[494 words - I will edit it down when we know exactly how much space we have and by how much it needs to be reduced]

Taking notes helps us our experience. The act of distilling and refining what we see and hear does more than just produce a record or aide memoire; it lodges each thought more deeply in mind. Notes of meetings, lectures, videos, ideas that visit us when staring out of the train window, key passages of books and websites… how to keep and manage all these scribblings to make them more useful for learning and problem solving?
I guess I’m not alone in having experimented with various shapes and sizes of notebook – do you keep everything in one book, or use separate books for work, personal development etc? Keeping a digital record makes it easier to edit and rearrange notes post hoc, and the process of linking between disparate ideas further enriches learning and creativity. In Where Do Good Ideas Come From? Steven Johnson reports how enlightenment-era thinkers kept what they called a “commonplace” book, to transcribe favourite quotations and ideas[1[[#_ftn1|[1]]]. These books were sometimes laboriously indexed to allow different concepts to bleed into each other. But how often do we actually make the effort to go to these lengths?
For nearly three years now I’ve been using something called TiddlyWiki[2[[#_ftn2|[2]]] to make my notes more flexible, integrated and link-aware. TiddlyWiki is like a single-user wiki site, except that it’s not a site, it’s a single HTML file with some javascript that manages the individual pages (known as ‘tidders’). I keep all my notes on TiddlyWiki from meetings, to-do lists, observations from lectures or videos, website clippings, even the tortuous history of my complaints to my bank. If I enter either the name of another tiddler or a URL, it’s automatically hyperlinked. And every tiddler can be given as many tags as you like to help cross-referencing, navigation and browsing for reflection.
There are other proprietary services, like Evernote and DEVONnote that offer similar functionality, possibly with more sophistication. However, having previously kept my notes on Psion and Palm PDAs, and on the Ma.gnolia social bookmarking site, I know the aggro caused when these businesses stop supporting old formats. TiddlyWiki will keep working as long as there are browsers that can read HTML and javascript. sore throat cure
The fact that TiddlyWiki is just one file makes it easily portable: I carry mine round on a keychain USB stick, which I use on my desktop and notebook computers. If you spend a lot of your life in the cloud, there’s a hosted option – with a different set of security considerations.
TiddlyWiki was developed by Jeremy Ruston, and is published under an open source licence. It seems to be best known in the developer/geek community, and it’s eminently adaptable and hackable. However, I’ve managed to use nearly all its features, and do basic adaptations, without needing to do any coding.
Meanwhile TiddlyWiki isn’t so good if you like to jot drawings in the margin – so you can keep your moleskine notebooks for that. But they’re a lot more expensive.

[[#_ftnref1|[1]]] http://is.gd/iRanL

[[#_ftnref2|[2]]] http://www.tiddlywiki.com