On Wikis

Posted on January 9, 2019 by John Duhamel

Through the years, I’ve maintained a variety of personal wikis for organizing personal notes. Years ago, I worked with a friend to set up a Mediawiki server running on a PC in my closet. It was simple and bare-bones, but it proved to be incredibally useful. At the time I was interested in building 3d printers and drones in my free time. The wiki turned out to be a useful place I could keep notes to reference later.

The most recent version of my wiki was built with gitit. Gitit is a cool Haskell project which resembles Mediawiki. However, rather than storing data in a database, gitit stores all it’s information using git. You can back your files up on Github and if you manage a github organization you can also use it to control access to certain groups of users. Pages are parsed using pandoc, so it can understand many useful markup languages including markdown, mediawiki syntax, and LaTex.

My original hope is that it would become a place where I could record useful coding tricks. However, in reality it didn’t turn out to be useful. I was working in fintech back then, and almost all of the things I was doing at work would have involved PII and SPI which would have been inappropriate to share. Before long, life got ahead of me and both my blog and wiki were forgotten.

I’ve still consider note-taking an important tool and something that deserves special attention. For personal notes, I’ve migrated to tiddlywiki. Tiddlywiki is a strange Javascript application but has some really cool properties. I specifically find the organizational structure to be highly intuitive and quick to work with. It supports many different markup languages, although I find the built in WYSIWYG editor is often most useful. Tiddlywiki is file based, so you can easily sync your wiki using cloud storage platforms such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

I don’t see a point in continuing to host my public wiki. It isn’t personally useful, and thus I don’t see myself spending the effore to make it usefult for others. Thus, I’ve decided to take it down. I’ve done a pass through it and copied anything I found useful to tiddlywiki. The data is all backed up here, so I can re-reference anything I might have missed in the future.

I would use Gitit again if I had to set up a wikifor an organization. I think it’s the best wiki available for sharing content amongst a team. It’s use of pandoc makes it incredibally convenient and backing up data through git makes it more secure and managable.

In closing, here’s a screenshot of my wiki as it existed when I shut it down.