Using Wiki as PIM for Masters Program
June 27, 2005 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I am beginning an Masters program in August, and am looking for a general PC-based information-managing -visualizing solution, perhaps a Wiki.

I would like a system which will allow me to save and organize my papers, ideas, links, etc., for reference and as a visualization of my mental processes.
I am thinking of using a Wiki as a PIM, and have looked into Instiki, so far. I like it a lot, especially for its simplicity and elegance, but find it somewhat limited in terms of images and other media.

Basically, my ideal solution would have:

- easy editing and cross linking, internal and external (hence the wiki angle)
- good looking output
- user-based permission system, so if I need to work on a project with somebody else I could set up an area of the wiki that they could access/edit. Basic editing should be simple, for the same reason.
- considerable geek-cred, standards-compliance, etc. One of my themes will probably be semantic-web-2.0-insertjargonhere, so the PIM should be part of this.
- backupability, in case my computer catches fire, I would like to be periodically backed up.
- robustness, stability, extensibility and any other positive thing ending in “bility”.

The Masters is in Architecture, so aesthetics (both visual and logical) are important. Ruby- or Python-based would be good, as I am looking to learn both languages in the near future, and will probably be using either SketchUp with Ruby, or Blender with Python, and it would be interesting if I could hook the PIM directly into a 3d environment of some kind. Plus, PHP is ugly.

Has anybody done something like this? Experiences, recommendations, etc., are welcome.
posted by signal to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My sense is that these specifications are so focused that nobody's going to answer this, or at best suggest that you roll your own.

Possibly one of the wikis will meet your needs. But when you start throwing in variables like specific languages and geek-cred, it sounds like you are on a religious crusade, rather than looking for a particular solution.

I know that Eastgate System's Tinderbox will do much of this, but it's not python/ruby/open source, although it does export to XML I believe. There is also qualitative research sofware like NVIVO that allows intensive associative linking. Devonthink for OS X sounds similar, so you could search for "Devonthink alternative for windows" or something similar.

It may just be me, but the term PIM seems a little dated and may lead you astray in your search. It almost sounds like you'll need to extend an existing ruby/python based wiki.
posted by mecran01 at 11:19 AM on June 27, 2005

This might not be quite what you're looking for, but The Brain is a fun way to organize materials. I used it studying for my Ph.D. comps, and it worked well and was pretty enough to keep me using it. Worth a look.
posted by muckster at 11:20 AM on June 27, 2005

mecram01: I didn’t mean to over-specify, let me rephrase my question: what wiki- or other web-based knowledge management system should I use to organize the work in my upcoming masters program? Standards compliance, interoperability and modern programming languages are a plus.
And I used “PIM” in the more general sense, not the address-book replacement sense.
posted by signal at 11:44 AM on June 27, 2005

I use Microsoft OneNote - with a TabletPC it works great. Others swear by GoBinder.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:10 PM on June 27, 2005

Like The Brain, MindManager is fantastic. We use it at work and people LOVE it.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:18 PM on June 27, 2005

Like the Brain and MindManager, Freemind does many of those things, but costs $0, which is a plus. :)
posted by unixrat at 12:36 PM on June 27, 2005

I use TWiki (Perl) for all my research-related stuff. It works pretty well. My notes either get typed up into the Wiki or thrown away, because I know there's no way that I'm going to look at disorganized scraps of paper months later, and coming up with a paper-based organization system is just too hard for something this diverse. I think I gave my last lab the TWiki bug—after I showed it to others, lots of others started using it.

If I were to do it over again, I think I'd use MediaWiki (PHP), which probably gets more development than the other Wikis since Wikipedia runs on it. Also, it irritates me to have to remember one WikiMarkup for TWiki and a slightly different one for Wikipedia.

MoinMoin runs on Python. Even though I'm a Python fanatic, I've never considered it since it doesn't seem as polished as the first two.
posted by grouse at 12:41 PM on June 27, 2005

With all these mind-mapping programs, the explanation (when not solid management buzzword BS) seems to show that things can only be mapped heirachically, like a branching tree.

Do any of them handle real-world stuff well, where the branches loop, or loop into different truck then, later, back again? Where a child node links directly back to it's great-grandfather node, and to a cousin-twice-removed node?

(ie, for all I know, all the software looks retarded on the websites because a strict heirachy looks prettier and less messy, so all the screenshots are heirachies, even though the software can be more useful than that.)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:49 PM on June 27, 2005

-harlequin-: I agree the whole “pretty picture of a hierarchy” doesn’t really do a whole lot for me.
I’ve been messing around with some of the wikis and graphical apps, and I still haven’t found sosmething I like better than Instiki. Somehow, its simplicity makes me feel lie I’d actually use it, whereas the other systmes feel overly complicated (for my purposes), bloated or just plain wrong.
posted by signal at 6:02 AM on June 28, 2005

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