SLA2008: Keeping Found Things Found

For the last presentation of my first SLA, I got to hear William Jones author of Keeping Found Things Found talk about Personal Information Management (PIM).

William decided to change the title of his talk – and made us all giggle “The world is at my doorstep … and the house is a mess: putting our information in its place in a digital age.” When William talks about the world, there are two different types of worlds:

  1. a digital world

    • pictures, music, films – available with a few clicks
    • communicate with anyone at anytime from anywhere
  2. a physical world
    • plan whole trips online – plan, hotel
    • order everything online
    • change the (real) world online

But our houses are often a mess – paper docs scattered in stacks around our desks and tables. Our email inbox is overflowing (not mine … but maybe yours). We all have masses of digital data that is not organized or backed up (bad kids). Some of us even keep old computers with no plan what to do with them (I say donate them to the local library or school – that’s what we do). And at the end of the day we’re exhausted and yet can’t point to anything of substance that’s been accomplished!

PIM is about ordering our “houses” of information (personal information management). William and team have set up a Tales of PIM discussion forum (can read without registering) or register to post and talk about anything. William said that no one at parties asks “so how to you order your information?” – so this forum is a way to discuss information management with others.

He suggested a different slant on PIM:

P = is for mapping a personal mapping
I = is for fragmentation – a fragmentation of our information and a larger fragmentation of our lives
M = everyday living and managing our info along the way

When they wrote the book, there was no around. In answer to a survey of how people tracked information they said they would email links to themselves (I used to do this) and email to links others.

They found that folders were not just being used for organizing info, but to express their understanding of what the project was about. While the folders are not necessarily “organized” there is a visualization there that help people remember things. Just having search functionality is not enough.

What is Information?

Information is:

  • what is in docs, emails, web pages, etc
  • a drain on our money energy attention and time
  • what we create change publish and send to get things done
  • what we process to “make sense” of our world
  • how others wolds are represented to us – past and present, possible and pretend
  • how we are represented to the outside world

The power of writing it down

When I started writing on blogs, I started to remember more! The fact is that when you write things down it makes it easier to understand things. William had a student who would take notes and not refer to them – because the power is in writing it down.

We talk about information overload all of the time – but the fact is that information overload is nothing new. He referred to this quote from 1685 by Adrien Baillet:

“We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.” That is, “unless we try to prevent this danger by separating those books which we must throw out or leave in oblivion from those which one should save and within the latter between what is useful and what is not.”

What is new is the fragmentation of information. The problem is coming from all of the tools we have that are meant to help us keep track of information. Tools like our online calendar, websites, journals, budgets, TV, travel schedules, deadlines, contact lists, etc. Because of fragmentation, even a simple decision means checking in several places – email, calendar, web, files, etc.

William gave us a few examples of fragmentation and how to keep it organized. In one example he showed us a list of drugs and when to take them, this is not easy to read, but turn into a chart with drugs and times of day and it’s easier to read.

William and his team are working with (a new service) to make the tool more useful. The problem is that you sign up and then turn it off after a week because it’s too much information.

What makes information “M in E” (mine and me)

Information can be:

  • controlled by owned by me
  • about me
  • directed towards me – phone calls
  • sent (posted provided) by me – personal web sites
  • (already) experienced by me – webpages that remain on the web
  • relevant (useful to me or not) – think i might like to see

Some elements of organization are:

  • schemes of organization
  • structures that results
  • strategies for managing time, energy, information flow
  • supporting tools
  • a system that brings these elements together

Folders or Tags?

William mentioned “Better to Organize Personal Information by Folders Or by Tags?: The Devil Is in the Details” which will be presented at ASIST later this year.

In their study, they had people use both Hotmail next to Gmail. He asked us which we used and which we thought was better. Of the people who used both, only one person preferred Hotmail. The question was whether people liked organizing their email with folders or tags. This is funny because I signed my mom up for Gmail and the first thing she wanted was folders.

Study results:

The differences between placing and tagging

  • keeping and organizing information

    • trade offs between cognitive v physical effort (cognitive you have to remember how you used it it) – with the folder you have to decide one or the other – with tagging you don’t have to pick one – but with tagging you have to do the same for all if you’re going to find them – so it’s 2x as much work
    • trade offs between hiding info and visibility – out of site out of mind – people who think like that didn’t want to put them in folders because it’s not in the inbox anymore
  • re-finding information
    • trade offs between flexible and systematic search – tags are useful if email is about two topics
    • trade offs in re-finding cues – folders are visual, i like that you can just sot of glance at it and remember it by where it is located

Information Management

William says that manage means “to handle” or to manipulate. He then pointed us to another study I Give Up! Five Factors that Contribute to the Abandonment of Information Management Strategies that will also be presented at ASIST later this year.

