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6 Ways to Use a Wiki

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6 Ways to Use a Wiki

You know how it goes: everyone around you gets all giddy about a new technology, so you go and check it out. Sure, you admit that it looks and feels neat, but then you think, “Well, what will I do with it? I felt that way for a long time about wikis.

The reason was that the most popular wiki out there is Wikipedia. (If you’re not clear on the concept, a wiki is a type of website that allows for easy editing of information, usually by multiple users). Well, that’s a huge implementation. It’s a friken encylopedia, people! So, I just imagined there was nothing much a wiki could offer me. Wrong.

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First, I should state that there are a gazillion interesting implementations and variations on the wiki theme. There are GTD wikis, by the way, and all kinds of other specialized implementations (Have you seen Jot.com?). For my piece, I’ll use PBWiki. Why? Because it’s free (you can pay to upgrade). Because it’s low-effort. Because it’s hosted. You can share your favorite wikis in the comments and explain why.

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  • Resume (CV)– I often stick my full resume up online complete with contact information. It’s useful instead of sending attachments, and I find that I’ve received interesting and useful contact with people, even when I’m not looking for a job. It’s also a good way to remind me to keep the document current, as opposed to fishing around for the Word document and updating it whenever I think about it.
  • Snips of HTML code– I’m lazy, and a little forgetful. There are certain things I need repeatedly that I haven’t built into a form, or that I want to be able to quickly copy/paste to a variety of sources. Using a client-side application means I have to be on my computer at home (or work). I like just having that bit in the wiki for re-use (even if it looks ugly on the wiki when you hit save).
  • Stuff you’ll re-use– Along the lines of the HTML code, I usually like having a picture of me (for various site profiles- flickr, myspace, etc), a quick “bio” part for the “About me” in such profiles, etc. Because I log into lots of stuff and create accounts, instead of using an auto-form thing (which often fails me), I copy/paste from my wiki.
  • Contact Database– I make little wiki spreadsheets for certain types of contact lists. I have a “go to guy” list, where I keep name, email, telephone (if I have it), and specialty for various people I’ve met and befriended online. This way, when I think, “Hmm, how do I go about finding a lawyer to check my terms and conditions,” I can look up my list and pick Matt to ask that question. You could, if you chose, use it for your regular contact list, too.
  • Event Coordination– It worked for Barcamp, and it’s working for PodCamp. Having an open wiki is allowing us to organize an event virtually, and though we keep an email stream and other communication open, the wiki has proved immensely valuable for stuff we’ve stored, stuff we need to reference, and stuff we want to share with everyone else. It’s pretty much the simplest site design tool to use when you have to get lots of people to use one.
  • Parking Lot Items– I have lots of project ideas that I can’t really get to, but that I don’t want to drop altogether. Call it my “someday/maybe” list (to use GTD terms). Those go in my wiki for future review. I usually order them in terms of interest/priority, and then adjust that list once a month or so.
  • BONUS: Tracking– I use the wiki’s basic spreadsheet functions to track simple things, like weight loss, or money spent, or the like, for specific, targeted things. In one, I tracked my expenses for setting up new podcasting gear.

Those are my ideas and thoughts on other ways to use wikis. What are yours? What are you doing with a wiki? Oh, and while we’re at it, check out the Lifehack wiki and contribute. Leon will thank you for it.

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–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement at [chrisbrogan.com](rss feed). He’s helping organize PodCamp Boston, a FREE unconference in September.

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Last Updated on November 25, 2021

Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

The easy fundamentals

First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

Here are some examples of strong passwords:
* i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
* ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
* mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

And not so good examples
* sammy1234
* password123
* christopher

You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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Managing your passwords

I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

Upkeep

You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

Alternatives

You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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  1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
  2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
  3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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