Wiki Power

Since this has been the longest contiguous time that I have spent unemployed, I’ve been a little caught off guard by the amount of record-keeping I’ve had to do as I dug further into the job search process. I mean, I’ve been looking in two different states, in several different sectors, and also contemplating school options. On top of that, my note-keeping skills have never been very good.

Usually, when I’m researching something, I stick to one topic at hand and pursue it until it’s complete. Then I can keep track of the entire thing without taking a single note. This has usually worked so well for me that, when I was writing papers, it was actually counterproductive to take notes. When I sat down to actually do the writing, no matter what notes I actually had to hand, what I wrote would take end up pulling on something else that I had read entirely. I usually had to go back and find my references after I wrote the paper. But with the job search, not so much – I’m going everywhere, and I can’t remember when I applied for what. Plus I have all these leads to follow up on, and it’s hard to keep track of what stage each one is at.

So the toss up has been that, since I started looking for work, my productivity plummeted. It took hours to get started each morning, because I dreaded dredging up in my mind where I was last when I left off. Finally, I gave up. If I’m going to take notes this thoroughly, I need a database. So I tracked down WikiDPad, which Howard Tayler uses.

Basically, it’s a downloadable program which allows you to created interlinking notes using wiki-style formatting. In other words, it’s an offline wiki (very convenient that, since I don’t have any desire to share my snarky job search notes with the whole world via the Internet. The system isn’t perfect. I probably just need some more time learning the hidden tricks for proper formatting, but there is a noticeable lack of style buttons and drag-and-drop linking.

Nevertheless, using a wiki to keep track of research notes has made an amazing difference. It makes it so much easier to treat the job search process just like another job. Now when it’s time to get to work, I can sit down and fiddle with the database for the first hour instead of wasting time trolling CareerBuilder for low-hanging fruit.

Actually, I got so excited about using wikis to produce interlinking documents, that I tried to use WikiDPad to set up that Latin textbook series I’m playing with in the off hours. It didn’t quite work. The formatting issues were just a little beyond me for the complexity of what I’m trying to build there. So for the textbook project, I’m using MediaWiki. You can find it at Be warned, though: It is very much a work in progress, and I need serious training in the areas of layout and formatting. But it’s a start!