becomes just a set of 'facts' that I've discovered about my particular interests, then it's just a poorly maintained subset of Wikipedia… I think the trick 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

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 only (even though it is public).

3 Why have one?

My reasons are very similar to Nick's reasons, so I'll just copy them in wholesale for now:

  • 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

The blog/wiki combo is both helping me think more about what I learn and learn more about what I think, I'm really digging it.

The social part is important because I want to learn through discussion. Don't just want to be typing into the void, in dialectic only with myself.

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.

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

After building up my wiki for about a month or so, I'm feeling the need for something that makes it easier to link concepts together.

So I can follow the philosophy of tiddlers, or zettelkasten.

I like the way that TiddlyWiki and FedWiki do it. I found org-roam has helped with this.

Some discussion of knowledge management in org-mode: Serious knowledge management / concept networks with Org-mode? : emacs

5 Personal textbooks?

I would like my wiki / knowledge base to facilitate the reinforcement of my knowledge about the things I'm interested in. So for example, it could be used as a base for making flashcards in Anki that I use to improve recall about specifically the things I'm interested in.

Adding in little sketches and putting it in to a text adventure format, also helps this. Turning it into a personal memory palace.

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.

I'd like to have some parts of my wiki private/encrypted.

The simplest solution might be just to separate them out into different wikis.

I need gevulot.

7 Some personal wikis for inspiration

  • Nick's ponderings, closest in spirit to what I currently see mine as being
  • Ton's wiki, strong link to the blog (embedded in it and mainly an index of posts)
  • h0p3's wiki, wiki as personality; friend of Kicks
  • Nadia Eghbal. 'Learning in public' - I like that sentiment. I also like how Nadia's writing combines cultural references with other ideas. I definitely want to make those same kind of links in my wiki / commonplace.
  • Emsenn. Their site is not described as such, but it has a very strong commonplace book feel to it. I really enjoy navigating around the site.

8 Wiki tooling

9 Backlinks

Recent changes