Getting Personal With PickWiki

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Getting Personal with PickWiki

2008-08-08 by Rex Gozar

I'm on a campaign to get every Pick developer to use PickWiki. Why? Because I know that there's a wealth of technical knowledge out there that would benefit the entire Pick community. But it's stupid for me to think that you brilliant technical innovators would contribute your precious time and effort purely for the betterment of mankind, nor for the sake of promoting the database we all know and love.

Then I had a new thought: why not contribute to PickWiki for your own benefit! Sure, others can learn from your wisdom, but that doesn't need to be your primary motivation.

The nice thing about PickWiki is that it follows you from job to job. All that on-the-job training, all those hard-earned lessons will be there in PickWiki no matter where you are: home, office, customer site, donut shop; anywhere with an internet connection. You can keep all your personal notes organized any way you see fit. Add or remove anything at will. And it's easy -- just fire up the ol' web browser and type away.

What would you want to type? How about...

  • Utilities that you've developed and use from job to job -- you know, that thing you wrote ten years ago and wish you had now.
  • Obscure database features or configurations that have bit you in the butt.
  • Handy tips and tricks you don't want to forget about.
  • Design patterns for Pick BASIC that work (or don't).
  • Techniques to connect with other technologies that you use.
  • Procedures and guidelines for managing software and changes.
  • Company trade secrets (okay... maybe not)
  • Anything and everything else Pick-related.

You can keep all your notes centrally located on PickWiki, ready to share with anyone, like coworkers or outside contractors.

Okay, so what's the catch? I'd be derelict in my campaign duties if I didn't attempt to address these issues.

Why aren't more people using it? First off, many people *are* using it. There's already a lot of existing content. Articles posted on PickWiki typically appear near the top of Google searches.

Out of the people who know PickWiki exists, I'm guessing that most of them haven't thought of using it for their own purposes. "Gee, I've written these notes on how to connect my Pick application to the Blatco Taco Folding machine, but I don't think anyone else would care." Your primary purpose should be to have those notes available for your own use; it's secondary if someone else benefits from them too.

Some people are just squeemish about the term "wiki". If you're one of them, I can't help you.

Some people find wiki syntax bizarre and confusing. Again, I can't help you -- I just know that many people without the "programming gene" have used wiki's for years and they understand it just fine.

Some potential PickWiki users imagine that they have to outline, draft, and polish a piece of writing before publishing it, making it too monumental a task to even consider. Remember that these are your notes -- it's okay to be sloppy. Better to have some sloppy notes than nothing at all. And who knows, maybe someone else will clean it up for you.

"I don't want anyone to monkey around with my notes!" Yes, it could happen, that's why wiki's have a "revert" feature. All the revisions are saved, so you're never in danger of losing your original text. You can always put it back to the way it was; this is how big wiki's like Wikipedia keep their content integrity high.

Here are some guidelines for adding your notes to PickWiki:

  1. If you're not registered or don't get the "Edit the text of this page" link in the page footer, see How To Register.

  2. Create your username page. Go to Home -> Users and add a link to your username (just copy and modify an existing one.) Since it doesn't exist yet, a "?" will display next to the new link. Click it to create your new page. Click the "Edit text of this page" link in the page footer to add any text you want.

  3. You can organize your notes any way you want; as different sections on your "user page", or create new pages for each note or topic. Text Formatting Rules and HintsAndTips have details on how to format pages.

  4. Add breadcrumbs at the top to help yourself (and others) navigate your pages.

  5. Title each page, add your byline, and the date.

  6. Include a summary or brief section (heading 2) at the top to remind yourself (and others) what the page is about.

  7. Add disclaimers or qualifiers, if you want (e.g. just my opinion, just for D3, etc.)

  8. Write about anything and everything.

  9. Try to post actual text, not just links. Links seem to drop dead on the internet without warning. Instead, post the full text along with a link back to the original page.

  10. Put a comment section at the bottom to encourage others to contribute their thoughts.