What do I do with all this information? March 11, 2007Posted by cjescribano in information management, Learning, stikkit.
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Stacks of magazines in my house. Long lists of “favorite” Web sites. E-newsletters. Friends telling me to check things out. Not to mention the yard-tall stack of books next to my bed, waiting to be read. So many interests. So little time. So much information running off unused like rain water into sewers. There must be some way to tame the flood of information, some rain barrel to capture the precious resources so I’ll have them when I need them. So, I can be smarter, better at my job, more up on things. This year I will get better at managing my flood of personal information. Instead of wading through those piles of unread publications, I will master them, harness them to carry me a little further up river.
What kind of information do I have?
So, where to start? Well, first I had to look around. What exactly is the stuff that pours into my life through the mail, the computer, and the front door? Much of it is related to my job as an instructional designer/performance consultant. There’s always something new to learn about learning. Some of it is cultural or current–just general interest stuff about what’s going on in the world today. And some pertains to specific topics that I’m actively cataloging so that I can write about them–like personal information management.
Some of it I actively seek out. And some just bubbles up in newsletters, e-mails, or conversations.
Soaking in information
I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t need to try to capture all of the information. Some of it is just good to soak in. I don’t consciously know about it; I’m not going to start spouting facts. Instead, I feel it. It informs my consciousness at that deeper level where my gut reacts. It sets a mental and emotional state in which I think and work. The key for that kind of information is to select the right sources to attain the state I want. I’m always looking for sources that excite my curiosity, making me want to explore more and reach out to others in a positive way where we can learn from each other.
Wikis and blogs
For the topics that I’m actively pursuing, I’m experimenting with blogs and wikis. This blog is part of that experiment. And I’ve got a wiki on personal information management, since that’s a current interest. I’m also thinking of starting one on neuroscience.
The “sticky” approach
Recently I’ve discovered a wonderful program called stikkit (www.stikkit.com) for those ideas and thoughts that bubble up unexpectedly. As its name implies, stikkit uses the “yellow sticky” approach to capturing information. This was perfect for me because I was already doing that in the real world. Now, stikkit allows me to do that online. So, at the start of each day, I open up stikkit, and when someone tells me something or when I read something interesting, I open up a new stikkit, jot down the idea and the source, and tag it so I can find it later.
The tagging part is what makes stikkit especially useful. When I read about some new technology or approach that people are using to create online communities, I just grab the information into a stikkit and tag it as “online community.” Then one day when someone asks me what I know about online communities, I just look for those old tags. I’ll probably have forgotten all about that piece of information by then. But stikkit hasn’t.
Top-down or bottom-up?
I suppose I could create a blog or a wiki for those “bubble-up” types of information. But somehow it feels like I’d need to have a structure to the site so that I could find the information again. That may not be true, but that’s how it seems to me. For some reason, the wikis and blogs feel “top-down” so that I have to have some structure in mind. But stikkit is bottom up: I just collect pieces of information and then I can look at them in different ways to see what they mean.