Dec 17, 2008

On scrapnotes and «technologizing» everything

Scrapings or information scraps are little notes that we take in a paper cloth table in a restaurant, a napkin, a post-it, the corner of a magazine or the newspaper, a notebook, but also in bookmarks, text files or whatever is at hand, at the moment.

Maybe the clue to understand scrapings lies not in developing new tools to add to the mash and proliferation of our bits of information, but in understanding that they are part of our own information behaviours for what works in given occasions. For me it seems more relevant to acknowledge it, and incorporate it as a practice that works for individuals, than to see it as a problem that needs a technological solution.

Scrapings are immediate. One takes note of it, with what one has at hand, and makes it immediately available to add meta data to a book we are reading, to glue at the fridge as a reminder or a grocery list that we later take with us, to note down a telephone or the name of the music passing on the radio, a research lead for later reflection, a visual signal, a temporary mark, making eliciting annotations on a paper we are reading, a drawing to complex or simple ideas. 

Imagine the time (and problems)  it would take for you to make a «simple» scraping in a web application (hardware + internet access + application initiation) while at the supermarket, talking with a colegue on the corridor, having a meal with friends, while driving (or stopping endlessly in IC19 ;)... 

Ever notice that in a rush moment, although people have their latest technology mobile phones, in order to exchange contacts either they jot down the contact in a piece of paper, or exchange presentation cards, or they dial the number they are given to stay with that record (and confirm they have noted the number correctly) and only later (if ever) they add more information to the plenty of available labels to fill in their sophisticated «contact managers»? 

Let alone the transferability and malleability of such notes, in the end is also about reliability. How many of us have lost your long time acquired contact details due to loss, robbery or malfunction of your telephones (or whatever gadget you used)? How many of us will be able to show our present pictures to our future grandchildren (even with all the available storing capacity, gadgets and backup practices)?... 

Makes us think about why with so many available technologies, with all the digital facilities that we have, paper production does not seem to be slowing down and the once envisioned «digital office» couldn't look further apart as paper seems to be the most reliable medium in our PIM (personal information management) practices. Maybe paper is still our long lasting backup and not the other way around.

For a deeper knowldge about scraping, there is a lot to reflect in the Haystack Group of MIT. See also tool: and protocol for conducting observations for interested users.

Dec 14, 2008

scattered data among artifacts

pulverized data for my research across different tools and plataforms in need of aggregation for my research:
  • citeUlike - tool used for biblioghraphic collection. Problems encountered through time concern: a) not having access to some of the publications but able to keep reference; b) duplicated items due to encounters in different databases; c) limited or unavailable internet access interfere with information management practices
  • infotransitions - tool for embedding other tools, work-in-progress, active links, communication with supervisor, thoughts, reflextions & draft writings. Problems encountered through time: a) limited or unavailable internet access interfere with information work behaviour & PIM practices; b) private space does not allow for interactions with peers or people exploring/interested in same topics; c) althought meant as a way for «being» in permanent contact with supervisor, allowing him to «observe» recent research concerns, it's barely used as such
  • - started to use this tool to allow my «favorites» to be computer independent, and later to help manage team search efforts for project work. Problems limited to unavailable internet access that temper with access and PIM practices.
  • flickr - Although my main photos & picture are locally stored (my computer, moveable hard drive .... (...)
  • notebooks - one of the most stable practices I have since I made my first research attemps (back in 1999, expatriation cycle, IPL/ESCS. During the changes that occured in this last year in my working infrastructures (uncertain internet access, reduce mobility & communications due to financial constrains and disapeering workplace & homeplace), I used my notebooks and rely on them much more then before (for noting my private research notes I was using this blog, wich I used also to illicite all the other web spaces I use (wrote above). As a tool it's very portable, no need interfaces to access content, no re-charging needs, it's not an intruder, I can carry it with me all the time. On the negative aspects are the finite space available and the inherited need to change notebooks once I use the last page. The transition for a new book brings me the need to carry during some time 2 notebooks with me... and finding past notes is not always quick. Moving the notes to text adds also aditinal work.
Databases used with existing individual accounts and resources stored at their sites, also add to the pulverization:
  • citeseerX (a free scientific database, focusing primarily on the literature in computer and information science)
  • myACM (2 years paid subscription, focusing primarely on computer sciences and dessiminating practices)
  • Wiley (group publisher, aggregates diverse publishing materials from diferent areas of research)
  • LibraryThing (some of my personal books with interface for my Amazon aquisitions & account)
  • [stopped using b-on because I could not store my papers in there, only queries, and also because of problems with exporting found results... and because there are other places I can use to accomplish the job]

