Keeping a personal wiki

2013-06-05 / Sebastian Morr / software, life

In this article, I’d like to show you which tools I use to keep a personal wiki and what I do with it.

Short history

I’ve been keeping text files about personal stuff since 2007. It started with a diary, but expanded to several text files soon (todo, ideas, quotes, …). They contained indented lists, I had Vim macros in place to fold and unfold them (a format I now call vimgirl).

Over the time, I discovered more uses for my directory of text files: GTD lists, brainstorming sessions, command line tricks, lent stuff, all kinds of collections - heck, I even kept my appointments in nested plain text files at some point, which worked surprisingly well.

Then, nothing happened. Then, I created Vimboy.

Vimboy

Vimboy is a Vim plugin that does almost nothing. You have a folder with text files, and when one file mentions the name of another file, it automatically links there. Plus, you get a mapping for quickly deleting the current file, and pressing return creates a new page named after your visual selection/the word you are on. That’s it.

Screenshot of Vimboy

Vimboy also has a “manual link mode”, where you have to use [square brackets] to create links, but since a very special incident where autolinking created an UBERAWESOME association, I recommend automatic links.

I’ve named my wiki BrainDump because I’ve come to see it as exactly this: A storage extension for my brain. Once information is dumped, it’s safe, doesn’t bother you anymore and you can look it up when you need it later. This frees up your mind for important stuff.

When switching to Vimboy, the file’s format changed to something like Markdown, although formatting is completely up to you.

I’m using BrainDump as: An address book, howtos for myself, my clothing sizes, travel packing list, time & goal tracking, geek codes et cetera, chores planning and speedruns, notetaking in classes, idea management, project overviews, online accounts list, quotes, lists of things I want to read/watch/eat/play, recipes, diary, decision making, ratings of cheese/chocolate/wine.

A shell script called wiki supports fast creation and access to wiki pages, I have tab completion in place, too. For full text search, I use ack.

RoboBoy

RoboBoy is a recent addition to the *boy family: An Android application you can use to sync your wiki among main computer and smartphone using Git. It’s quite hard to set up right now and has its quirks, but I like always taking my brain extension with me ™.

Screenshot of RoboBoy

webboy

Finally, webboy is a Markdown-formatted-Vimboy-wiki-to-HTML compiler. I don’t use it right now, but if you’d like to keep a public wiki, or dislike reading text in the terminal, this is for you.

Conclusion

If you never kept a personal wiki, I encourage you to try it! If you dare to use the *boy suite, feedback is very welcome. You can find detailed documentation for the tools mentioned on their GitHub pages.