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Personal Information Management



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  • As with the previous sessions, please feel free to interrupt me or ask any questions. I hope this will be very interactive.I’ll start with comparing a few definitions, then move to a timeline of PIM and discuss the work that’s been done it. Then we’ll conclude with a discussion of future directions.As I was going through many readings about PIM, a certain central theme emerged (next slide)
  • ME – the individual. As we saw in the Jones reading…When is information personal?Information can be personal because it is “owned by me” (e.g., the information on our computer or on a flash drive), “about me” (e.g., medical records), “directed towards me” (think advertisements or dinner-time “marketing surveys”), “sent (posted) by me” (especially with social networking), “experienced by me” or, at the most general level, “relevant to me.”All of this added together creates our own personal space of information that is unique to us.As John put it in his post for the week – “there are as many PIM systems as there are persons who have information to manage”
  • This first definition is the broadest I found. I don’t expect us to read through it right now, but I wanted to pull out the highlights.This definition is more inclusive of all facets of life whereas the definition in the article we read by Deborah Barreau’s focused on work activities. Why do you think that could be? Perhaps this is in part due to the rise of interest in Everyday-Life Information Seeking which came after her first article on PIM.Blending of work and personalThe definitions have evolved as the study of PIM has evolved.
  • In an interview recorded by Dean Marchionini in 2007, DrBarreau defined PIM as…She was actually revising the study that we read at the time this conversation was recorded.If you are interested in hearing more about PIM and DrBarreau’s work, I’d recommend checking out this interview. It was almost as if I’d had the chance to interview her as well. This video is a great intro to PIM and her work.Perhaps my favorite definition of PIM comes from William Jones.
  • This is a photo ofDr Jones in Mongolia.I like how accessible the definition is, but it’s also pretty all-incompasing definition. Can you think of things that fall outside of his definition?William Jones also outlined a timeline in his book that traces the development of PIM.
  • Ancient times: Great new device released called the “human brain.” Our brains have been producing, digesting, and managing information ever since.The 1940s: Information is a thing to be captured and measured! A theory of communication is developed which lays the groundwork for a quantitative assessment of information. The modern dialog on PIM begins with the publication of Vannevar Bush’s “As we may think” article at the close of World War II (1945). Bush proposed a fanciful “Memex” as “an enlarged intimate supplement to (a person’s) memory” (p. 6).The 1950s: The computer moves from metaphor to modeler of human thought. Newell and Simon pioneer the computer’s use as a tool to model human thought. The 1960s: Mind trips through hypertext, intelligence augmentation and human cognition. After the 1950s research showed that the computer, as a symbol processor, could “think” (to varying degrees of fidelity) like people do, the 1960s saw an increasing interest in the use of the computer to help people to think better and to process information more effectively. 1970s&1980s: A phrase is born. The personal computer comes into its own. The phrase “personal information management” is coined amidst a general excitement over the potential of the personal computer to greatly enhance the human ability to process and manage information. The 1980s also saw the advent of so-called “PIM tools” that provided limited support for the management of such things as appointments and scheduling, to-do lists, phone numbers, and addresses. And a community dedicated to the study and improvement of human-computer interaction also emerged in the 1980s.1990s&2000s. A field is born. Deborah Barreau interview - in the beginning it was how you collect and manage citations you plan to use in papers. The Web is developed. And so in succession are cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), “smartphones” and integrative handheld devices that can seemingly do everything (except, it sometimes seems, establish a clear telephone connection).The process of building a community for the study of PIM began with a Special Interest Group session on personal information management, which was organized as part of the CHI 2004 conference on human-computer interaction. But perhaps the watershed event in the creation of a PIM community was PIM 2005—a special NSF-sponsored workshop held in January of 2005 in Seattle.Who are we dealing with when we talk about PIM?
  • Dr Jones distinguishes between information warriors and information worriers.Information warriors see their information and their information tools as a strategic asset. Information warriors are willing to invest time and money to keep up with the latest in mobile devices, tablet computers, smartphones, application software and anything new on the Web. For an information warrior, information technology is, so to speak, a “profit center.”Information technology for information worriers is a “cost center.” New offerings in mobile devices, new releases in operating system or application software,…new developments in the alphabet soup of Web-based initiatives—these and other developments in information technology represent more time and money that needs to be spent just to keep up with everyone else. Information worriers may have a nagging feeling they could do better in their choice of supporting tools and strategies. But they don’t know where to begin.This distinction has applications outside of PIM.From what I have seen, more work has been done on researching information worriers, those concerned about managing information. Why do you think that is? What would be the benefit of studying information warriors?
