Seth Godin suggests a novel way of keeping a diary: Use a private (or internal) blog! Diaries are a great way to plan ahead, but it is also important to have a way of looking back, a journal. Why not use your calendar? A simple technical reason: These days most people make their electronic calendars at least semi-public, also, software like Outlook over writes note information if an update to the invite is received.

Using a blog is a novel idea, but there are various other tools that can be used to keep a journal:

  • A text file or document (on the desktop)
  • A personal wiki (either web or PC based)
  • A paper journal (you know, those things made from dead trees, you see them in old photos)

The challenge with a traditional on-line blog is that it is not private, which significantly limits (consciously or unconsciously) what you write in it. It is possible to make a blog private – certainly has this feature.

The big flat text-file

You could use a file on computer, in a text editor or word-processor of your choice. If you do, you might want to think about password protecting it – most word processors and operating systems provide a means to do this. Given the rate of PC and laptop thefts, it is probably well worth it if it contains sensitive information.

Personal Wikis

I have found using a personal wiki to be the most effective journal for me. Hosted wikis make me a little nervous from a security perspective, for something as sensitive as a personal diary – either the wiki or its server could be hacked, or someone could sniff the web traffic, unless the wiki uses SSL or some form of network-level encryption. The good news is that you can run a wiki locally on your own machine, right in your browser, without having to install any server software.

I’ve settled on TiddlyWiki. I did use Bladewiki for a while, which is also excellent, especially if you are using Windows Mobile / pocket PC, but I needed something that worked on the Mac and the PC and that could be transported around on a memory stick. TiddlyWiki’s functionality has moved on in leaps and bound since I started using it and it is improving all the time.

The big advantage of a personal Wiki is that your entries can be tagged and linked to other information in the wiki. Of course a blog provides many of theses capabilities as well – I’m on WordPress 2.3 here now so WOWNDADI has tags too. If you are a blogging addict, Seth’s suggestion might be a great way to start keeping a personal diary to track your progress and record your greatest (private) thoughts. You’ll have a searchable archive of your inner-world. Just make sure it is secure.

The paper journal

It has to be said that there is something very organic about having a paper journal, although I never figured out how to back it up effectivitly or make it fully searchable. Recently I was in a print shop, having some urgent brochures printed up, when an older lady came in and dumped her filofax onto the desk. It looked like she had be using since the 80’s, it had hundreds of pages. She asked them to photocopy the lot for her! I do hope it was hers. For what she paid to have it copied, I could have bought a good PDA.

My trusty MacBook always seems to be with me these days, which makes it an ideal diary and journal fo me – especially if a remember to back it up… You have backed up recently, haven’t you???

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