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.
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.
- 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.