Once again I’ve found that my favorites and folder system have become unworkable, my system for tracking good info in e-mail newsletters doesn’t work, and I still haven’t figured out a good ways to store and manage news feed items.
On the NetLawyers discussion list this week, there was a program that covered Wikis and other collaboration tools and even included a session on the AskSam database.
I’ve been thinking about personal Wikis, freeform databases, OneNote and other possible solutions to my personal knowledge management needs. Some people have even sent me programs to try, but I had not reached the point of frustration that is required before I am actually willing to start at ground zero and build a completely new system. Now, I’m definitely looking for help.
I ended up posting the following to the NetLawyers list:
Because of my blog, various columns and the like, I’m always finding references, blurbs, postings, links and such that I know that I might want to use later.
For example, in an email newsletter I got today, I saw the following:
“How to make great-looking CD labels
KILLER DOWNLOADS: When creating mix CDs, the label and jewel case can be almost as important as the music. So make sure yours look good. It’s easy with these three apps Jason’s found.”
Today, I might do any of the following:
1. Click on the link, visit the page, and add the page to my Favorites, ideally putting it into a subcategory folder. (as a practical matter, though, my Favorites are so unwieldy that they are but unusable).
2. Keep the newsletter in my Newsletters folder and apply a “flag to it” to identify that there is something in that email that I might want to look at in the future or simply use the all-but-inadequate “find” feature in Outlook.
3. Use Worldox, Enfish or another search program to find the email later.
4. Add a short post to my blog about it, with a link to the page (but it may not be “on topic” for my blog) or add it to an appropriate “links” page on my website.
5. Try to remember that I’ve seen something on this and search for it later.
6. Think about creating a Word document or a database into which I can copy items like this.
Ultimately, none of those really work.
Here’s what I think I want in a system that worked best for me:
1. Total ease of entry – not much more than copy-and-paste or copy and hit a “macro key”
2. A simple and easy to assign category system (“blog”, “IP Memes”, “Law Practice Today column”, “Article Ideas”)
3. Automatic indexing or strong search capacities
4. A way to assign keywords (probably)
5. A time stamp to show hold old or new an item is
6. A way to “browse” the clippings to see what’s there and get ideas
7. A way to see related items
8. An easy way to pull the information out, retaining any links and formatting. A bonus would be to parse and pull out the URL in the form of http://www.url.com. A super bonus would be to automatically parse and produce the HTML: “Description goes here
Here are my questions:
1. Assuming that the tool I use only needs to be local and private, what might be the best tool?
2. Assuming that the tool I use can be sourced on a third party server and accessible to me, but made private, and provide better functionality (i.e., meet more of the 8 requirements), what might the best tool be.
Here is my quick list for #1, but I really want to get the opinion of the experts.
1. I might email anything like this to myself and set up rules to put them into special Outlook folders or with Outlook 2003 set up saved searches.
2. I might create one or more Word documents and skillfully apply styles so that I can use the outline and document map functions.
3. I might use a bookmark tool such as PowerMarks to organize Favorites better (or switch to Mozilla), although I’ve been looking for the perfect bookmark management tool for years.
4. I might set up a new “unlisted” blog for myself and take advantage of categories.
5. I might try a personal Wiki, ideally one that would run locally (and with a built-in server component).
6. I might experiment with OneNote or Excel.
7. I might try a database, like Access.
8. I try AskSam, because it seems like I can do what I want without the overhead and learning curve of Access (but I already have a license for Access, so why not use it).
9. I might try a “clipping” tool, such as Snippy, or a “card file” type of program like AZZCardfile, both of which I have installed and need to try anyway.
10. I could throw everything into a folder, create a bunch of documents and just use a search tool – Enfish, Worldox, X1, to find stuff.
Or, something better.
There’s a part of me that says that a personal Wiki might be the solution that I’d most like to try. However, my real interest is getting something together that’s better than what I have (an Outlook folder for email newsletters, Favorites, and news bins in FeedDemon, and, as a practical matter, searching on the Internet because I forget to check one or more of those).
Ultimately, I’m looking for a personal KM tool rather than a collaborative tool, but I recognize that using something that could eventually be made collaborative would have a big upside.
OK, it’s a long question, but with the collective intellectual firepower on this list, I thought this might offer a good way to sum up the pros and cons of various approaches and help me find an answer to my own little dilemma.
I got a great answer back from Jim Hartman of AskSam Systems. I had already considered AskSam as an option, so I’ll look into that further. I also got a very interesting idea for OneNote and a response about personal Wikis. This confirms my suspicion that there may be a number of paths to take.
I have to believe that my issue is not unique.
So, I’m inviting you to help me find a really good solution. You can e-mail me with your recommendations. I’ll share the results of what I find and what route I decide to go.