Michael Data

Why a Wiki?

Michael Stewart 2017/05/07

Wikis provide features to facilitate uniquely excellent writing, exploration, and lookup of human knowledge. This is supported by their network-like structure, rather than the linear A-to-B structure in most mediums.

My personal experience using this for personal notes has been the most rewarding and effective way for me to learn my graduate-school material and beyond.

As a Personal Site

It is very easy to edit and maintain. Using this template I can edit easily on mobile or desktop. This allows for flexibility to do most things I want in a personal site that common web applications don't support.

I began using DokuWiki for my grad school class notes. I would take written or electronic notes from a lecture and then re-process them again into the wiki. I found the act of reinterpreting material very useful for studying. The ability to put class material in context of other lectures and other classes was extremely useful to my studying habits.

Ever since then, I've been a bit of a wiki evangelist. I harassed professors interested in writing conventional text books instead of wiki books. I stand by that harassment. One of my coworkers once joked that I thought wikis will “solve world hunger” and since them I'm starting with trying to use it more as a blogging and presentation platform. I'll update when I get it to brush your teeth.

Why Ever a Wiki?

It is all in how you use it, and wikis are a powerful tool. Compared to other formats, Wikis are a more demanding exercise in writing. They require a structure and style, but can serve multiple purposes from what I use here to workplace documentation and document management. I recommend scanning through the Wikipedia Guidelines as an example if you are unclear about the difference between writing a wiki page and some other document.

When written well, they can accommodate both exploration and lookup, tasks typically given to textbooks and search engines. However, the use of actual hyperlinks to connect related concepts allows for a much more flexible and direct presentation. Wikis allow for much cleaner progression of ideas and the relationships between ideas than what is possible in conventional books.