Using a Wiki to organise your notes

There’s a recent post up at Cal Newport’s blog that’s very interesting. He discusses the study strategy of a man known only as Ricardo. His method is to using a wiki app installed on his iphone to type his notes onto. He then whips out his iPhone whenever he’s got a spare 10-15 minutes, and goes over the notes. The idea is that over long periods of time, these tiny chunks add up to a lot of study without any additional inconvenience.

I used to do a similar thing with software that converted text files into audio. I would copy and paste journal papers into textpad, convert them to mp3, and listen to them as I travelled around. At one point I had a job which basically entailed walking around London (distributing flyers), and I essentially got paid to listen to papers and my notes. It sounded robotic but you could understand it.

But using a wiki on-the-go is an excellent idea. If I had an iphone I would do it. However, I do use one for ordinary sitting-at-a-desk type studying. The one I use is called ZuluPad, and I’ve found it to be a really useful tool.

ZuluPad has two features – writing text, and adding pages. That’s it. When you add a new page to the wiki, you give it a name. Anywhere else that that name appears in the wiki is automatically transformed into a link leading to that page. So, say a few weeks ago I write a page with notes on intrinsic motivation. If today I’m writing notes on the effects of meditation, and I put down some comments about how it links in with intrinsic motivation, I instantly get a link back to my notes on that.

Compare this to the analogue paper and pen system. If I want to look up related notes in folders or notepads, I can index the notes as well as I want but it still requires getting the right folder or notebook out, going to the contents, checking the page number, flicking to the page. With ZuluPad, I don’t have to do anything I wouldn’t already do. I’m a big fan of simple programs that have zero learning curve, and ZuluPad is exactly that. Oh, and it’s completely free too.

So give it a go for a while, see if you find it useful. By the way, I highly recommend Cal’s blog too – go and subscribe to it if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it.

Note: I’m going to add study tips to the blog more regularly now. My aim is to put a post up every Sunday, though I’m not promising I won’t miss one here and there.


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