Monday, February 27, 2006

I spent some time this weekend playing with TiddlyWiki, a "reusable non-linear personal web notebook" developed by Jeremy Ruston. The basic concept is pretty simple: embed enough JavaScript in a single HTML file to support a complete lightweight environment for Wiki-style authoring and hyperlinking. Rather than full-up articles like Wikipedia, TiddlyWiki is built around the concept of microcontent. Anil Dash gets significant credit for defining the microcontent idea (though i can't find the definitive reference):

"... content that conveys one primary idea or concept, is accessible through a single definitive URL or permalink, and is appropriately written and formatted for presentation in email clients, web browsers, or on handheld devices as needed. A day's weather forcast, the arrival and departure times for an airplane flight, an abstract from a long publication, or a single instant message can all be examples of microcontent."

TiddlyWiki is a great execution of a microcontent editor: just enough support to make things easy, mechanisms for tagging and searching, and open/close animations that make it fun. Because it's all in one file, it's highly portable (you can put it all on a USB drive and take it with you, a WikiOnAStick). This would be another approach to the ideas in my recent post on personal information management.

As it happened, i was trying to collect various scattered plans for SemanticBible, in the style of David Allen's Getting Things Done(known to fans simply as GTD). GTD is a popular method for time and productivity management, in particular because it's not method-heavy, but focuses on simple, high-yield approaches. The typical soil in which innovation grows is the intersection of a need and a tool: in this case, i got thinking about how easy it would be to use GTD-style planning in combination with a TiddlyWiki. After 10 minutes of trying to set a few things up myself, i realized it was likely that TWATOT: The Web Already Thought of This(tm). Sure enough, a little googling produced GTD TiddlyWiki Plus, which puts some GTD support on top of TiddlyWiki. This is my fourth or fifth time around looking for an appropriately lightweight environment for maintaining constantly changing plans, and i'm optimistic that this one might grow into a fruitful tree.

Another intersection of interests with TiddlyWiki is my constant search for innovative mechanisms for presenting and interacting with Scriptural content. There's a natural overlap between TiddlyWiki's notion of microcontent on the one hand, and the pericopes of the Composite Gospel Index on the other. Pericopes are chosen to describe a single event (expressed by one or several Gospel authors from their unique perspectives), with a consistent identifier. Hyperlinks are ideal for moving between pericopes in a variety of ways: sequence order (overall, or within an individual author's presentation), links for related content that isn't the same pericope, or top-level organization by historical period, genre, special topics like healings, miracle, parables, and so forth. All along i've had the concept that pericopes in the Composite Gospel should be "authoritatively" taggable as reference indicators of content  (though i haven't gotten too far with this yet). The newer notion, coming out of some thinking about Bible study and Web 2.0, is that there's also value in the aggregated folksonomy approach of sites like

Transforming the Composite Gospel content into a TiddlyWiki framework would be quite easy: each "tiddler" (as Ruston calls a piece of microcontent) has an ID, and some simple formatting. Incorporating some navigational elements that are unique to the Composite Gospel will take a little more thinking and hacking on top of the TiddlyWiki framework. For example, having a sub-title for each tiddler that describes the editor, the creation and editing date and time, isn't very relevant: properties of pericopes would be much better. But i'm excited about the possibilities: look for more, if i can find the time to Get Things Done.

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