Zeroth-World Problems


I haven’t been doing much with this blog lately, but I’ve been quite prolific on my bliki. Check it out!

What’s a Bliki?

Ward Cunningham coined the term “bliki”. It’s a portmanteau of “blog” and “wiki”. Martin Fowler describes it here, in “WhatIsaBliki”:

I decided I wanted something that was a cross between a wiki and a blog - which Ward Cunningham immediately dubbed a bliki. Like a blog, it allows me to post short thoughts when I have them. Like a wiki it will build up a body of cross-linked pieces that I hope will still be interesting in a year’s time.

Like a blog, a bliki is personal and informal. Like a wiki, it is a network of hyperlinked pages, with each page organized around a single topic or concept.

Why is a bliki?

I’ve written about this before, but the chronological, semi-permanent nature of a blog triggers my perfectionist urge. A blog feels very public somehow, like a sequence of proclamations to the world. Part of the problem, I think, is that whatever I post on the blog goes on the front page and immediately becomes the most prominent, public part of the site—so it had better be at least as good as whatever came before!

The push toward perfectionism is unfortunate. While my thoughts on a given topic might be too rough and vaguely-formed for me to want to shout them from the rooftops, they might also be worth recording in a format amenable to sharing, critique, and revision.

Another problem with blogs is that they are sequential. Each post should preferably stand on its own, but if it can’t do that it should at least rest on what came before. This puts me in a tricky position when writing. Should I assume my readers are familiar with the fundamentals of, say, test doubles? Should I assume they’re familiar with my previous writing on the subject? If I don’t assume familiarity, won’t I end up rehashing the same points over and over again in every post?

By contrast, a bliki is dyed-in-the-wool hypertext; it is unabashedly nonlinear. This means that I can write assuming knowledge of other topics, and just link to the pages on those topics.

Other cool things about blikis

I use GitHub’s wiki feature for my bliki. A wiki on GitHub is just a flat directory of markdown files. It’s also a Git repo, so I can clone it and edit it with whatever tools I like.

One of the best tools I’ve found for this is Obsidian. Like a GitHub wiki, an Obsidian “vault” is just a collection of markdown files. This consilience makes for a great editing experience. Obsidian has a markdown/WYSIWYG combo editor that’s truly beautiful, and a rich ecosystem of plugins and themes.

Keeping in touch

You can subscribe to updates to my bliki via the RSS feed: Thanks to Leith Abdulla for pointing out that this feature exists.

If you have feedback on the bliki, or a question, I’d love to hear it. You can contact me by opening an issue on GitHub.

I’d be especially interested in hearing from you if you have a bliki of your own that I could link to. I think the Federated Wiki concept is cool and in line with the “36Views” pattern, which is my preferred way of presenting information.