Personal Productivity – Wiki for Information Storage

There’s a lot of personal data tracking systems out there, but the best I’ve found is a wiki. I’ve tried Microsoft One Note and just keeping individual documents in Word/Excel and Google Docs, but I always come back to a wiki. It’s so easy to just edit a page in order to jot down a quick note. I use my wiki to store bookmarks, lists of books I want to read, and to store my TODO list. I also store information about my web sites, the types of things I only need to reference about once a year and always forget. The wiki is easily searchable and has full edit history so that you can see what you’ve changed over time. I also like how it’s accessible where ever I’m at: work, school or through Safari on my iPhone.

The only downside is that you really need to have a hosted web site, which I happen to have through Frenchville and this site. You need to be able to install the PHP pages and have access to set up a MySQL database. If you are tech savvy enough to do that, then setting up the wiki is easy. Just go over to MediaWiki.org and download the free software. It does require PHP 5.1+, which not all sites support. I used to host my web sites on Yahoo and moved them to my current host, A2 Hosting, because they didn’t support the most up to date PHP. Just follow the instructions on their Download page on how to install and setup the database. It’s pretty straightforward.

You will probably want to protect your wiki from prying eyes. There is a way to make a wiki private. You can change the settings of the wiki so only registered users who are “sysops” can edit the page and only allow certain pages to be visible to unregistered users. This was accomplished by editing the LocalSettings.php page. The following settings were added:

# Prevent new user registrations except by sysops
$wgGroupPermissions['*']['createaccount'] = false;

# Restrict editing by all non-sysop users
$wgGroupPermissions['*']['edit'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['edit'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['sysop']['edit'] = true;

# Disable reading by anonymous users
$wgGroupPermissions['*']['read'] = false;

# But allow them to read e.g., these pages:
$wgWhitelistRead =  array ( "Main Page", "Special:Userlogin", "Wikipedia:Help");

Hopefully you have the time to try this out. I really enjoy using a wiki for the storage of personal data. It’s the most versatile and malleable to the types of things I like to do. Have any suggestions? Drop me an e-mail.

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