Management is all a matter of weighing what’s a better use of our time. One example is deciding what’s a better us of my time – a daily paper? or a weekly paper? Studies who that you can’t ignore a TV if it’s on … I guess I’m special – I’m writing this with the Today Show on in the background. In my case the best use of my time is to take care of my blogging while listening to the news – how else will I get my news – I can’t sit down and read a newspaper.

This study found that participants in the study had both short and long run factors.

  • factors for the short run

    • visibility -“i need something that is constantly visual to me”
    • integration – “Google calendar did not originally work well for me – eventually i started to use it because it was in my email”
  • long run
    • scalability – some tools just don’t scale over time
    • return on investment- start because of enthusiasm – but turns out to be a waste
    • co adoption – are others around us adopting the same tools

Managing Everyday

To live and be active is to have projects

  • plan online training course for ___
  • plan vacation
  • etc.

How do you organize project info?

  • drag and link “outside in”
  • in context create (ICC) “inside out”

William showed us an application that they were developing for Windows that links notes, folder, emails, calendars and more all in one place. This was his example of ICC.


  • P is a destination where you have a better personal mapping that organized info and our lives to make sense for our needs
  • I a starting point – info is available in many forms and is often fragmented
  • M managing information

Check out the Tales of PIM website for more information.


Nice summary of my talk overall. But one small correction: I mentioned work in the “Keeping Found Things Found” group in the iSchool of UW to understand how people keep web pages “found”. This work began in 2002 — before

However, the book of similar name, “Keeping Found Things Found: The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management” was published late 2007 and, in fact, discusses and other social book-marking sites.

— William


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SLA2008: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in … Library School?

This panel was very very insightful. The panelists were all recent grads of the University of Washington’s iSchool. They were Alex Berta, Rebecca Blakewood, Ann Glusker, Elizabeth Gould, and Beth Sanderson. Joe Janes and Nancy Gershenfeld professors at the iSchool gave us an intro.

University of Washington was the first school that decided to call itself an iSchool. So what does iSchool mean? For the U of Washington, it’s something that allows them to make their programs stronger because so many disciplines are all learning together. They have information science, information management, library and information science and others all in the one school.

I like the way they end their MLIS program – with a portfolio. In it the students include a significant leadership experience, significant training experience, significant paper, and others I can’t remember ;) Basically it shows that you’ve learned enough to go out into the real world other than just taking classes on theory.

They’ve also bee n making curriculum changes like replacing the single required tech class with a variety of options and including a bunch of 1 credit, get you up to speed type, classes.

Next the Q&A (in notes format)

What do you feel you are taking out into the world now that you’re done with your education??

Ann: has found how impressed others are with the tech training they’re getting at the ischool. this is a great thing that the school does for them.

Alex: much more comfortable with technology because of this program – he comes from humanities background and so he didn’t have much exposure to these tools before (got on facebook to play scrabble).

Elizabeth: came out of the program with a much broader picture of how to utilize information. she always like doing research, but now she knows how to use the tools and find different ways to access information.

Beth: we’re coming out of the program with a way to explain what we do so that people can understand – because a better online communicator and in person communicator

Advice to panel from an audience member: I don’t feel that I got enough management training in library school, make sure you get more training.

Beth: they do have a core class that’s in management, there are also options for students to explore that further if they want to

Alex: took many classes where budgeting and management were brought up and discussed

Beth: you’re talking about things at conference that we’re learning in school

Alex: the current awareness among our professors is great

Core classes?

Beth: info behavior, info life cycle, reference, management, info organization (not specifically cataloging), technology, info policy and social context, info literacy, research methods, business

Joe Janes: there is a special library class that teaches you to balance it all since many special libraries are one person libraries

Audience member talked about how she got all the training she needed to run the law firm library she was hired to after graduation – this program is amazing

Do you think it’s a good idea to replace cataloging as a requirement?

