Posted by: Sam Carson | 10 April, 2007

More on Discourse

Its been over three weeks since I posted Discourse, my Tiddlywiki of International Relations notes online. Or at least, that long since I’ve started to promoted it. Since then, it has been picking up traffic. Not massive amounts, but more than I was expecting, and this gets me thinking.

I am very proud of my Tiddlywiki, as I would be, having worked on it for over six months now. It started as a sort of experiment in note taking. I don’t like handwriting notes, as then they lose searchability and you cannot transfer them. I found creating Word documents very cumbersome. I have a 4X6 index card catalogue that is gathering dust.

The Tiddlywiki format is working for me for several reasons:

  • Its easy to use. It really is, once you understand wiki basics, like the double square bracket or WikiWord, making a document that cross-references is very easy.
  • Its Microformat. Like the 4X6 card, but better as there are no physical bounds, its easier to divide into two.
  • Its portable. I update once or twice a day online, but I write in in an HTML file my Desktop. However, I can move the file to my laptop and work on it there too. Even without internet access. That has certainly been handy.
  • Its searchable. The search feature is very important.
  • It is expandable and customizable. The plugins available are diverse and very helpful.
  • The community is very friendly. If I have a question, I just ask.
  • The tiddlywiki and the study projects motivate each other. Sometimes even the crazy implications of the Nation State get boring, its true. But often the desire to complete or unify areas of the Tiddlywiki push me through. Although, sometimes it works in reverse, and suddenly I’ll be on the hunt for new plugins or macros to do some crazy function.

Publishing it online has had a few benefits as well:

  • It keeps me honest. Its best to rewrite what you read, as it processes in your head. Much of Discourse is a brain dump of quotes, but since it is online and published I keep discipline about references. I try to write the ideas in my own words, I want most everything to be original content. However, I don’t want this to impede study, so thats how the mix happens.
  • There is reason to post. People read it, apparently. Thats pretty cool.
  • I need to keep it tidy. Notebooks can get messy, but again, this is published.

Not that I think the people who read it are keeping score on my ability to cite correctly, etc. It is a process though, and has developed a discipline. I find it helpful.

I haven’t really seen anything similar: online published university notes, in any discipline. There are course/class notes posted (usually powerpoint) by professors. There is a web2.0 site dedicated to students sharing notes, but I didn’t think it was that cohesive. I haven’t been trolling the internet for hours looking, but certainly haven’t seen anything.

I wonder why not? I think the most likely answer is that as a distance education student, studying without lectures, I probably put more emphasis in my notes than most. Perhaps I am also a little obsessive over them. Maybe.

It does add to my online identity though.  I do not think it would be that strange to have a class share the creation of a wiki, or have discussions through public forums.

It works. Discourse has helped me study. More important, its usually quite fun. I get more out of it than simply study. I am creating something, and the more hits its getting the more I realize this has value. Also, I can see progress. Most of all, I’ve managed to make the drudgery of note taking something of a hobby. I don’t know if that is a good thing, or makes me kind of sad…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: