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Re: Wiki notetaking in ConnectedText, & wiki Brainstorm?

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Note: This message is from the outliners.com archive kindly provided by Dave Winer.

Outliners.com Message ID: 5293

Posted by kuehnm
2006-02-17 23:10:35



I think you are right on both issues:

(i) using a wiki is an art (actually we mean here only: using wiki-like links, since the collaboration with others is not an important part of the applications discussed here). It presupposes judgment.

(ii) There is definitely a danger of over-connecting. There are some wiki-like systems that automatically connect any word to a topic that has that word as a name (or in the name). That procedure results in many useless links. Linking pieces of information with one another in an intelligent way presupposes intelligence or judgment.

But, and I think this is important, it does not presuppose any more judgment or intelligence than the making of an outline. In fact, it presupposes less intelligence, judgment or knowledge because you do not have to commit to a hierarchical structure or a plan early on. You just make your best judgment and create a new topic by typing [[topic]] or something like that. I do not find that the number of connections grows out of control. (And I think not even the public wikis to which hundreds of people contribute have that problem. They can be very discipline, look at the Personal Wiki page I referred to earlier.)

In that way it’s like brainstorming (with an application like brainstorm or without). Links commit you to nothing. You can later take them out or refactor them by taking a topic apart or joining it with others. Links do not lead to chaos, though they may be or become useless (though I am surprised how little I find this to be the case).

In some ways, restructering the information is like restructering an outline. And I have been surprised in the years that I have used such systems, mainly Notebook and ConnectedText, how similar it feels to outlining.

(I have always been an avid outliner and list maker, still using TkOutline and Brainstorm on a daily basis). I was also an early adaptor of Ecco and have dabbled in Lotus Agenda. Between 1998 and 2002 I used mainly InfoHandler, but finally gave up because different versions screwed up formatting in various unexpected ways and even procuced empty entries where there once was information.

Indeed, the way I use ConnectedText is more like Agenda than anything else.

I always hankered after an application that would combine the capabilities of a two-pane outliner and wiki-links. But during the last year or so I have realized that having the ability of different *Views* on the data is better than a firm outline. And in an application like ConnectedText I can create many different views on the data. I can “hardwire” it in by creating pages or topics that refer to other topics. I can assign “categories,” which create category pages that list any topic in a category. And these categories can be nested from more general to less general, like Philosophy, Ethics, Kant, categorical imperative. (Not unlike InfoHandler.)

I am also free to assign several categories to the same topic.

Finally, there is a full text search capability that allows one to search for words (and, or, nto, etc.) This also overcomes chaos.

So, I would say that a wiki-like application needs intelligence and judgment, like any sharp instrument, but it is not really problematic. Mine is like a giant slipbox (or Zettelkasten) that is beginning to surprise me every once in a while with information and connections that I did not know were there. It begins to feel like a “thinking machine” a la Luhmann or like the experience Steven Berlin Johnson describes having with a Mac Outliner called ...



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