(antecipating) Place in mobile work

Brown, B. and O’Hara, K. (2003). Place as a practical concern of mobile workers. Environment and Planning, A 35, pp. 1565–1587:
"Mobile workers often need to configure their activies to take account of the different places they find themselves. This can involve considerable ‘juggling’ of their plans, humble office equipment, and their co-workers. In turn mobile workers change places, as they appropriate different sites for their work. Specifically, technology allows for the limited re-appropriation of travel and leisure sites as places for work (such as trains and cafés). Time is also an important practical concern for mobile workers. While mobile work may be seen as relatively flexible, fixed temporal structures allow mobile workers to ‘accomplishment synchronicity ’ with others."

Dec 11, 2008

Cathy Marshall (2008). rethinking personal digital archivingpart 1 & part 2. D-Lib Magazine, vol.14 (3/4):
"(...) a broadened view of how we might undertake personal digital archiving, both broadly (for consumers) and more narrowly (for academics, scholars, researchers, and students); some of these issues may also carry over into the realm of institutional archiving, although that is not my aim."
link by email from JAC

The myth of the paperless office

From a study of 2003, updating the 2000 study and comparing the evolution of estimated information production (paper, film, magnetic, optic)- How much Information?:
"Contrary to notions of paperless offices floated in the late 80s and early 90s, the consumption of office paper has gone up substantially in the recent years, especially following the move to laser/inkjet printers from dot matrix printers. Paper use in offices has further risen with the increasing speed of laser printing coupled with its decreasing cost. Each year, almost 500 billion copies are produced on copiers in the United States; nearly 15 trillion copies are produced on copiers, printers, and multi-function machines. (Source: XeroxParc)."

Dec 10, 2008

Opportunities in information behaviour research

Vakkari, P. (2008). "Trends and approaches in information behaviour research" Information Research, 13(4) paper 361. [Available at]
"Studies explaining how information behaviour is related to varying actions and contexts generating it, or how the use of various tools or services is related to information behaviour are necessary and can build on the categorizations mentioned. Both types of studies are needed."

Sep 26, 2008

infoplace or infospace needs for manipulation

Borgman, C. L. (2003). Personal digital libraries: Creating individual spaces for innovation. Paper presented at the NSF Workshop on Post-Digital Libraries Initiative Directions, Chatham, MA.:
"Individuals need a “place” or a “space” in which to assemble and manipulate information resources for their own purposes, with flexible tools that they can adapt to their practices, skills, habits, and artistry."
[PDF in D:/Phd/Bib - Info Spaces]

Sep 22, 2008

Information overload

Houghton-Jan, Sarah (2008). Being Wired or Being Tired: 10 Ways to Cope with Information Overload, Ariadne, Issue 56:
"What is information overload? 27 instant messages. 4 text messages. 17 phone calls. 98 work emails. 52 personal emails. 76 email listserv messages. 14 social network messages. 127 social network status updates. 825 RSS feed updates. 30 pages from a book. 5 letters. 11 pieces of junk mail. 1 periodical issue. 3 hours of radio. 1 hour of television. That, my friends, is information overload."


Incorporate and adapt for research protocol: ethical issues related with participants. See Amy Bruckman (2002) Ethical Guidelines for Research Online, available online.

Sep 15, 2008

the knowledge worker information behaviour

Kidd, A. (1994). The marks are on the knowledge worker. In CHI '94: Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, pages 186-191, New York, NY, USA. ACM Press:
"Knowledge workers do not carry much written information with them when they travel and rarely consult their filed information when working in their offices. Their desks are cluttered and seemingly function as a spatial holding pattern for current inputs and ideas." [186]

"It seems that knowledge workers use physical space, such as desks or floors, as a temporary holding pattern for inputs and ideas which they cannot yet categorise or even decide how they might use (...)" [p. 187]
Most of what the author talks, back in 1994, reasons with my own observations, namely what concerns clutter desks, use of floor space and sense of order out of (apparent) disorder corresponds with the descriptions and transcripts of what was observed 15 years ago.

