"Keeping Found Things Found: The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management"
Reading history and reviews
Finished on 30th March 2009It's taken me a long time to read this book, in the main because I wanted to get the most out of it. It's a study of the emerging area of "personal information management", or PIM - essentially, how we as individuals manage all the information that's relevant to us in one way or another (that's what puts the "personal" in PIM).
The early chapters lay out the ideas of PIM, recognising that information takes many forms - both physical (e.g. letters, photos, clippings, souvenirs etc) and digital (e.g. emails, electronic documents, webpages etc) - and that our reasons for keeping things can vary from the utilitarian to the sentimental. There are detailed examinations of the different strategies that we employ to search for new and existing information ("finding and re-finding"), including how we keep and organise things in our "personal space of information", and the costs (in time, money or missed opportunities etc) that can be incurred by when we fail to manage our information effectively.
The latter part of the book increasingly focuses on digital information and its associated tools (particularly email and the web), along with the problems of "information fragmentation" (where related information is scattered across different software applications or devices or even between digital and physical media). Finally there are discussions of how future technology might help to overcome many of these problems, while at the same time potentially being a source of new problems.
The book can get quite academic in some places. However, Jones writes clearly and also recognises that for most people information is a means to an end, not the end in itself, so he keeps his discussions relevant to real life situations by constantly returning to a key question: "does this make our lives easier or more difficult?". Most chapters contain a "what now for you and me" section which offer practical tips on how we might better manage our information today - some of these might sound blindingly obvious (for example, avoid keeping multiple copies of "live" documents on different computers) but still bear repeating.
My favourite piece of advice however is near the start: if we want to have better control of our information then we each need to become students of our own information management practices, and reading this has made me think more about how I manage my "personal information". Personally I found it a fascinating, enlightening and thought-provoking read.
(The Keeping Found Things Found project is online at http://kftf.ischool.washington.edu/index.htm)