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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10 Responses to Is it a wiki? A floor wax? A dessert topping?

  1. yeah. played with tiddly before leaving. Sounds cool, but it’s a bit restrictive – it’s a single HTML file, and has to be on your local drive so you have to republish it. I guess for an eportfolio or something, that could be a big benefit, though…

  2. Alan Levine says:

    Great. Just what I need. ANOTHER cool thing I should not be looking at but will. this is fantabulous! It looks really powerful for personal publlishing…

    Does this mean that if I edit *your* TiddlyWiki on the web, I can save source and publisha s a derivative?

  3. Jack Yensen says:


    that’s exactly what it means! Mess with Brian’s version then save to your own server and away you go.


  4. Gardner says:

    Wow and huh pretty much sum up my own responses. The idea of putting all the results on a USB stick and walking away is very enticing. The animation effects are like an implicit model of certain kinds of concept mapping, or the experience of concept mapping (always an interesting distinction to explore between the thing and the experience of the thing, and yes I think these can be distinguised but of course I can’t prove it). Yet TiddlyWiki also seems almost an afront to wikiness because it’s not communal enough, it’s not reversible enough, it’s not persistent enough, etc. It’s a very strange thing. And most intriguing. The very presentation on the main page makes it almost Willy Wonka-esque, and who can or should resist that?

  5. Lee Kraus says:

    I too have been looking at the tiddlywiki. I think that it has a great interface. My thought is to have the learners edit their personal tiddlywiki throughout the learning experience. This would allow them continually build their understanding of the information being taught. Kind of a learning journal that would evolve over time. I also like the idea of being able to build a “skeleton” tiddlywiki with the directions built into it. So it would basically provide the learner with the details about when and how to use the tool. Then the instructor could aggregate the RSS feeds from all the learners and evaluate and comment individually and to the group. Still a lot of shaping, but this is the general idea I got the day I started using it.

  6. ESpringer says:

    Folks might want to know that adaptations now include the web-publishing friendly QwikiWeb variation (avoids the confusion of seeming to invite edits when it does not) and truly communally-editable ZiddlyWiki, which *does* initially require a fancy server (Zope-based), but which is still easy for end-users to handle. It can be configured to offer anyone on the ‘net to read, but only those with a name/password combination to edit. It is otherwise just about identical to TiddlyWiki. See for an example.

  7. It is one weird creature. I like the idea of generating and editing microcontent items within a single web page. I despair of telling an academic dean that she should really try to make a… tiddler.

    We’re shooting for feedback from our group: . Anyone else is welcome to comment, too.

  8. saurierduval says:

    I’ve recently compiled a list of some TiddlyWiki adaptions (some provide server-side storage, each one adds a different flavor):

  9. John Rostron says:

    I have been looking for a Wiki-like facility for my students, both now, and for planned distance-learning courses. We use WebC, a Virtual Learning Environment. This allows us to create a space where students can upload their own material, that, is they have write-access.

    This brings the question: if I install TiddlyWiki in this area, could the student edit and save back in that area? I will try it myself when I have time, but perhaps someone knows the answer.

  10. Liz Dorland says:

    I had the same thoughts as Lee. I want to use this for college intro chemistry students, and also for my FEP (faculty evaluation plan) online. Now I have to think through how to do it. I ran across the link to this blog entry on TiddlyWiki on Alan Levine’s cogdogblog. He knows about all the cool stuff before anyone else in Phoenix, for sure.

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