As the firehose of information continues to flood our inboxes and activity-stream displays, one has to wonder, “When will it all stop?”
Well, I hate to break it to you -- but it won’t. It will only get worse.
Managing and keeping track of all the digital information relevant to your lifestyle is becoming an increasingly important issue. Whether it be for business or pleasure, family or health, internal or external use, we all have the need to categorize, store, retrieve, and parse many forms of information, every day.
Most people use their Outlook account as their storage mechanism. After all, this is where your email comes in and is stored, so most of the time, that's where you go to find something. That’s certainly how I run my digital life.
Clearly, we need something better.
I’ve written recently on my own blog about Personal Knowledge Bases (PKBs), and I think it’s something that might resonate here. The idea is that one should be able to keep track of all important items, broken up by category, tags, sections -- what have you -- and a permanent archive of this information would be stored away "in the cloud."
This is what Lotus Notes and countless other "knowledge management" tools have promised corporate IT, but none of them is cleanly integrated into the Web. And needless to say, Outlook, your RSS reader, your IM client, your social networks -- all are in disparate locations, far from being an integrated solution.
There is nowhere to store my Twitter and FriendFeed accounts, my Flickr photostream, my social networks, my various blogs and IM traffic. Just trying to keep track of all the info that comes in via RSS feeds is a bear, and there isn’t a good way of storing that information, besides relying on Google Reader (or whatever RSS reader you use).
So I’ve been extrapolating. What might a personal knowledge base tool look like, and how would it work? Here are some thoughts:
1) One has to be able to grab stuff as it flies through the activity stream, which ideally means aggregating your email, IM traffic, RSS feeds, Twitter traffic, and other "streaming info."
2) Just as one can "like" or "comment on" an item, one should be able to grab an item, tag it, and store it away (ŕ la de.licio.us or magnolia).
3) This accumulated archive would automatically be indexed and cross-referenced with similar tags, and it would benefit from any prior categorization.
4) Once a system is set up for tagging and categorizing, it should be built up around relevant information in the right context. This means organizating data, not just based on one's current communication and email, but on important documents, specs, images, XLS files, etc.
5) All this data needs to be moved into the same place.
6) Adding new categories, continuing to use "bottom up" folksonomies, and parsing of activity streams should be ongoing for one's lifetime.
7) Once a PKB environment is created, you could then connect it to the PKBs of colleagues, family members, and friends. And then the fun begins!
We don't have it yet, but it's not a matter of "if" but "when" we will all have our own personal knowledge bases.
In the meantime, it's best to prepare for some sort of system for creating a permanent collection of "all our stuff." Don't forget to tag everything.
— Marc Canter, Founder & CEO, Broadband Mechanics