  • This slide may address some of Emily’s concerns regarding the academic rigor of the discipline. In addition, they have implications for the entire field of information science.RECALL: everyone has had the experience of not being able to recall information they know they have in memory, such as somebody's name or a fact in a game of trivia.this process is not arbitrary: the ability to recall information depends upon a critical relationship between how the information is held in memory and what we are thinking about when we are trying to retrieve it“the workings of memory are such as to retain the meaning and gist of events, but not necessarily detailed information about them”“we retain more information about events than we may be able to recall at any one time, and that the ability to recall this information depends critically upon what we are thinking about at the time”“certain procedures, such as the use of mnemonics, produce apparently supernormal memory performance which may be suggestive of techniques to be used in the future”when information is committed to memory it undergoes an encoding process in which the information is interpreted.memory to succeed, the meaning of the retrieval cue must match what is stored in memory.particularly relevant to how we can use existing systems and what we might exploit in future ones. The process of information retrieval in the human mind is fundamentally different from filing or library systems in which items are accessed by location rather than by their meaning.Issues regarding categorization: information does not fall happily into neat categorization structures which can then be implemented on a system by using simple labels. Two classes of problems which cause this: 1. it is impossible to generate category names which will be used unambiguously 2. information in the real world falls into several overlapping and fuzzy categories. Usually the context of language disambiguates most confusions, but that’s not always possible in a classification system.Another issue is that we remember far more about documents than can be used in retrieval procedures. we remember filenames (sometimes), when we received information, what it looked like, and perhaps many other things.Lansdale, M. W. (1988). The psychology of personal information management. Applied ergonomics, 19(1), 55–66. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15676648
  • To have the right information at the right time (and in the right form, of good quality, …) to meet our needsThis master chess player doesn’t need to know the rules to Monopoly. He just needs to know what his opponent has played and is planning to play and he best way that he can win. This information resides within a particular context – the rules of chess.Jones, W. and Maier, D. (2003). Report from the session on personal information management. Workshop of the information and data management program. Seattle, WA: National Science Foundation Information.OUTCOMES better productivity better teamwork better group info managementIs this more group information management outcomes rather than personal information management?To make it a little more personalized, I might say better efficiency than productivity, as that is more inward looking to me than focusing on how the individual can improve productivity for the greater good. These outcomes seems to have more of that business focus that we talked about with the definitions. I met with Rob Capra, who teaches the course on PIM at SILS, to talk about this distinction and other aspects of PIM.
  • According to Rob organizational work is separate from PIM as it is not just talking about one person (personal). However, the line between organizational knowledge management and PIM does blur. The overlap occurs when an organization puts policies into place that affect PIM.Deborah Barreau – said PIM was increasingly problematic for organizations – lots of people make up the organization – use it to their advantage – develop new products, tools – how do we bring people together to share so organization can benefitPeople don’t use old information – people change, they aren’t interested in the same thingsBuilding, sharing expertise – how do you socialize people into the organization, what it thinks is important, wants to doTo think a little more about tools and habits, I’d like us to think about our own personal information management (next slide).
  • If you feel comfortable, please share one thing you feel you do well and one thing you could work on when it comes to PIM.Well: organizing photosNot well: transferring files from old hardwareIf you feel like you could always do better, you’re not alone. As Rob put it in my discussion with him (next slide),
  • Rob Capra outlined three main camps within PIM. These terms are my own. Rob Capra referred to the first group as the “tool builders.” They conduct an ethnographic study first (like looking at how people use scraps of paper) and then they try to build a tool to support that.The second group describe and understand processes. They want to know what types of information people are managing and how they are doing it. One of the latest areas of research in this group is looking at the changing ecology – how Facebook and Twitter are changing how people are managing their personal information.The third group measures the cognitive and psychological factors about how people are doing the organizing. What is the cognitive effort to file something and retrieve it later. Does the effort of filing pay off in the long run? Do people work better with deep or shallow filing?
