Louis Gray: Writing A Killer Blog Without Killing Yourself

I really don’t need to give any introduction here, other than to urge you to take a moment to read Mr. Gray’s outstanding Slideshare on how to manage your blog and social media interaction. Fantastic advice from a master!

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Do-It-Yourself Wiki

DISCLAIMER: this is NOT a Wikipedia-bashing post. There, now, having gotten the formalities out of the way, it is time in the Studio to examine the benefits of creating your own Wiki and one way to go about doing it. If you are on-line, reading this post, odds are you have visited Wikipedia once or twice. But do you really know what a Wiki is?

I couldn’t help it – I pulled this definition of Wiki off Wikipedia:

A wiki ( /ˈwɪki/ WIK-ee) is a website that allows the easy[1] creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor.[2][3] Wikis are typically powered by wiki software and are often used to create collaborative websites, to power community websites, for personal note taking, in corporate intranets, and in knowledge management systems.

Did you know that the word “wiki” is the Hawaiian word for fast? I didn’t until this morning. The key points to a Wiki are that it is user created and that its pages are heavily interlinked, allowing for a “tree” like structure to the information layers.

I am not going to plumb the benefits or drawbacks to contributing to a public Wiki, such as Wikipedia here. Instead, let’s consider the benefits of building your own personal Wiki. Do you use a “to do” list? Do you maintain a contacts list? Do you bookmark relevant Web information? Do you take notes or grap snips for later consumption? Do you have all of this data in one place, with links between the information?

If not, consider using your own Wiki. One such tool to help you along the way is offered by Zim Wiki (link here), a free, open-source, desktop Wiki application that works in Linux and Windows. I discovered this tool on MakeUseOf (link here). According to MakeUseOf, there are means for getting the tool up and running in OSX, but they are a bit complicated and not for the faint of heart.

What is Zim Wiki? Taken from their website:

Zim aims to bring the concept of a wiki to your desktop. Every page is saved as a text file with wiki markup. Pages can contain links to other pages, and are saved automatically. Creating a new page is as easy as linking to a non-existing page. This tool is intended to keep track of TODO lists or to serve as a personal scratch book. But it will also serve you when writing longer and more complicated documents.

A “desktop wiki” means that we try to capture the idea of a wiki, not as a webpage but as a collection of files on your local file system that can be edited with a GUI application. The main focus is a kind of personal wiki that serves for all kind of notes: todo-lists, addresses, brainstorm ideas etc.

But we want to go further then just a wiki filled with random content. It should also be possible to use you random notes as the basis for more structured data: articles, presentations etc. Zim will not include tools to layout a presentation or something like that, you should use your office suite of choice for that, but it should be a tool that can deliver all the content for a presentation in a form that only needs a template and some layout before usage. Therefore certain features normally not found in wikis will be added.

The first step after installation is setting up your information repository, stored locally. You create a home page and direct Zim where to store documents. Text editing tools are basic – just enough to get the data entry job done. Then, start entering.

The strength in this tool is the layering that you can implement. For a given project, put the different major tasks on one layer, and then link off to subtasks residing on their own, separate pages. If you want access to your Zim Wiki on different computers, consider using Dropbox (MakeUseOf’s suggestion – link here) – you can access your Wiki on the go.

As with any tool, the user will find their own unique uses. I see lots of potential in Zim Wiki, primarily due to its fairly stripped down simplicity. Tools like Microsoft’s OneNote and Evernote are similar in their organizational capabilities but can be confounding to a user looking for the simple answer. Zim seems to fit this latter need fairly nicely and, unlike OneNote, for free.