For a long time I felt I needed some kind of tool or facility for capturing and organising thought and knowledge over a long-term period. I also just wanted somewhere to write down thoughts worth noting as I had them.
After some study of the options available for fulfiling such a need, I decided to try to create and use my own wiki. I ended up choosing MediaWiki® for my needs, as it seemed to have to most significant userbase and was extensively support by a huge collection of plug-ins (extensions). It didn’t appear to be the simplest of systems, but my hope was that the large community and number of extensions would give me the greatest amount of freedom on offer. There are extensions and ways to allow just about any connectivity to be achieved and this was important for my future plans. I thought it would give me the best chance to build the kind of thing I had in mind.
Naturally, as a web based system, MediaWiki requires a web server, database and PHP to run. This meant I also needed a server solution stack. XAMPP® fit the bill nicely at the time and it works practically flawlessly to this day on my the Windows XP®-based system I run as a home server.
After using MediaWiki for a while, I found I couldn’t really organise my information the way I wanted to. Categorising pages was not a satisfactory way of organising and using my pages and developing and organising true classes of pages was very time consuming. Looking around for a solution, I learnt about the Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) extension and the SMW+ project. These efforts are an attempt to solve many of the problems I encountered whilst trying to make my wiki work for me.
The SMW extension allows machine-understandable semantics to be coded into a MediaWiki page. The SMW+ extensions build on this even further by providing interfaces for people to create, manage, query, and retrieve this semantic data. Along with many other extensions, I now have a wiki which I can organise around my way of thinking, including how I organise, categorise and link pieces of information.
I don’t use it to its full potential and I wish I could make its development a higher priority, but my personal wiki is now a very helpful tool which I use almost everyday. One of my next major goals to develop it is to host it and make it privately accessible on the Web so I can use it wherever I am in the world.