  • Who is doing the work?Communication (Rob would add this to the list)Presentation of self – GothamCognitive PsychologyInformation processing, physiological affectsHuman-Computer InteractionsChoice-Reaction TimeType Models of Actions
  • How are they doing it?Empirical studies with PIM are hard to do. It’s harder to get data that accurately reflects true PIM. The best would be a longitudinal study that would look at saving now and then retrieving years later, but that is difficult. On the flip side, there are people in PIM who look at huge data sets – all of the searches conducted on a computer. So there’s a tension between people with huge data and people with little studies of ten people. How would you rate the methods of the studies we read for this session?Rob is most impressed with the inventive methodologies researchers come up with to study PIM. He shared two of the studies he found had the strongest methodologies.
  • Jamie Teevan stopped by faculty offices twice a day to collect critical incident report – tell me the most recent thing you had to find and why. This was the best look at naturalistic behaviors that Rob has seen. Ofer Bergman conducted a similar naturalistic study on accessing files. He popped into dorm rooms, looked at the recent document list on the student’s computer then asked them to find it again. He taped these interactions with videos and was able to get a wealth of information (time, hierarchy) with these videos. This was a strong study design.In general, it’s hard to do PIM research without installing something on someone’s computer and people are hesitant to do that. A lot of this research is done on employees at large technical companies and not with every day people.In addition to these two researchers, Rob mentioned a few other leaders in the PIM field (next slide).
  • We read and have discussed Jones’ and Barreau’s work.Jamie Teevan and Ofer Bergman conducted the two studies we just discussed.David Karger – MIT – project called Haystack – designed to make it easier for people to collect, organize, find, visualize, and share their informationSue Dumais – PIM and information retrievalSteve Whitaker – psychologyCathy Marshall – is at Microsoft looking across devices Many of the people who work in PIM are affiliated with Microsoft – which shows the overlap between academia and corporate in this disciplineJacekGwizdka – emailSo where are these researchers headed next?
  • As ILS researchers have studied how people use books and databases, they have also studied how people use email.3 key functions of personal information management (PIM): (these correlate with what we read in the readings for this week)task management – using inbox for to-do listpersonal archivingcontact management
  • Everyone archives differently – as Jon mentioned in his post for the weekIs everyone’s archives worth saving long term?How do we provide access to others?Concerns with privacy – what information is archived?
  • As more people communicate through chat and other social networking tools and use these tools to archive their lives, this will become an area of greater emphasis.What are the PIM tools you find most effective and where to they fit within the incidental/ incremental/integrative spectrum described by Jones?What are the implications of social networking tools in PIM? (Jon touched a little on this in his blog post as well)Incidental. Given proper tool support many, if not most, measurements needed to evaluateour PIM practices can be collected automatically, as an incidental by-product of our daily use of information.Incremental. A meta-level activity is easier to do if it can be done in small chunks spread overtime.Integrative. Meta-level activities are more likely to be done if these are integrated into otheractivities we do anyway and perhaps even like doing.
  • “Personal life and work life has become more integrated.” – Deborah Barreau
  • INTEGRATEIntegrating personal, professional, and health-related information. Such information is often scattered on multiple devices and stored in diverse formats. Patients, like Irene, gather and keep track of it from many sources and in many different forms, including Web pages, appointments, prescriptions, contacts, notes, and email.CONTEXTUALIZEPatients often face an overwhelming volume of fragmented information. Tools that highlight the multiple contexts of personal health information could facilitate different understandings of the same information.SHARINGThe breast cancer patients in this study expressed the desire to share aspects of their personal (as well as health) information with others and frustration at their limited ability to manage the related information exchanges. They routinely made trade-offs between the efficacy of immediate communication about private health information in a public setting and their desire to maintain their personal privacy.Sharing with family and friends – some employed a broadcast strategy (like an email list), but expressed disappointment they couldn’t tailor the message.Others adopted more personalized communication strategies (such as phone calls and individual email) to customize and filter informa- tion exchange with different people.My note: sharing with other survivors (reference Kaitlin Costello’s research on chatrooms for health topics)VERY IMPORTANT: “In particular, for a few of them who could effectively share information with clinicians, we documented instances where they detected or prevented medical errors from occurring during that care [12]. But without tools to facilitate such information management and sharing, many might miss their own error-prevention opportunities.”-Excellent argument for the value of PHIM – improve patient’s outcomes and reduce medical costsPatient advocates – mediators between health professionals and patient – speak on their behalf and may assist in the compiling of these disparate sources. I think information science fits well in here- not every librarian can be a patient advocate, but patient advocates should be well-verse in quality information services.
