Where Kevin Guyer takes another stab at sharing code, thoughts and the occasional opinion with the world.  Probably just to say he did so.

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Tuesday
Feb052008

Starting a Family Wiki (Before it is too late)

My long term memory is, well, OK at best. This is not a new development and the age of electronics has enabled me to store the information I want to remember and access it easily so this is not a debilitating personal shortcoming. I’ve embraced it, or at least compensated for it, reasonably as I accepted it and tools evolved.

Years ago my wife and I started recording (on paper) and placing in a box all of the memorable quotes that our children said so we would not forget them. Within a few days of a great quip we always seemed to have trouble remembering exactly what was said. So a decade later we had a treasure trove of hilarity scribbled on scraps of paper stating what someone said, when they said it and what the context was.

I was already using MediaWiki to store notes and pieces of code that I’d written over the years giving me an easy and convenient way to index and refer to that info when we decided to do the same for family info we did not want lost to faulty memories. [Update from 2011 - I have since migrated to ScrewTurn Wiki as it allows for a text-file-only storage mechanism which seems like a good long term bet to be viable in decades to come.]

We have now been running a family wiki for over a year now and have piles of great information stored away for ourselves in later life or our children or grandchildren to refer to. The wiki format allows us to write a little bit about teachers (favorite and otherwise), crushes, art projects, first roller coasters, what people dressed as for Halloween, what we did on family vacations, favorite family recipes, poems written for school, who coached the basketball team in ‘06, great family practical jokes, those quotes and sayings that everyone has, and ten thousand other things that will be wonderful to flip through and remember in a few decades.

We’ve affectionately named ours the Clio Project in honor of the Greek Muse Clio, the Muse of memory. Now ‘to Clio’ something is a common verb. Well kind of common…

With some dedication the Clio Project is turning into a family treasure as increasingly more information is finding its way into an electronic format anyway and flowing into our data store. MediaWiki supports pictures, files, version control, categories, discussions (handy when my oldest disagrees with my assessment of any given item) in addition to passwording and overall site-access control.

So start early, having great moments documented from their beginning would be a great gift to give your child or grandchild one day. I wish the technology was around back when we started ‘The Box’ as much of the great details over those years have already faded or are fading rapidly now. I’ve found that if you take just 30 minutes a week to make an entry on some topic and it starts to accumulate pretty quickly.

I’ll end this post with a favorite entry from our wiki, from the category ‘Quotes’:

Kevin asked [son] if he wanted a hard-boiled egg for a snack:

[son]: No, I don’t like eggs (pauses) except when they are in cake.

6/17/2005 – [son] almost 5 years old.

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