I was reading usenet a while back, and came across a creative solution to an annoying problem. A person had posted some fairly technical, hard-to-find information that he had finally found after a fairly exhaustive search. The post looked something like this (though this is not the actual example):
The extract potential of Belgian Biscuit malt is 35. I’m posting this here so I can find it later.
While the post didn’t add much to the discussion, it did accomplish its purpose. It added that one tidbit of information, along with all of the associated keywords, into the great digital dumpster that is the usenet archive. So, a year from now, when he needs to find that information again, he simply goes to Google Groups and searches for “extract potential” and “Belgian Biscuit malt,” and the result is instantly retrieved. It’s arguably as fast as pulling up the same data on a PDA or an Excel file.
There are some things I’ve had to look up a million times. What’s our ldap search string (uid=schinkerj,ou=Users,ou=OxObjects,dc=bbhcsd,dc=org)? What’s the difference between XGA (1024×768), SXGA (1280×1024), SXGA+ (1400×1050), WXGA (1280×800), and WSXGA+ (1680×1050)? Do we use active mode or passive mode ftp (passive)? What day of the week is the 4th of July (Wednesday in 2007)? I could just post all of this stuff to Usenet, and then search for it when I need it.
I’ve considered doing the same thing with the blog (and, actually, I just did with the previous paragraph). I could create a content category that no one ever looks at (like, say, “teacher resources” :-)). Then, I could just post the things I want to keep track of to the blog. When I need to know something, I just search the blog for it, and up it comes. Of course, I wouldn’t post the root passwords for my servers there or anything, but for things that don’t have to be secure, it’s not a bad idea.
Alvin has described a similar system that he uses. Instead of keeping a pad of paper by the phone at home, he has a computer there. When someone wants to take a message for a family member, he or she just adds a blog post. The whole thing ends up being a giant knowlegebase of the household’s contacts. Need your aunt’s phone number? Just search the blog. Want to know who has been calling and leaving messages at home? Just subscribe to your home message blog RSS feed.
I thought Wikis were a little too unstructured. They just let anyone create links anywhere, with new pages popping up all the time, and a very organic (lack of) structure. This is even worse. But if the information being stored is to be found through searching, and not through browsing, it may make sense.