Aug 12, 2008

Information Literate & Logo

Information Literacy Logo and definition of «information literate person»:
"To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. The information literate individuals are those who have learned how to learn” (ALA, 1998)
More details and glossary in Guidelines on Information literacy for Lifelong learning (Final draft by Jesús Lau), namely difference between skills and competencies.

Jul 4, 2008

on the use of «labels» for writing research

McKechnie, L., Julien, H., Pecoskie, J.L. & Dixon, C.M. (2006). The presentation of the information user in reports of information behaviour research. Information Research, 12(1) paper 278 [Available at]:
"(...) the terms partner and participant, may perhaps be regarded as the most inclusive of all as they construct the individual as a member of the research team and an active player in the research process."
When addressing participants in a research, McKechnie et al (2006) suggest to use the words «participants» or «partners» since it acknowledges their active paper in the research process and denotes a more centralized role in the research than the use of words such as «subjects» or «objects» that distance the researched from the research. Also, there was a correlation with the data collection methods used where the participant label was used:
"The important role of the user or research participant was evident in the method section of some of the papers. Some data collection practices reported by authors were designed to bring, and were effective at bringing, researchers closer to users and capturing their perspectives. These included open-ended interviews, face-to-face interviews, close interaction over an extended period of time, audio-recording of interviews, full transcription of audio-recorded interviews and participant checking. Conversely, data collection practices such as transaction log analysis or the use of secondary survey data served to distance the researcher from the researched."
The core of the paper is concerned not only with the labels a researcher uses, but how this labels might reflect how the researcher sees the participants. To be avoided, specially if one is using the qualitative paradigm, reports that address participants by numbers, by letters, by pie charts, etc., not giving voice to the participants.

This is one of the differences that might be an issue when presenting my research in an engineers context. They might say that I used a lot of quotations and little aggregated information. Also, it may reflect how I see the world of engineers: my pre-conceptions of what it is expected of my research in the context of the Department I'm going to present my PhD.

Jun 27, 2008

The Petabyte Age

To reflect and provoke! 

In the last Wired News, The Petabyte Age: Because More Isn't Just More — More Is Different, they have an entry about «The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete».

So where is the method? The scientific rigour? If what they state was true, than scientist would be obsolete. Scientific method is not only about finding correlations in data. The scientific method allows for a number of triangulations: data, methods & theory. Scientific method starts from choosing what kind of data to look for, how to collect it, how to analyze, how to interpret the data.

Anyhow, it shows that the perception that having access to large amounts of data can suffice to make science :S

Apr 17, 2008

Infrastructure for interoperability

Global Research Library 2020 - Goals & Objectives:
"Either as individual institutions or a part of consortia, we are all working on improving existing (local) infrastructures and establishing new systems, but moving forward we need to be absolutely certain that these effort are all tightly-linked and easily interoperable (e.g. leveraging community protocols, suites of standards, etc). Infrastructure is used here to include people with appropriate skill sets, systems, standards and protocol suites, and even policy frameworks."

Apr 15, 2008

Homo mobilis

Rich Ling disponibilizou as ligações para os capítulos do relatório especial do Economist sobre Mobile Communication:
Inscrevi-me no Grupo «Mobile Communication» e através do link de um dos membros (Carsten Sørensen) do qual já tinha conhecimento através de artigos publicados, fui dar à Research Network for Mobile Interaction & Pervasive Social Devices.

Apr 3, 2008

Tracking Transition

Houston, Muir (2008). Tracking Transition: Issues in Asynchronous E-Mail Interviewing, FQS, vol 9(2):
"(...) the transition to employment is only one of a number of possible transitions which the individual may experience upon leaving university and as noted above these are not necessarily mutually exclusive events, but often exhibit a degree of interaction between the various transitions."

"(...) a number of transitions may simultaneously be in operation: that of status (undergraduate to graduate); in terms of accommodation, living arrangements and even location of domicile; and, in terms of activity (undergraduate to post-graduate or from part-time to full-time work or from student to employee). In the case of some of the respondents as noted by comments above, the transitions were not always unproblematic. Moreover, for some of the respondents, the transition especially in relation to independent living was conditioned by a lack of financial resources and this could impact on relationships with partners and parents."

Mar 16, 2008


Vannevar Bush (1945). As We May Think. The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 176(1), pp. 101-108.

