Justin Li

Information Tags


I'm working on two big projects this quarter (and hopefully the quarter to come), both of which requires understanding a large amount of information, and one of which requires gathering information and generating ideas. The way I organize all this knowledge right now is purely chronological: I have a directory titled "notes", and it in goes all my stuff, each in a file for that day (say, "20071030"). Obviously, this method doesn't help with organizing my notes in a semantic way. I did have a small habit of writing "idea" on one line if what follows in an idea worth exploring, so I can grep the entire folder and find all my ideas. This doesn't do much for everything else though.

The idea I had is to organize it the same way GMail organizes emails: tags. Each piece of information, besides having the date that I found it, the source, and so on, would have one or more labels of what that information relates to. Then I can see everything that's related to, say, Linux, on one page, and everything about Windows in another. Obviously, using simple text files would not suffice, unless I have some syntax. I am however too lazy to write a command line script to read and/or add syntax, so I've just let it slide for now.

I was thinking about this today, and suddenly realized how similar this is to the categories on Wikipedia. It serves the same purpose: to classify documents or information into different categories, so one can retrieve all related articles in one click. So I looked up what different wiki software exists, and I discovered (or rediscovered - I think I've seen it before) TiddlyWiki. It's a HTML/JavaScript based wiki, using a single HTML page to store everything. It does some magic to ask for write privileges, so each time you save you're overwriting the original file. From what I've been experimenting with so far, it seems to work quite well as an information organizer. I mean, it sells itself as a "reusable non-linear personal web notebook," which is what I need.

Later tonight I might import some of my notes into a TiddlyWiki, and see how well it actually works.