Updates on Grok TiddlyWiki

3 minute read

Since several people have started to write to make sure I’m OK after seeing that I haven’t updated since my COVID-19 post, I figured it would be a good time to explain what I’m up to. First of all, I appear to have been one of the lucky ones with regard to COVID; while it wasn’t fun and took me several weeks to recover fully, I am not noticing any lingering health effects.

Second of all, the reason I haven’t been posting is that all my writing time has been going to a textbook, Grok TiddlyWiki, which is currently in private preview and will hopefully be publicly available by the end of March. It will be freely available at https://groktiddlywiki.com and supported by donations. I’m really excited about this project, and I hope others will be too! Here are some of the reasons:

  • It’s my first book-length teaching resource, and the preview reception has been good.
  • There are no good learning resources for TiddlyWiki right now, so I hope this book will help drive adoption of TiddlyWiki, or at least increase the number of people who go from kind of being able to use TiddlyWiki to being able to fluently use TiddlyWiki.
  • It comes with my implementation (to my knowledge, the second ever) of a mnemonic medium, an experimental idea by Andy Matuschak in which spaced-repetition flashcards are woven into the text to help readers build a long-term understanding, rather than reading the text once and forgetting about it. Because a tool like TiddlyWiki has so many new terms and bits of syntax, I think it’s a particularly solid topic for this experiment.

What is TiddlyWiki?

TiddlyWiki is something of a misnomer. It can only be called a wiki in the barest sense of the term, a website which can be quickly edited directly from the browser. To call TiddlyWiki a “wiki” and move on is to misunderstand TiddlyWiki. I describe the real benefits of TiddlyWiki thus in Grok TiddlyWiki:

TiddlyWiki is a human-shaped tool for organizing information and taking notes. It stores and relates information in a non-linear but structured way, just like your brain, and it doesn’t forget things.

It’s this human-shaped thing that makes TiddlyWiki TiddlyWiki. TiddlyWiki organizes information into little pieces called tiddlers, which can then be linked together into webs of ideas in various, semi-chaotic ways and reused in a variety of contexts – just like in your brain. Tiddlers are kind of like index cards, but even more reusable, and much harder to lose or spill coffee on. Further, TiddlyWiki is radically customizable; much like a spreadsheet or Microsoft Access, ordinary users can create simple custom tools within TiddlyWiki, that provide automatic lists of tiddlers that match some criteria or custom forms.

TiddlyWiki is well in line with Control-Alt-Backspace’s principles. It puts you in charge; it’s exactly as complicated as you need it to be; it’s free and open-source; it’s radically customizable by you, the user; in short, it’s likable.

If this sounds interesting, check out this one-hour screencast demonstrating what it looks like to be fluent with TiddlyWiki, in which I build a simple application to track the books and articles someone wants to read and has read in the past:

I’ll be back here discussing the book and then getting back to normal business around Control-Alt-Backspace once the book is out.