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I’ve used a lot of apps throughout my life to help me remember things, collect ideas, and generally make sense of the world. Most recently, I’ve been using:
- Browser bookmarks for saving recipes, repair manuals, and design resources.
- Day One for journaling about my work and personal life.
- Notes.app for jotting down notes on meetings, books, and conference talks.
- Monica for keeping track of social interactions with people.
- Reminders.app for my personal tasks.
- Notion for planning and research.
- Airtable for tracking TV shows, movies, and books that I’ve seen and read.
But because the information is stored in a lot of different places, I find myself copy-pasting content between each of them. Whenever I call a friend, I’d find myself writing the same entry in both Day One and Monica. Whenever I’m doing some research, I’d find myself both bookmarking websites and pasting the same URLs in either Notion or Notes.
It often bothered me that I had duplicates of the same thing in different tools, but I assumed that it’s just how things are. Fast forward to last week when I heard about Roam from my coworker. I thought it was a tool for academics, and I didn’t understand how it would be useful for me. I did some more research on how other people use it, and it convinced me that this is the tool that I could use for all my journaling, note-taking, researching, and list-tracking needs!
I was excited, so I signed up for an invite. I waited for a couple days, but I grew impatient. Fortunately, my restlessness took me to an open-source alternative to Roam that’s been around for 15 years: TiddlyWiki. It’s a whole wiki in a single HTML file. There are no servers to set up, and there’s nothing to pay for either.
It isn’t quite like Roam, but I did find Stroll (formerly TiddlyBlink) through Ness Labs. It’s a version of TiddlyWiki that’s more Roam-like, and I think it suits me perfectly. It can be a bit clunky at times, but it gets the job done. Here are my current use cases:
Journaling is already built-in, and it’s central to the whole philosophy of Roam and Stroll. Each date is a journal entry, and you sort of branch off of that to link to other pages. For example, I can write about making sautéed sardines in the morning and then link that to a [[Sautéed Sardines]] article which can house the recipe itself or a link to it.
My journal entries eventually end up having people in them, so I’ve found that it’s also an easy way to build a list of people that I care about. I simply put people’s names in [[*]], and their pages will get made on the fly. Since it’s just a file on my computer, I feel at ease about the privacy implications of writing about my social interactions.
I’m starting to see the value of having everything in one place. I could make a document in TiddlyWiki called [[Cognitive Bias]] and link all the other documents that have a relation to that topic:
- The idea of [[Confirmation Bias]]
- The book [[Design for Real Life]]
- The webinar called [[Design for Cognitive Bias]]
- An article online called [[The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain]]
I’ve only started using TiddlyWiki, but I’m hoping that having interconnected notes would help me understand a topic more.
Using TiddlyWiki is still an experiment for me, but so far it’s been working well. The areas where it falls short are:
- Collaborating: I can’t use TiddlyWiki if I wanted to collaborate with people.
- Tasks: As far as I can tell, I can’t do recurring tasks or attach dates to them so I’m sticking with Reminders for my tasks.
Other than that, it has the potential to combine browser bookmarks, Day One, Notes, Airtable, Notion, and Monica so the upside looks good if it does end up working.
If you’d like to try out TiddlyWiki, I found this tutorial to be a good start.