Joe: yes

Beth: took info org and didn’t think it was too broad – didn’t realize it until she took cataloging how much she learned in info org – and since cataloging is going to change so much

Ann: every person she asked what to take said to take cataloging. it’s the most valuable class she took, the hardest class – but the most valuable

Nancy Gershenfeld: advises all students to take cataloging – because you get to understand the decisions that go behind the catalog

Audience: maybe the cataloging class need to be redesigned to show the breadth of the theoretical and the process of cataloging

Joe: students today are going to have to learn new types of cataloging – and since everything is up in the air it’s hard to teach one thing “my generation caused the mess, now these students are going to have to solve it” How do you teach the unknown.

Talk about your internships

Elizabeth: having someone organizing and setting up an internship for you is key – as long as i had something to do when i got there, i was happy. having a defined job so you know what you’re going to be doing, very important

Ann: just got to sit at the desk – didn’t really get to get her hands into anything else that she’s going to do in the library world – wanted to learn more so that she could say “oh yes, I’ve done that” we may look smart, but we’re inexperienced

Beth: worked with a professional librarian – it was very important to her to have the one on one experience with the librarian and work with them on a project

Elizabeth: both the internships they had – they asked her what she was interested in – and she was one of the staff – both helpful

Audience (ischool grad): the best thing was having to define 3 learning objectives before going into it – so going in they knew what they wanted to do and their mentors knew too – and having ongoing meetings with their mentors.


I stood up and told them that they were luckier than they realized – they are learning amazing things and will be much better prepared than I would have been if I wasn’t already in a library while in library school.

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SLA2008: The Promise of 2.0

While this talk was presented by Springer and had a Springer bias (which the speaker warned us about) it was very interesting and enlightening to hear a publisher speak about how they’re enabling 2.0 tools into their products.

Olaf Ernst, our speaker for this talk, mentioned right off that integrated econtent is king – without having your content online you can’t have added value to your content – at least not the kind of added value he was talking about today.

When he mentioned adding value, he’s wasn’t just talking about just adding value on the library side – we have to add value for all visitors to the tools, librarians and non-librarians alike. Our users are growing up with content online and they expect to find everything online – this is why the publishers have to move into this arena.

Olaf mentioned a research study by CIBER on the Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, and listed some of the findings.

  • users demand 24/7 access and instant gratification
  • suggests that ebooks will be the next publishing success story
  • libraries need to gain a much better understanding of how people actually behave in a virtual library setting and use their expensive content.
  • there is a new form of reading – reading online

In order to handle these changes, there has to be a new publishing strategy:

  1. your content has to be online (all your content – articles, books, backfiles)
  2. your content has to be ‘findable’ (search engine indexing, portal integration, etc)

You have to work with everyone out there to make your content findable – Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Amazon, PubMed, etc. in order to make your content findable to all users.

Springer has seen a huge increase in downloads over the last year because they indexed it right and made it findable!

So now it’s time to enter the world of web 2.0 and add value to the content. Web 2.0 is characterized by participation, openness, and network effects.

Olaf thinks that publishing is a good fit for 2.0.

There are different types of openness – open source, open standards, open access. For Springer, they have Open Choice where every article, in every journal, can be made freely accessible. Springer is the first major commercial publisher to provide journals via open access.

Context is king

Adding content isn’t good enough, users want content in context:

  • find related articles on a service
  • citation tracking, view articles that cite this article
  • search within this journal, export bibliographic information of the article
  • search other databases for articles by the same authors
  • rss feeds for the journal (this last one did not get as useful as the context related things listed earlier)
  • etc.

Openness means opening the content up to the greater world of information that surrounds it – the ability to find related articles is an example of this. My question is is this really 2.0? There isn’t much participation going on in this – and this sort of thing has been around for a while … I’m not sure, because it does meet the openness model, so maybe it doesn’t have to have all three pieces to make it 2.0.


Before allowing people to participate, they wanted to make sure that people actually wanted that.

They found that:

  • 50% of adults have contributed to something online – number of blogs is doubling all of the time
  • 45% of internet users belong to a social network – people like to belong

He showed us Springer Protocols which supports commenting on both protocols and videos. This is heavily used and people actually like the idea of adding content.

Springer also has wikis. Their model incorporates the best values of the traditional publishing (quality control) with the concept of openness and participation (wiki software) — basically a moderated wiki page – users enter edits and someone approves their edits before they appear. This is a pilot project so I don’t have a link yet.

Network Effects

The value of a good or service is greater the more people join in the service.

What does this mean in the publishing arena? He showed us CiteULike where you share your library with others. This is a kind of self organized peer review – researchers are sharing their resources online and so the more people sharing a resource the more likely it’s useful – you can also rate records.


