In response to Jess on organising one’s information.
FavoUrites: Social Bookmarking (PART)
My own use of social bookmarking isn’t that social nor that efficient. At this point, I tend to simply add things to my del.icio.us account as a way to remind myself that I would eventually like to blog about those links. Sometimes they’re academic items, but more often than not, they’re not.
On the other hand, I do tend to blog as a way to keep links handy for later reference. It reminds me of what I was thinking about when I approached the material at first. Those can be academic, especially if they come through academic mailing-lists, but they’re often ideas which connect to my research interests in some ways.
Reading notes, to me, are different. I tend to take notes on my Clié, with page numbers. I can then search through my Clié for a specific idea I was thinking about. I also take a lot of notes about different projects, usually linking them in different ways. Instead of sorting my references, I prefer to search through them. After moving 19 times since December 2000, I wish I had all my books and articles online.
Reference managers can be very useful and some of them are getting to feel a bit like social bookmarking. For instance, RefWorks is online (so you always have access to your citation data) and you can share those references publicly. In fact, you can even use RSS, comment on the references, and have some tagging “descriptors.” What’s more, there’s a RefGrab-It bookmarklet to help you insert references from webpages you visit. Especially useful if people use DOI.
In terms of database design, tagging is almost a revolution. In fact, the “Web 2.0” concept has a fair bit to do that information may be non-hierarchical because you can tag instead of taxonomise (as in “classify in a taxonomy-style hierarchy of paradigmatic concepts”). Of course, your tags can be in a taxonomy. But they don’t need to be. And the taxonomy can be completely ad hoc (yes, yes, “folksonomy” is the term used for those ad hoc taxonomies). Think Technorati and the benefits of tagging blog entries (which explains why my WordPress.com “categories” are really thought of as Technorati tags).
As for bookshelves… Mine are well-disorganised. I still wish I had everything online instead of having to go through shelves, all the time.
My Mac desktops have always been known to represent chaos, to other people. Yet I could always find what I was looking for, and I would only resort to folder hierarchies for very broad classifications (academic texts vs. homebrewing resources, for instance, though I still plan on publishing on homebrewing culture). Different courses usually have their own folders but folders for current courses were usually on my desktop and I would move between different things by using the outline view. Searching was always very efficient and Spotlight almost makes folders irrelevant. Metadata elements are more powerful than any folder hierarchy. Even the Piles interface is less needed now. Especially since desktop files and database items (including email messages) are integrated in the same search.
Having switched to a PC, I tend to have a harder time making my way through things, for several reasons. Cramps my style. I can’t be as “chaotic” as I used to be. Yes, there are “Desktop search” solutions. But they just don’t do it for me. And the lack of a high-quality outliner makes my life less fun than it was with OmniOutliner. I’m slowly discovering OneNote but it’s not the ideal solution to repurpose data.
So I end up keeping many things online. Especially on Gmail, actually. Or in Technorati-tagged blog entries. Or in del.icio.us. Or in Zoho documents (looking forward to Zoho Notebook!). Or in Refworks.
Well, to be perfectly honest. Many things I tend to keep in Scrapbook, with the firm intention of going back to them if I ever get a chance. I never do. I also use browser tabs as reminders that I should do something with specific pages. But I eventually end up keeping them on the back burner anyway.