What is a Personal Knowledge Base?

What is a Personal Knowledge Base?

Last updated on 30-07-2021

What is a Personal Knowledge Base?

If you are reading and understanding this text, then you might be a human. If so, that means you know many things. Unfortunately, being human, it is also likely that you also forget many things, or sometimes find it hard to access information when you need it. If that is the case, you need a personal knowledge base.

A personal knowledge base is a tool that captures the knowledge of an individual. It may include a series of documents or files containing information, but different to a library or a database, must express the knowledge of the person who created it.

Personal knowledge bases are not new. A handwritten notebook containing someone’s thoughts would count as a personal knowledge base. A famous example is Leonardo Da Vinci’s note taking. In his notes – of which there were up to 13,000 pages – Da Vinci documented his observations and thoughts about the world around him. 

Today, we do not need to depend on handwritten notes to build a personal knowledge base. Instead, we have digital tools that we can use to document our thoughts. We’ll look at that later, but first, let’s consider why personal knowledge bases are useful in the first place.

Why do I need a personal knowledge base?

We experience information overload pretty much every day. Consider your morning routine. You wake up, grab your phone, read the news, browse social media, check your emails, and so on. You are able to do all that in just a few minutes. 

But how much of that information do you recall days or even hours later? Perhaps you remember the most important nuggets. Nonetheless, the majority of that data you consume is not easily accessible later or even forgotten forever.

Much of that forgotten information is probably boring, irrelevant, or not useful. But sometimes you do come across data that is worth saving. Perhaps you bookmark it or copy a link or simply write it down on paper. That way, the information is stored and you can access it later.

But storing information in many different places – digital and/or physical – is not practical. Instead, a much better method is to have a system that stores data and your knowledge or insight of it, all in one place. You can search, browse, and access your knowledge in one neat and highly efficient location. Such a system is called a knowledge base.

To summarise, you need a personal knowledge base to store all of the information and insight you want to freely access and evaluate

Example of a personal knowledge base

To show the usefulness of a personal knowledge base, let’s consider an example. Imagine you are someone who loves dogs, having raised many over the years. In that time, living with different breeds, you have accumulated much knowledge on certain types of dog. You compounded this knowledge with reading the top literature on canines.

One day, you decide that you would like to store this knowledge in some place, perhaps to share with others or maybe just for your own benefit. You decide to set up a personal knowledge.

You take time to pour over notes taken from your reading. Everything you know, you put in the knowledge base. You connect each piece of knowledge to form a whole. When you are finished, you have a directory of your dog knowledge that you can review and add to whenever you like. 

Your knowledge of dogs, once confined to your brain and your brain alone, has now been translated into widely readable, searchable, and understandable information.

That all sounds great, you might now be thinking, but how exactly do I create this knowledge base? What tools do I need?

Personal knowledge base tools

As we saw with Da Vinci, a notebook qualifies as a knowledge base. But for more modern, practical solutions we need to look to the digital world. Many note taking apps existing that substitute paper; Evernote is a famous example.

But even digital notes have their limitations, and organisation of the data and knowledge remains challenging.

Gloow is a beautiful and intuitive solution for personal knowledge management. In the app, you create “domains” based around a topic, like the dogs example discussed above. Within a domain, your knowledge is organised into “nodes”, which connect to each other to form a network of information.


A knowledge base of the USA’s Silicon Valley mapped in Gloow.

The above image shows one such personal knowledge base in Gloow. This domain is focused on tech and Silicon Valley. Each circle is a node, and each node is connected to others to show the relationship between concepts.

Within each node, you can store text – your knowledge – and resources, like articles, images, and other documents that are relevant to the concept.

Download Gloow for free for iOS and Android.


Whether you are an expert in your field, or simply have a personal interest in a certain topic, a personal knowledge base enables you to gather and review your knowledge efficiently. If you feel you have a lot of knowledge on a topic and need it to be collated in one place, try building your own knowledge base today.