“People don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.” – Theodore Levitt.

“Researchers don’t want the scientific information, they want the relevant knowledge in the information that will them them do their research.” – Olaf Ernst, Springer.

This was a very interesting talk and it makes me wish I was in a library and able to use these tools!

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SLA2008: Charlie Rose & Vinton Cerf

The the Opening General Session at SLA Annual, we got the honor of watching Charlie Rose interview Vinton Cerf!!

Charlie started by thanking us, “You are the masters of getting good information … and to show you how stupid I am – I didn’t know you had an organization.” He talked about how people in his position need librarians.

He then started by asking Vint to take us back to the beginning – the beginning of the Internet that is.

On January 1, 1983 Vint was there when the Internet was rolled out to the academic community for the first time. “We knew that it was going to have an amazing bit of flexibility, but we had no idea what it would be like to have billions of people communicating over it at once.”

Next interview question, “What has it become? What is it today?”

Vint refers to the Internet as an infrastructure just like a road system. It should be there when you need it in as much quantity as you need it. That said, we have a long way to go.

To reach this goal, we have to get the technology in place where it isn’t right now. The economics of it has to be affordable to everyone which means that getting the cost down and making the technology affordable is a high priority.

One way that the price has gone down is the wide spread of mobile communication. Cell phone usage has grown so fast because the cost is very very low in comparison to that of the Internet. This lack of need for wires and the development of Internet enabled mobile devices is what’s causing a spread in Internet availability.

Vint gave a great answer to Charlie when he asked about cell phones becoming the only way we access the Internet in the future. He warns us to be careful not to assume that the new technology supplants the rest of them. This is a great quote to share with librarians when we talk about using new technologies in our libraries – new technologies are great to use in conjunction with the older more proven methods.

Charlie then asked Vint what he saw as the value of the Internet.

I loved Vint’s answer where he reminds us that the internet was designed originally in the academic world where people gather and share knowledge. The design was deliberately completely open and “this openness has permitted the most incredible cornucopia of innovation and creativity.” You don’t have to get permission to create new applications and tools and it’s this openness and accessibility that is the power of the internet. The Internet gives everyone the freedom to create.

Which is a great transition into Charlie’s next question. What is the significance of users also being providers and where we going with social networks?

I missed most of what Vint answered first because he was excited and spoke too quickly, but he ended his happy rant with, “I’m geek orthodox.” He said every evangelist needs a religion and so that’s his :)

Rant done, he gets down to the facts and figures. People are producing a great deal of information on the Internet. 10 hours of video going into YouTube a minute and every blog has on average 1.1 reader. It is still a fact that this system is permitting people to share what they know – “and the most exciting vision that I have – is that somehow when this is mature we will – everyone of us – have access to all of the information that every one of us wants to share.”

Vint turns to us and reminds us that this is where we come in, where we get to help – this is what our careers are all about, sharing information. The fact of the matter is that you can learn something from anyone!!

Since Vint was talking about librarians, Charlie moved on to ask where we are in the process of digitizing libraries.

As we all know, we are far far from complete in capturing digital forms of things, but as more and more things are being produced digitally the balance will begin to shift and we may catch up.

The problem is that digitization hasn’t been thought out in terms of preservation. We have to stop thinking of digital images as the analog of books – digital objects are very complex things – and cannot get the same thing out of it as you can from a printed version – and vice versa.

We’re relying more and more on software to decipher these digital objects and eventually those software packages won’t be there anymore. We need to preserve the software when people no longer want to support it – as well as preserving the digital objects – or we’re going to be sitting on objects we can’t decipher because there is no software for it.

Charlie next asked a question that made us all giggle, “Is this such an emergent issue that we need the new president to assign a committee, or will that cause more trouble than it’s worth?”

Vint (an obviously the audience) thought that Charlie has answered his own question. Getting the government involved is just going to add a layer of complexity that we don’t need. Vint thinks that the solution to the internet is more distributed, you need to work with other countries and technology centers to come up with a solution – this is not just a U.S. problem.

Vint then moved on to talk about how the Internet has changed science. In science you reproduce other’s experiments – and to do that you need to be able to see other’s data – the acceleration of science is dramatically improved when we share information (he used Nature Precedings as an example of this).