  • The most extreme solution?Run by Darpa, the Defense Department's research arm, LifeLog aimed to gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees or does: the phone calls made, the TV shows watched, the magazines read, the plane tickets bought, the e-mail sent and received. Out of this seemingly endless ocean of information, computer scientists would plot distinctive routes in the data, mapping relationships, memories, events and experiences.LifeLog's backers said the all-encompassing diary could have turned into a near-perfect digital memory, giving its users computerized assistants with an almost flawless recall of what they had done in the past. But civil libertarians immediately pounced on the project when it debuted last spring, arguing that LifeLog could become the ultimate tool for profiling potential enemies of the state.Create a register of everything we’ve done- where we’ve been, what we’ve seen. This would be assisted by the devices we have – our phones and other accessories that are technologically enhanced (such as a necklace that takes pictures of where you go). According to Jones, this could be used as an “alibi” for people to explain where they’ve been when questioned. How would this impact social networking?1. Recollecting (e.g., names of people we encountered or likely last location of something mis- placed).2. Reminiscing (as a special case of recollecting, the re-experiencing of past events such as vacations or fun outings).3. Retrieving (a specific information item such as a document or a photograph).4. Reflecting (e.g., on our behavior in past situations or our use of time—often with an intention to do better in the future).5. Remembering intentions (e.g., our commitments to meet someone or our promise to com- plete a task by a certain time).How could it be organized? Time, physical location, indexed with the words, pictures and attributes we
  • Now that we’ve covered some more ground on PIM, how would you answer Emily’s question about the utility of studying PIM?What about in a health information context?Should we be teaching good personal information management (PIM) skills in educational settings or should we focus on building tools that make PIM automatic?What are some of the historic PIM tools and what have and can we learn from them as we discuss the future of PIM?


  • 1. experienced by relevant toowned by me about me sent (posted) by directed towards
  • 2. Personal Information Management (PIM) refers toboth the practice and study of the activities aperson performs in order to locate or create, store,organize, maintain, modify, retrieve, use anddistribute information in each of its many forms (invarious paper forms, in electronic documents, inemail messages, in conventional Web pages, inblogs, in wikis, etc.) as needed to meet life’s manygoals (everyday and long-term, work-related andnot) and to fulfill life’s many roles andresponsibilities (as parent, spouse, friend,employee, member of community, etc.). Jones, W. (2007) Keeping Found Things Found: The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
  • 3. “How individuals collect,organize, [and] use information intheir personal space.” -Deborah Barreau
  • 4. “PIM is the art of getting things done in our lives through information.” - William Jones Jones, W. (2012). The Future of Personal Information Management. Morgan & Claypool.
  • 5. Information Warriors Information Worriers
  • 6. Lansdale, M. W. (1988). The psychologyof personal information management.Applied ergonomics, 19(1), 55–66.
  • 7. right information right time meet needs
  • 8. “Universally people will tell you theydidn’t do it well … and wish they coulddo it better.” -Rob Capra
  • 9. Interdisciplinarycognitive psychology/cognitive sciencehuman-computer interaction (HCI)library and information science (LIS)artificial intelligence (AI)database managementinformation retrieval (IR)
  • 10. Methods
  • 11. Steve Whitaker Williams JonesDeborahBarreau Sue Dumais Jacek Gwizdka Cathy MarshallJamie Teevan Ofer Bergman David Karger
  • 12. PIM and EmailWhittaker, S., Bellotti, V., & Gwizdka, J. (2006). Email in personal information management. Communications of the ACM, 49(1), 68.
  • 13. PIM andArchives
  • 14. PIM and Social Media
  • 15. Acrossdevices
  • 16. Pratt, W., Unruh, K., Civan, A., & Skeels, M. (2006). Personal health information management. Communications of the ACM, 49(1), 51.
  • 17. http://www.imrc.kist.re.kr/wiki/LifeLog
  • 18. Images courtesy of: http://flickrcc.bluemountains.net/