This week’s WSJ.com/AWSJ column is about the TiddlyWiki (here, when it appears Friday), which I reckon is a wonderful tool and a quiet but major leap forward for interfaces, outliners and general coolness. I had a chance to chat with some of the folk most closely involved in TiddlyWikis, but sadly couldn’t use much of their material directly, so here is some of the stuff that didn’t fit.
Second offering: an interview with Clint Checketts, an Information Systems major at BYU-Idaho, who walked me through some of the history and some of the basics:
Jeremy: i’m intrigued by tiddlywikis and wanted to recommend them to readers, but i realise there’s stuff i don’t quite understand, and i just worry i’m recommending something that’s maybe too fiddly for the casual user…
Clint: I would vouch for TiddlyWikis.
Jeremy: are there any in particular your favourite? i love the tag ones, tagglywiki and tiddlytagwiki, cos i love the idea of using tags in that way…
Clint: Its been maturing quickly, though the growth has always been conservative and rarely causes any breaks between upgrades.
Jeremy: they seem to burst out in april or may, as far as i can gather… but i can’t find an easy how to guide for these.
Clint: Actually, to get you caught up on a short bit of TiddlyHistory they burst out with the introduction of GTD tiddlywiki. THe Getting Things Done version
Clint: Thats how I was introduced.
Jeremy: ah right. that was beautifully done one.
Clint: In June, Jeremy came out with an update that allows for macros. These macros are great because now the different adaptations like TiddlyTagWiki and TagglyWiki can be re-merged back into the main one. So now, there is primarily THE TiddlyWiki.
Clint: Now Jeremy also added in the ability to add in a stylesheet in a tiddler. (You know what a tiddler is right?)
Jeremy: so when you say merged, it means the extra features of those offshoots can be available in the tiddlywiki?
Clint: Okay, so with the macros it was simple (mostly) to bring the adaptations back into the mainstream tiddlywiki and with the stylesheet tiddlers now you can bring in other skins that look completely different.
Clint: Simon Baird merged the tagglywiki stuff back in. [He] created this plug-in
Clint: My contributions have been in the form of the styles.
Jeremy: how easy is it to do the macros and stylesheet things?
Clint: Do you mean create macros or use macros?
Clint: Piece of cake to use. Let’s take AlanH’s smiley macro for example. You can just cut and paste the insertSmiley code. Some developers are working on ways to simplify importing macros as we speak. After copying the tiddler you just mark it as ‘systemConfig’ then reload the page
Jeremy: ah cool. so how would i load a stylesheet?
Clint: Go to TiddlySinister (my latest creation). Open up the StyleSheet tiddler and copy the content then create your own tiddler called StyleSheet and paste it. The new style will be applied as soon as you hit ‘Done’.
Clint: The macros are the new key. Its great because you can pick and choose the functions that you like and incorporate those.
Jeremy: this is fascinating… you got time to show me a few more macros?
Clint: My one and only macro (so far) turns TiddlyWiki into a blogging type system. It places your newest posts on the front page, simplifying your posting. Thats all. Not anything super great (yet).
Clint: Other great macro (just released yesterday) is the WebView macro by AlanH it allows you to edit you TiddlyWiki on you own computer and upload it. It can detect when you are viewing it over a web connection and it hides the wiki-features. This is great for creating atotally self contained web page.
Clint: Using style sheets people don’t even realize that they are viewing a TiddlyWiki.
Jeremy: that does sound neat. does your macro allow one to edit a blog?
Clint: In a way. The starting view of a blog is usually a chronological view of posts. My macro just looks at the dates of the last edits and posts them on the default view automatically.
Clint: Usually you would have to select the tiddlers you want to display manually in the DefaultTiddlers tiddler
Jeremy: where do you see this kind of thing going?
Jeremy: do you see it becoming more mainstream? or do you think tiddlywikis have limited appeal?
Clint: I doubt it would become as mainstream as the term ‘blog’. It is only a tool. Just like you don’t usually here people bragging up their new hammer.
Clint: However, on the scale of tools, I can see it getting a WordPress level of attention
Jeremy: is there a really simple way that people can publish a TW? i see obstacles there…
Clint: True. Its is important to note that TiddlyWikis are local files. It publish via ftp. I edit it and upload. Not the slickest.
Clint: However. Take alook at ZiddlyWiki. This is a version that uses Zope for the backend and alllows simple downloading of the entire ‘web-site’ as a tiddlywiki
Jeremy: ok, i’ll check that out…
Jeremy: thanks for all this Clint, you’ve helped a lot…