Saturday, February 16, 2008


Trying to find the right mix of pens, notebooks, and electronic tools to keep track of projects, to-do lists, planning, random thoughts and reflections is not easy. I've never seen the world as either/or. I don't want to switch to an all digital file system but I do want the convenience of being better able to quickly find a note I jotted down six months ago without having to flip through pages and pages of a notebook.

I was focusing on personal knowledge management this week, not only as something I'd like to have a very good handle on for my own personal purposes but also as the starting point for more productive collaborative efforts and organizational KM. Somehow I ended up jumping into a discussion on the KM4Dev (Knowledge Management for Development) List, asking a question about tools that might help me address some of my personal knowledge management challenges, and ended up testing out TiddlyWiki.

TiddlyWiki is not a software per se but an html page full of code in the background that allows you to have a personal wiki on your desktop or on a USB key. All you need is a browser. It took me a good 30 minutes to figure out the key "this-is-how-it-works" principle, probably because I was looking for something more complicated. In the end, it's extremely easy to start with the basic version.

A couple of things hit me while I was playing around, figuring out how it worked and how I was going to use it for my own purposes:

1. The more languages you know, the easier it is to learn a new one. I don't know a lot of HTML but having a minimal understanding of what HTML does helps to grasp how other languages work -- without ever wanting to become a programmer or to master any of these languages. I have now experienced three different types of wikis. They each work slightly differently but once you get the basic principle, it's relatively easy.

2. Tagging is similar in some ways to coding in qualitative research. Until this week, when I used my newly created TiddlyWikis extensively for personal knowledge management purposes and for a research project activity, I had not fully understood the purpose and value of tagging. The more I experiment with new technology tools the more I am convinced that experiencing the tools, hands-on practice, is essential for people to realize and fully understand what these tools can help you with. Once I made the connection between tagging and coding in qualitative research, I was better able to integrate it into my own thinking/tagging practice.

I am now hooked on TiddlyWiki.

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