Drawing of Bush's theoretical memex machine was published in Life Magazine, November 19, 1945, vol. 19(11), p. 123, also under the title «As we may think». Since I have not found an image of the original article, I'll use the one circulating in many different places that have paid homage to Bush vision.

PS - From Memex To Hypertext arrived (same picture in p. 109)

Mar 8, 2008


Uma boa metáfora para explicar espaços de transição. Neste caso, a palavra «ecotone» serviria para explicar espaços de transição próximos. Notei que as palavras «edge» e «boundary» também são utilizadas como sinónimos em algumas das definições.

Define: ecotone
"A narrow and fairly sharply defined transition zone between two or more different communities. Such edge communities are typically species-rich. (Allaby 1998)"

Feb 28, 2008

genetics as «pure information»

Edge: LIFE: a gene-centric view, by Craig Venter & Richard Dawkins, in a conversation in Munich:
"RICHARD DAWKINS: What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology. It is pure information. It's digital information. It's precisely the kind of information that can be translated digit for digit, byte for byte, into any other kind of information and then translated back again. This is a major revolution. I suppose it's probably 'the' major revolution in the whole history of our understanding of ourselves."

Feb 25, 2008

PIM - 10 years after first study

Barreau, D. (2008). The persistence of behavior and form in the organization of personal information. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, vol. 59(2), pp. 307-317:
"This study revisits managers who were first interviewed more than 10 years ago to identify their personal information management (PIM) behaviors. The purpose of this study was to see how advances in technology and access to the Web may have affected their PIM behaviors. PIM behaviors seem to have changed little over time, suggesting that technological advances are less important in determining how individuals organize and use information than are the tasks that they perform. Managers identified increased volume of e-mail and the frustration with having to access multiple systems with different, unsynchronized passwords as their greatest PIM challenges. Organizational implications are discussed."

Feb 21, 2008

downsizing & (in)communication at work

Kwon, D.; Oh, W. & Jeon, S. (2007). Broken Ties: The Impact of Organizational Restructuring on the Stability of Information-Processing Networks. Journal of Management Information Systems, vol. 24(1), pp. 201–231:
"We pay special attention to the structural capability of each IPN in the context of corporate downsizing, because downsizing is a common phenomenon in contemporary organizations that dynamically reconfigures the means by which people process information both within and across firm boundaries. Moreover, emphasis is placed on the specific contexts in which workforce reduction leads to concomitant increases in information processing and communication responsibilities for those remaining (i.e., “survivors”), and may thus produce adverse effects such as work overload and “burnout.”" (p.202)

"(...) one underlying presumption shared by these various conceptual approaches is that organizations are information-processing entities whose survival and longevity largely depend upon how efficiently and effectively they handle information within and across firm boundaries" (p.204)

Jan 10, 2008

implosion of the world on the individual

Janelle, D. G. and Gillespie, A. (2004). Space-time constructs for linking information and communication technologies with issues in sustainable transportation. Transport Reviews, vol. 24(6), pp. 665-677.
"Human extensibility and the implosion of the world on the individual (time-space compression) represent simultaneously opportunity and threat - the opportunity to communicate and engage in dialogue and commerce, and the threat of besiegement and incapacity to absorb or cope with relentless volumes of information calling for attention. Clearly, the temporal aspects of this problem require abilities to engage and disengage in one's connectivity to the world - to network selectively or to broadcast universally, as required."

Jan 9, 2008

Information Scraps

Bernstein et al (2007). Information Scraps: How and Why Information Eludes our Personal Information Management Tools (in Submission version):
"In this paper we describe information scraps -- a class of personal information whose content is scribbled on Post-it notes, scrawled on corners of random sheets of paper, buried inside the bodies of e-mail messages sent to ourselves, or typed haphazardly into text files. Information scraps hold our great ideas, sketches, notes, reminders, driving directions, and even our poetry."

Jan 4, 2008

Recover list - on campus:

Lansdale, M. (1988). The psychology of personal information management. Applied Ergonomics, 19(1):55-66.

different PIM's for different Workers

Nardi, B. and Barreau, D. (1997). "Finding and reminding"revisited: appropriate metaphors for file organization at the desktop. SIGCHI Bull. 29(1), pp. 76-78.
"While we recognize that researchers have need for organizing and retrieving information and building archives to support their research, the results of our studies suggest that users in most work environments have different needs and priorities. A greater concern for such workers is the management of the growing volume and variety of ephemeral information that must be managed and utilized."