Is it a wiki? A floor wax? A dessert topping?

Yet another application to keep me tantalized and humbled all at once…

I’ve been spotting TiddlyWiki in my peripheral vision for some time now, but only over the past couple days have I fixed my gaze on it. So far my reaction has been a jumble of impulses ranging from “wow!” to “huh?”

As usual, someone I work with here at OLT is way ahead of me. Alison Wong was exploring the utility of TiddlyWiki as an ePortfolio tool weeks ago:

The good thing about the system is that it does not require any server side support (no database, no php and no perl scripting). The entire tool is contained in one html file using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Which makes the wiki very portable, and can be run in any modern browser. As suggested on the website, I also installed it and PortableFirefox on my USB thumb drive. This would make updating/showing the e-portfolio very portable as well. However, to save the changes of the wiki page, it requires Firefox or Internet Explorer, plus save capabilities (write access) to a server.

Hence, I envision end-users working on a local copy of the wiki file in a folder on their computers. Then upload the final version and all associated files (contents in the folder) to a server.

You read that right: no database. That hits home when you click the DownloadSoftware link on the site, only to learn that since “TiddlyWiki is a single HTML file, you’ve actually already downloaded the entire software just by viewing this site.” See what I mean about “wow!” and “huh?”

More Wow! – the interface is very smooth and sleek, and loaded with nifty JavaScript tricks that allow the page to reshape itself without reloading. I know that in a year these JavaScript/Ajax tricks will be overused, and we’ll all be tired of them, but right now I confess I’m a total sucker for the effect.

And there’s that word microcontent again…

More Huh? – because there is no database, when you access TiddlyWiki on the web the experience is unusual. You can click “edit” or “delete” links all over the place, and make whatever changes you like. But unless you save a copy to your own machine (and maybe upload it again to the server), your changes will not stick. Nobody else will see your changes, and hitting “refresh” on the browser will take you back to the page’s original state.

So I’m inclined to agree with Alison when she suggests that “calling TiddlyWiki a wiki system could be a little misleading.” (The site’s description, “a reusable non-linear personal web notebook” is more accurate, but not so catchy.)

So after an hour or so of confused meanderings, where have I gotten with this thing? I’m definitely intrigued, even excited, but at this point I am unsure how TiddlyWiki can be properly exploited. Alison thinks it might work well as an HTML-based composition tool that newbies can use, perhaps in tandem with a CMS. I’d like to do more comprehensive reworkings of the page to see how effectively templates can be constructed. And I haven’t tested how the RSS outputs can be manipulated.

And I’ve only begun to explore the examples of TiddlyWiki in action (like this) and the adaptations (like this and this). More head-scratching to come…

Has anybody else got thoughts? Really… do you? Please?

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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