15 Productive Uses for a Wiki

88 Comments

A few of the things that are emerging about web workers is that 1) we do just about everything online; 2) we want to be able to access it from any computer, anywhere; and 3) it’s hard to organize all the stuff we use and do, in our work and personal lives.

But online organization doesn’t have to be complicated. There are many tools for organizing all our stuff, of course, but one of the simplest is the wiki.

We’re all familiar with wikis, of course — Wikipedia being the most famous example, but many other useful wikis abound on the Internet. But one of the most productive forms of wikis is the personal wiki, which you can create at any number of sites.

Once you’ve got your personal wiki set up, here are 15 ways to use a wiki productively, web worker style: [digg=http://digg.com/software/15_Productive_Uses_for_a_Wiki]

1) To-do list. Once you’ve learned the simple wiki markup language, creating a list is easy. And the most productive list, of course, is the to-do list. In fact, if you’re into GTD, you can set up multiple context lists for a simple GTD system — try GTD Tiddlywiki, dcubed, or MonkeyGTD for more integrated wiki solutions.

2) Project management. A wiki can be a great way to plan and manage a project, from conception to completion. Assign tasks, make a timeline, add notes, paste images and other media — whatever you need for a project, there’s no simpler way to organize it all.

3) Operations manuals. If you’ve got a company full of web workers, it doesn’t make sense to have a hardcopy or server-hosted version of a manual — put it online, so that it can be updated when things change, so that anyone can view the updated version at any time. Things changes so quickly these days that a printed version of a manual is outdated as soon as it’s printed and distributed.

4) Checklists. Have a process that’s repeated often? If so, create a checklist so you never forget anything, and it’s done right every time. Put it on your wiki, and never forget where it is.

5) Plan an event. Conferences, weddings, off-site meetings, parties … events of all kinds have been planned with wikis, because they’re perfect. Multiple people can access the plans, you can create different sections for different planning areas, create checklists, add notes, ideas, images, contact info, and much more.

6) Log client work. If you do a lot of freelancing, like I do, you know that you need a system of logging your work — either hours spent on a project or number of projects completed (articles written, in my case), along with dates, rates and other notes. There are many tools for doing this, but one of the simplest is adding it to your personal wiki. You could have all your client logs on one page, or create a separate page for each client — the flexibility of a wiki is why it works so well.

7) Track invoices. Similarly, you also need to track your invoices to each client — the work done, dates, rates, etc., along with when the invoices were submitted, when they’re due, and when they were paid. Again, there are other services for this, but if you are already putting your logs on your wiki, why not add your invoice tracking in the same place?

8) Notes and snippets. Web workers take notes, pull snippets from pages, save images all the time … and yet it can be hard to keep track of all of them. Keep them all in one place on a wiki for easy access when you need them.

9) Goals. This can be a work thing or a personal thing, or both, but one of the problems with our goals is that we might write them down, but we might also then forget about them. If you make your personal wiki your place to go for everything, be sure to put your goals here — along with action steps, deadlines, progress reports, notes, etc. Get your life in gear on your wiki.

10) Contacts. Still haven’t found a great online solution for your contacts? If you use your wiki a lot, it can be an easy and quick way to add contacts and find them any time and any place you need them.

11) Workspace. If you use multiple computers, and need a place to do your work that you can access from anywhere, a wiki isn’t a bad choice. Besides being a place to keep your notes and snippets and images together, you can write articles, reports, etc. and keep everything together. You don’t need to do the actual writing here, if that’s not your preference, but it can be where you keep the writing or other work and related items.

12) FAQs. If you get a lot of questions about your work, or product, or just about yourself personally, you can keep an ever-growing FAQ to prevent having to repeat your answers too many times. Then just point people to your FAQ url.

13) Collaboration. There are more fancy, complicated or expensive options for collaborating on something with people in spread out locations … but probably not many things as simple and easy as a wiki. Again, you can work on a project or even just one document with another person or group of people — the entire Internet, in fact, if you want to get global. Changes are made and tracked, and you can revert to previous versions if necessary.

14) Reference. Got a list, document, codes, instructions, etc. that you need to refer to regularly? Keep it here on your wiki, so you never have to go looking again.

15) One place for everything. One of the best reasons to have a wiki is because it can do all of the above, and more. It’s versatile — more so than most other tools on the web — which means that whatever you need to do, the wiki can accommodate. And that allows you to keep everything in one place — which is the key to staying organized. Otherwise, you’ll have things all over the place, and you’ll have to remember where they are, or you’ll forget about them. Keeping things all in one place is a great way to keep productive.

How do you use a wiki? Let us know in the comments.

88 Comments

engtech

All great ideas for things to do with Wikis, but I have some issues with the way wikis work.

My biggest beef is WikiWords — they are never useful and more often than not do entirely the wrong thing. I also think that learning wiki markup is a pain because it isn’t standardized. The fact that it’s more concise than HTML is good, but if you use more than one wiki software in your life there is a good chance they use different syntax.

more rants on wikis here:
http://internetducttape.com/2007/09/12/wiki-mistakes-building-wikis-that-dont-suck/

olivier

@ Alberth : one of the most important function of Internet is precisely that you don’t have to remember any more, which makes you able to think further. That was the case of print when it was invented, that is even more the case with the web.

Do you really think you can and should remember everything ?…

alberth

maybe i’m wrong, but actually getting everything noted may cause your head empty. it’s like Buzan’s example of a girl whose school scores got lower as her notes got better.

