Five tips for slackers for keeping track of digital stuff

I’m going to be completely honest about this at the outset… i’m not good at this. I have many friends who are excellent at keeping track of the things that they post, the people they connect to, and the work that is ongoing – but i’m not one of these people. I firmly believe, however, that one needn’t actually be good at a thing to explain it to someone else. If that were the case, Wayne Gretzky would still be a hockey coach and the best coach ever.

Do as I say, and not as i do :P

File naming
This may seem like a silly place to start, but there is NOTHING that will lose something quicker than not taking five seconds to give it an appropriate name. I have scads of documents from years ago called ‘stuff’ and ‘notes’ and ‘ideas’ that are of limited to no use to me now. When you make the conversion to googledocs, things only get worse. The ease of use, the speed of creation, makes for new problems. You need to MAKE the time to title things properly…

Your paper notebook automatically creates a certain linear order to the notes that are in it (unless you just write on random pages…). While your files will also come with dates, the context imposed by a notebook will be lacking. Paper imposes many points of order to the things you write on them. The digital has a different set, and, for it, the file name is king.

Use fewer docs, structure them
Speaking of documents, i have this terrible habit of creating new ones for every different idea… instead of grouping ideas together, where they can feed on each other. A well created googledoc, with a table of contents, and some reasonable formatting is not just something you can show off to your boss to make you look energetic, but it can be a reusable resource that you can send out to other people. It can be a single point of reference for recipes, or for all the things that you learned in a course. Organize your documents.

Find some way to keep track of links
I have a terrible way of keeping track of the links that i want to remember. I have a little widget http://packrati.us/ that takes all the links that i post on twitter, and puts them automagically into delicious.com. I have just recently started using mendeley.com as a repository for the research documents that I’m interested in and have been experimenting with Evernote for keeping track of the things in between. That’s delicious for random links, evernote for chunks of stuff from webpages that i want to post with some comment on it, and mendeley for official categorizing of journal articles that i want for my research.

It’s not great. But it’s what i’ve got.

Good networks make for good memories
I admit it, i use twitter to remember things. I will, at any given time, open up my twitter account and say “does anyone remember that tool that does the screen casting, you know, website based” and someone will fire back with screen-cast-o-matic. That’s one I forget all the time. But being part of a network of people in your profession can help you remember the things you’ve forgotten, or, sometimes, give you an answer better than the one you had before. Connect to the people you know and want to keep track of. (say… on twitter)

Connecting with people is good for new ideas… but it’s also good to help you remember old ones :)

Have a home
Maybe the most important thing that I do online is blog. It’s important to me for alot [sic] of reasons, but one of the most important is that I know where i ‘probably’ left something. It’s the place where i should have my updated bio (though i don’t) where i can put links to all the things i don’t want to forget about, and where i throw up ideas (like this blog post) so that I don’t forget them. It’s my go to place, in some ways my junk drawer but always the place that both defines me to other people and serves as the representative of who i am.

Personal knowledge management
Want a better sense of what you should be doing and why? Check out Harold Jarche’s PKM stuff. Even better… take his workshop :)

5 thoughts on “Five tips for slackers for keeping track of digital stuff

  1. Regarding keeping track of links, I am using a self-hosted Semantic Scuttle to save (publicly, privately and shared with other users), tag and annotate links. The 2favorite extension of Firefix lets you save a link directly from the page whose URL you want to save. Yo can also save links directly from your feed reader although it is not «frictionless».

    I have an RSS feed of al my saved links and also RSS feeds for specific tags. With this, I established an «RSS to Twitter» task on ifttt.com so that everything I save publicly gets posted automatically on Twitter (the only thing I don’t like about this is the bitly links that make links intransparent but I accept it for the sake of saving time).

    It is not perfect, I would like something much more integrated in a feed reader, but it’s still a personal knowledge management solution that helps me a lot.

  2. I do the same horrible thing with my own documents – pieces of paper, notebooks, Google Docs, Zoho – my only “system” is to try to put certain things in certain places (blog drafts in a TextEdit doc on my hard drive, planning for next semester in Zoho, project planning in G Docs since I need to share with others). Not great. But then, I wasn’t doing it well in olden days when it was all paper – my file cabinets have three different systems going at once.

    Diigo. Couldn’t manage links without my Diigolet and my six zillion tags. And Netvibes (moved from Reader) for reading blogs.

    Love the advice about using your own blog. I confess I use the search box on mine all the time!

  3. One of my colleagues was just asking me about ds106 and other courses like it. I could not recall the prefix to your ed course so I just found this place via Google. I scrolled to the five things and looked through them and thought, “Wow, I did a presentation two weeks ago on similar idea.” It was the HAVE A HOME that got me.

    My presentation was titled “Finding a Home in Blended Learning” http://ahomeinblendedlearning.wordpress.com/

    But what is funny is that Lisa, the Lisa above, is mentioned in the presentation. Twice! Too serendipitous!

    Small world…. And I too am completely disorganized when it comes to all this digital stuff… But I try to explain what it would be like if I were, as best I can.

  4. I found this post while googling blogs to comment on for my class. You are so right with everything. I really should go in and name all my files properly it would help quite a bit. I will have to check out the way to keep track of links sometime because lord knows I have way too many of those.

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