I use a different note-taking tool for almost every conference I attend. I try and use ones which have both off- and on-line components for allowing me to write if there’s no connectivity but allowing me to publish easily if there is.
So, some basics:
TiddlyWiki “is a single html file which has all the characteristics of a wiki” – you save it to your computer, open it in your browser, and it all still works. It’s open source and supports plugins, of which there seem to be hundreds. There’s a great interview by O’ReillyGMT with its’ creator Jeremy Ruston here. Excellent stuff.
RippleRap is a note-sharing tool based on TiddlyWiki. It comes with a particular set of plugins and a server-side component which handles the uploading and sharing of your wiki pages (called Tiddlers).
Confabb is a hosted RippleRap server component. You sign up, go to the page for your conference, download the pre-configured and pre-populated conference RippleRap and start making your notes which are then synced to the website. Here is the confabb for FOWA 2008.
The summary: TiddlyWiki and RippleRap are great, Confabb is not.
A bit more detail:
The good: offline editing in a web interface suits me down to the ground. TiddlyWiki is very easy to use, and with a pre-populated schedule it makes adding new content a breeze.
The bad: syncing with confabb just didn’t work. TiddlyWiki doesn’t support Textile (which I have hardwired into my brain) or other humane markups like Markdown. Also the sidebar of schedule was really long, so as the day went on you had scroll to bottom, find your talk, click its title and scroll back to the top before you could start writing notes. Very annoying indeed.
In the future I wouldn’t use Confabb – its server-side component seems pretty rubbish although the custom conference TiddlyWiki was great (it would have been even better with presenter bios and links from the conference website!).
If I want to try TiddlyWiki and RippleRap at a conference again I’ll either host my own TiddlyWiki server (this is apparently not entirely straightforward) or use one of the solutions mentioned on TiddlyWiki for the rest of us.
As an aside, after Kathy Sierra’s excellent talk (no video, boooo) it turned out that serendipitously I’d been sitting next to Osmosofter Phil Whitehouse, who’d watched me using TiddlyWiki and we had a productive chat about it before Diggnation Live started. We’d actually met before at OpenTech when I showed how him how to upload new apps to the BUG using Eclipse, but we’d both forgotten!