Kevin Gamble

We use ours with a calendar extension to keep everyone’s schedule in one common place that the whole world can see. Works well!

MarkDilley

Well, I guess three tries in three days is the charm :-)

For a wiki of wiki, please see http://www.WikiIndex.org – as an issue with any wiki is synergy, look for wiki that are already started.

The project I am now involved in is http://www.AboutUs.org, helping bring wiki to folks on the internet, hoping to catch and build synergy between people interested in the same things.

(please delete the above comment)

MarkDilley

Hi, I have tried to post a reply to this comment thread several times. Can someone please contact me and let me know if there is a technical problem with the comment posting here, or my comments were deemed in not good faith, or what ever other reason they were not added.

I have been a fan of this weblog for a long while and I feel a little frustrated trying to add value to this thread. MarkDilley – markdilley@gmail.com

Cody McKibben

You should use the Ordered List code, your eighth point frequently comes up as a cool little dude wearing sunglasses. At least in IE7. ;)

mahalie

I really feel sorry for my past self now that my future self has been using a private wiki for 4 months. I have a terrible memory and it’s truly amazing to be able to quickly search for whatever I’ve ever taken notes on. I was sending myself FYI emails for a while to do this and tried a private blog but organizing chronologically didn’t make sense and it was irritating having a lot of related emails and not being able to edit a master document. Truly, I can’t recommend this enough…
If you want to run MediaWiki I wrote instructions on making it private.

Dale Lane

@JEFFREY – If you don’t need collaboration, then there are mobile versions of wiki software that you can use. For Palm PDAs, my favourite would be NoteStudio.

For Windows Mobile, I’m a little more biased as I am the developer of freeware wiki software bLADE Wiki.

Either way, they bring the benefits of having your notes with you at all times – when you can’t rely on the always-on internet connectivity you need for a traditional hosted wiki.

Enric

Very interesting post (you could have done it in a wiki, so we can add more uses there! :)

I like it because points to the fact that if you take out the collaborative aspects, there is still lots of good features of the wiki that online workers and students should consider.

I’m using a mashupped MediaWiki plattform for my PhD dissertation, from where I’m “wlogging” and gathering all the information I need (including a very nice MW extension for bibliographic records).

http://www.estigmergia.net/wiki/Wlog

Oscar

Wow! these are really great advices but I think the wiki markup language it’s really improductive :S

Harshad Joshi

I would love to read ’15 productive uses of a blog’, can you post an article on this topic?

As a blogger, I know some of them, but I would like to hear it from an expert. :P

Best Regards to you.

jeffrey

wiki’s seem like a great tool. the only reason that i am not using them, is that i haven’t figured out a way to view them on my palm E2 pda. i suppose that a pda size browser would do it, but there isn’t one on my pda and i couldn’t find one to install.

raesalley

My last employer used wikis to track for meetings. That ways if someone wanted to attend a meeting, the agenda was right there and they could add to it if they though there was something that needed to be covered.

Khoa Bui

I find writing them down is very effective. It’s like you get more tasks completed when you have it in writing. I created a FREE goals achiever tool called “Destiny Goals” it’s similar to the wiki methodology but more simple. Check it out at http://www.destinygoals.com

williamprofet

Wow. Great. I am going to install an instance of WiKi on my server. I need an online project management tool. Thanks for the ideas!

Gerard

No matter what work I do on the web, I still find organizing my life, and much of the above, in a notebook much easier. Sometimes pen and paper just makes sense for me.

tkhobbes

I put all my notes I do during my studies into a MediaWiki – as I am studying maths, MediaWiki’s math-extension comes in REALLY handy… and I can interlink between the different documents I make very easily, so I would have one note about some foundational stuff and later on something else that builds up onto it – never the “where did I write THIS again” any more… :)

LadyC

Great tips! Thanks a bunch. I’ve been using PBWiki quite awhile now for my notes, assignments and research…but I think I’ll be migrating to TiddlyWiki in the near future ’cause of the simplicity and portability features…thanks to Cathy Moore above for that gracious insight!

Robert Hacker

With respect to your point 3, “we want to organize our content”, I think the Lijit.com search engine widget is very useful. While it’s not a wiki, it does help one to find content on many of the major websites where we all have information–delicious, LinkedIn, My Space etc.

wlw

Another example of the flexibility of wikis is that many of them allow you to use iframes. For example, I didn’t find wiki to-do lists easy to work with, so I just inserted an iframe to TODOIST on one page.

Bill Albing

We agree completely. Several of us are keeping a wiki to work collaboratively on several articles about our profession. We have an article on wikis, too, for end user documentation, which is a tricky issue. Thanks for raising the visibility of the uses of wikis.

BetterFasterNow!

Another solution for people who use multiple computers (like me!) is to us a wiki-on-a-stick alternative. You can put it on a USB stick and take it everywhere. If you do a search for “WOS Portable” you can find the one I use – was about 200 MB but includes a wiki, a wordpress instance, PHP/Moodle/ etc … very cool to play around and carry with you.

(Note: the WOS Portable site seems down today, but hopefully will be up soon.)

– Dave

Cathy Moore

I use Tiddlywiki to keep track of client work. I record clients’ likes & dislikes, what I’ve done for them, and lessons I’ve learned that I can apply to other projects. I’ve got a sample of this kind of wiki here:

http://www.cathy-moore.com/resources/sample_wiki.html

The sample is set up for an imaginary elearning developer but the concepts would apply to anyone who works with multiple clients. My real-life wiki includes a lot more information, such as ideas for future products, possible subcontractors, and notes about industry trends.

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