A couple of great quotes from Vint that I think librarians can learn from – “sharing information works” and “some people say information is power – bologna – information sharing is power.” So many librarians think they hold the key to knowledge and information and that no one else is qualified to distribute this information – but as Vint said earlier, you can learn something from anyone!!

Talking of sharing information with everyone, Charlie asked if we need some sort of international standards and regulations to make it so that we can all decipher each other’s information?

Vint asks us to think for a moment about the things we would like to do with the Internet. For example, we’d like to foster e-commerce. In the world of commerce, we need to decide on standards so that we can foster commerce across country lines. One question that arises is, does a digital signature mean the same thing in all countries? We need more agreement of these notions across nations so we can use the Internet for this type of thing.

That said, we also may need to have some international agreements on what’s acceptable behavior on the Internet.

If we start to depend (even more than we already do) on the Internet for everything, Charlie asks what’s the danger of cyberterrorism?

We all know that computers have vulnerabilities, Vint’s suggestion is that we need to put a cork in these :) In short, we need to prevent them from happening because we are depending on this network more and more – like the power system – you don’t notice it’s there until it’s not there. I think this is a bit optimistic of him – no matter how many holes we plug, there will always be someone interested in pulling that cork out.

I do agree with Vint, that we have to make sure this infrastructure is solid and reliable – and that there is still lots of work to be done.

Charlie’s next question got more giggles out of us – “Why can’t we eliminate spam?”

Vint’s answer is simple, because internet emails are free – and anyone can get one … the best we can do is filter these messages out like most email clients do.

I was confused with Charlie’s next question, “What is the internet cafe module?” Apparently this is a project that I hadn’t heard of before.

This is a personal project of Vint’s in which they’re using solar powered internet cafes and connecting them to the internet by satellite as a means to get the internet to those who don’t have it. This method eliminates that pesky need for wires.

Charlie then asked Vint that if his dream is to see the entire population online – how long did he think it will take for just 50% of the population online?

Vint thinks that by 2010, 50% of the world’s population will be online. He goes on to say that the next being 70% around 2013/14. After that things are going to be difficult. There will always be holdouts. Vint did point out that people may find themselves embedded in the internet because their appliances will be internet enabled – whether they like it or not.

Countries cannot escape the Internet’s importance to their economy – and in the long run information will flow – Vint doesn’t think that you can stop information from getting from one person to another – even if some countries are trying.

The million dollar question of course is “How will search change?”

Vint said that if we’re lucky we’ll go beyond the stats of text and be able to match the semantics. But, when it comes to the semantic web, “this is going to be hard” according to Vint.

On the question of artificial intelligence, Vint says “artificial intelligence – as soon as you can get it to work, it’s not artificial anymore.” Until computers have had experiences, he doesn’t believe they will share human intelligence.

Which brings us to a few concluding questions.

“What are you optimisitc about and pessimistic about in terms of the future of the Internet?”

The optimism is that the Internet stays as open as it is – it knows no boundaries – as long as you figure out how to program for it – you can do it.

When it comes to being pessimistic, Vint worries that it won’t be as open and that people will try to constrain it for political or commercial reasons.

“What is the next big idea”

Vint responded with, “If i was really smart enough to know – I would be off doing it right now.” The biggest thing at the moment is dealing with mobile devices (he holds up his blackberry and mentions that it has a small screen and “keyboard suitable for people who are three inches tall”). In the future, this mobile device could be your universal toolbox – put all your tools (TV, Electric, Appliances) on the net – which means you can access your tools from anywhere – you don’t have to be in the house – once they’re together they become something they are not! Of course you then have worry about the kid next door who likes to hack into these devices :)


When Stephen Abram came up after the talk was over, I have to agree with him, “O.M.G. don’t you feel smarter just being in the room with those two???”

This was an amazing talk that I’m glad I stayed awake for :) You can see my pictures on Flickr.

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SLA Going Green for Annual

So, I thought it sounded like a great idea – no bottled water, no handouts and several other changes to have the SLA Annual conference put a smaller nature killing footprint on Seattle and the world. I was wrong!! SLA did not think this through. I have not been able to get through to the conference schedule in days!! Why? I assume it’s because everyone is uploading and downloading handouts before the conference begins! If a conference plans on eliminating all handouts and having the attendees depend on the website – then the website better be able to handle the strain of all of us librarians visiting the site before and during the conference.

In my case – I haven’t even visited the page with handouts yet – I just want to see the darn schedule so I know when to be there for my board meeting!!

Rant over …. for tonight.

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