Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: Transition and Discovery

It's been two weeks without a post. Much too long regarding my own commitment to the task. So what happened? We've gone back to France for the season's break and visited parents and family, which means some travel (about 800 miles in all), leisurely activities and very little time on-line. This is no excuse, of course.

I've also been busy attending a one-day Consultant Marketing seminar organized by ITG, an umbrella company which offers haven to independent consultants who do not wish to be swamped by all the administrative tasks required when one starts his or her own business. Such companies will deal with all invoicing, insurance, pension, tax duties while consultants can devote their time to do what they like most to do: develop their business, nurture their network, land contracts. I have some contacts who could lead me to find my first mission as a free-lance consultant. If this happens soon, I'll seek to strike a deal with such a company.

So what about the earlier part of 2007?
The big events have run around the reorganization of the business and my struggle to find a suitable position in the Knowledge Management domain at my company. This has not worked out, but at the same time, I've found this to be a great opportunity to put my professional life in perspective and ask myself what is it I really want to do for the rest of my active life (probably about 10 years). So, I've decided that it was worth pursuing what I am passionate about, helping people and companies work better in a cooperative environment.

As a consequence, we have planned to move back to France during the first quarter of 2008 and establish this new business of mine there. It will fulfill a long time desire of ours to get back to our friends and family.

2007 has been notable also with my realising how social networking is at the heart of most human activities these days and especially for the knowledge worker that I am. So I have taken every opportunity to connect or reconnect with all the people I know or once worked with and I have started to make new on-line friends in France. This latter part worked amazingly well: I was able to find like-minded people who had just started a discussion group (La nouvelle énergie du business - the new business energy) and we've been busy planning for further development of the group in the new year.

The values promoted by that group are:

  • Take responsibility for your own life
  • Cooperation is at the heart of personal fulfillment and societal achievement
  • Be generous - Give without thinking about retribution
  • Open your mind to trusting others
  • Stand by your word to earn others' trust

I have made these values mine and hope to live up to them in 2008.

Dear reader, I hope you had an enriching year and that the coming one will bring you what you most desire. And I hope that some day we will find opportunities to help each other.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Explorations in TiddlyWiki land

I'm been enthralled by TiddlyWiki this past week or so. The more I dig into it, the more opportunities I find.

In my quest for the ultimate personal note taking applications I looked at various solutions, from the classical Office documents that are not flexible in terms of tagging pieces of content and organising a notebook like a diary.

At my work facility, we are using OneNote: it's got the versatility of adding pages easily in a set of hierarchical sections, sub-sections, pages and sub-pages. It can embed entire documents as well or link to them. But, with all its power, OneNote requires to be installed on all the computers that I am using for me to open my Notebook at various place at work and at home. I am a bit daunted by the complexity of of the whole OneNote application and have misgivings about its being around for a long time.

The next cool application I've been using is Web On a Stick (WOS), which is really a full blown web server running Apache and major open source applications, such as Drupal, Workdpress and MediaWiki to name a few. I've been using the latter extensively to record my thoughts, references and plans in a non-linear way. I found it very useful, also I am missing a Wisiwig interface, which I'm told exists as a plugin. I have not taken the time to install it though.

Now comes TiddlyWiki. I tried it a few months back and at the time simply did not get it. I did not know where to start with it, how to customise it to my liking and how it could be quickly put to work as a notebook. So last week, I came back to it on a whim, and this time it clicked. I was able to start using it as a daily journal and to record thoughts, things to do, now or later. And I have seen amazing applications of TiddlyWiki: whole web sites, GTD (Getting Things Done) documents, etc.

So what's to TiddlyWiki?
I like the fact that it's self-contained. I mean that the whole thing is in a single HTML document, which is fairly portable: all you need is a web browser on a machine which can run Linux, MacOs or even Windows ;-). Next, it's great to capture non-linear thinking, like going back to projects over time, and it help make all the links that one needs to retrieve things very quickly.

The basic concept is to encapsulate pieces of content (text, scripts, macros, pictures, links, podcasts or videos) in "tiddler" that you can tag (or have the system tag them for you), with a wiki style editor.

Then the interface, lets you organise your content, i.e. tiddler in a number of ways, having them appear or disapear at will on the page.

Gone is the tedious folder hierarchy, if you can name what you're looking for, you can retrieve it.
Last goodie for now: there is a dynamic and enthusiastic community of developers out there to make you life easier, including Jeremy Ruston , the creator of TiddlyWiki, Eric Shulman of ELS Design Studios, and many others.

Check it out!

Links of interest:
The TiddlyWiki Vault - thanks to Dave and Blanca Gifford
TiddlyWiki review by tifrap
Can't Live Without It, TiddlyWiki by Cynthia Russell