One application of David Allen’s Getting Things Done principles is the personal wiki (google Monkey GTD). Although the book is on my reading list and I have yet to touch it, there’s no reason to start ‘working on it’ early, eh? Well, I’ve been using a personal wiki for a few weeks now and let me tell you it is the best think since peanut butter. A personal wiki allows you to share knowledge with the most important person in your life — you! No, it’s not egotistical, it’s brain centric. Humans are notorious for forgetting things. If we stop, we forget. If we forget, we might lose information or skills that are necessary down the road. A personal wiki is beyond that. It is exactly like any wiki — it is searchable, indexes items, and can be used from any computer and certain mobile devices. If you know you are going to forget something, or want to write something down that could be important or interesting, why not save it in your own wiki? I don’t advocate being dependent on a machine to look up content you forgot or writing everything you read down; I’d rather you remember. However, as it’s impossible to remember everything, it could be a good source of knowledge kept just forgotten. Here’s an example of how I use it. Currently, I use it for is for writing book reviews to myself — at least for now. I remember a lot of details from books I read and yet I still forget a lot of the good stuff. The great stuff sticks, but it’s those one-liners and unique examples that might be peripheral to the solution but could really interest me down the road and allow me to remember complicated discussions and some of the reasons to support theories. Too bad I forget those the most. So, lately, I’ve been writing book reviews and keeping track of valuable information chapter by chapter — in my own words. I write a post to myself, indicating the main points of chapters and in a language I’m comfortable with. I don’t edit it as much as I edit assignments or work projects; it’s for my eyes only so that I can revisit it without having to read the whole book again. I also use it for jargon, definitions within my problem domain, that would otherwise be forgotten in a few hours if not minutes after look up. It’s a useful tool that maybe won’t pay off immediately, but in the long run for sure.
As for recommended personal wikis, I use TiddlyWiki. It is a 1 file HTML page that can be stored locally, on a jump drive, or on a server. It needs write permissions on the local drive to run but that’s certainly worth it considering how valuable it is. There are a ton of plugins for it if you know where to look. Goto this page to find them. All you need to do is download the index.html file and load it up in your personal wiki and it automatically detects the plugins and transfers it over. Neat eh? I was impressed on how powerful that one file is. I would hate to be working on it with a team of developers, but I can’t complain because it fits my needs perfectly. Anyways, I can’t express how useful this will be if you start using it. It might take some time getting used to but it can be like your own private journal — except this has a search function you might need 2 years down the road.