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."