Reflections on Personal Information Management

A couple of years ago I came across an article that addressed the topic of using PIM in real life, since then this topic has not left my mind. I read and thought: here is the Grail of personal effectiveness. During this time I read a lot of articles on this interesting topic, but I have not yet found that one. The authors of the articles reflect on the topic of what this PIM is, but no one has a clear idea of ​​what it is, nor does it have software that fully implements the ideas of PIM.

Ideas in articles on the topic of PIM:

1. PIM, as a static, structured database of materials of interest to the user.
2. Others focus on organizing data in the form of MindMaps, on which it is convenient to display logical connections, generate ideas based on the displayed data.
3. PIM, as a personal task manager, focused purely on the implementation of the principles of GTD.
4. PIM, as an expert system in which the knowledge that a user receives in the process of his professional activity is accumulated.
5. PIM, as a diary in which the user describes his ideas, feelings. Such a "blog for himself."

I’ll try to formulate my requirements for the “correct” PIM, as I present it.

Setting goals and organizing a list of tasks

I'll start a little from afar. What motivates human activity? There are many theories: biologists, marketers, behaviorists, psychoanalysts, existentialists, etc. formulated their points of view on this issue. Abraham Harold Maslow is closest to me, everything is quite simple for him: a person has a so-called “pyramid of needs” and his activity is motivated by the satisfaction of these needs. Those. the basis is need, everything else is primary, secondary, etc. goals that depend on the upbringing of the person and the traditions of the surrounding society. It turns out that a person conducts daily continuous activity aimed at achieving goals related to his needs, continuously structures, changes the environment in his favor.

For example, the need for protection. It can be expressed as the goal of having your own home. This goal is needed for smaller ones: get a mortgage, find real estate, conduct a deal. These are also quite large goals that need to be divided into smaller ones: find a job, find a bank, find an agency, etc. we decompose to the level of feasible goals. As a result, we get hundreds of small intermediate goals that need to be achieved. And so for every need.

The first objective of PIM: the storage of many formulated intermediate goals on the way to the main goal. Focusing user attention on current, medium and long term goals. To store them in the form of notes, notebooks, in memory is inefficient, unreliable. Notepads are lost, tasks are forgotten, tracking progress is becoming inconvenient.

The accumulation of materials containing useful information

To achieve the goals you need to perform tasks. You can work as a doctor, designer, architect, programmer, etc. To accomplish tasks, knowledge and a certain level of qualification are required, this will allow to complete tasks faster, more efficiently and to a greater extent.
There is a whole ocean of information related to various fields of activity, but this is undeveloped, unprocessed information, which in itself will not be useful.
Information can be stored in a variety of ways: books, articles, videos, etc.

The second task of PIM: the storage of materials relating to the scope of tasks. Materials are presented in the form of electronic documents of various formats, videos, audio files. A base should be formed from the materials, according to which a search of information of interest by keywords can be carried out in the future.

Processing and analysis of accumulated materials

From the accumulated materials you need to “squeeze” useful information, useful information is usually only 20% of the document.
We need some kind of human-friendly interface for processing a “raw” document into a squeezed one with your notes, notes, additions. At the same time, you need to perform many small operations: translating fragments of text, making notes and comments, moving small fragments of text across a document, adding screenshots.
A similar functionality is implemented in the so-called Reference Management Software , but this software is designed for writing term papers and other scientific papers.
Perhaps you need to implement the algorithms of the so-called data mining software.

In total, another PIM task is to provide an interface to the electronic document database, which will allow extracting and processing information into a document containing only information that is useful from a user's point of view.

Aggregation of information flows and tasks

New / important / useful information can come through many channels ICQ, IRC, Telegram, RSS, e-mail, sms, phone calls, etc. New input can initiate new tasks, significantly change the process of performing current tasks, or even make it impossible to complete the existing ones. Therefore, it is important to aggregate all available streams, filter out the excess, perhaps some even write scripts that will track keywords and perform some actions.

Total task: aggregation of information coming from a variety of sources, the selection of only that information that leads to new tasks or affects the process of performing current ones.

Accumulation of personal experience

In the process of solving the problem, a script for another solution is compiled, which indicates the intended sequence of actions for its solution. Of course, in the process of real execution of the task, the scenario changes many times and is supplemented with details.
Thus, after the task is completed, the scenario for its solution remains, and if it is quite complex, then it is of value. Faced with a similar or similar task in the future, you can extract the existing scenario and apply it with some changes to solve it. In this case, the script is supplemented with new details and details.

Total pim task: accumulation of experience in solving problems in the form of scenarios for their implementation and related documents, contacts, materials. Perhaps some kind of Expert system should be implemented % 81% D0% B8% D1% 81% D1% 82% D0% B5% D0% BC% D0% B0

Implementation of the principles of logical information processing

Analysis / Synthesis
Deduction / induction

Interface versatility

PIM should have an interface and a set of algorithms for processing tasks and information equally convenient for everyone, regardless of the type of tasks and scope of human activity. PIM should be convenient for schoolchildren, students, painters, photographers, doctors, i.e. it must implement certain universal principles for all types of activities. Nowadays, mainly a tablet / smartphone is used as a mobile device, so PIM should provide two interfaces for access: from a tablet and a desktop PC. Perhaps it will be a web interface using ajax, which will work equally with both a PC and a tablet.

PIM objective: implementation of a universal interface, independent of the scope.

Ease, intuitive use

As the author of one article put it, PIM should be “at your fingertips” i.e. when using it, one should not have the thought that it is easier to write something on a sheet of paper than to open a bulky shell.
Information should be recorded quickly and easily: handwritten text, voice, photograph right in the process of creating a note.
Algorithms should be implemented jewelry and hidden from the user, all that can be done automatically and exclude manual work. The shell must somehow guess the user's intentions and captivate the process of work.

PIM task: ease, intuitive application interface.

Task delegation

One person working to achieve a goal is good, a well-coordinated team working for one goal will achieve it much faster and more efficiently, so PIM should provide an exchange of tasks and knowledge. Here PIM becomes somewhat similar to an ERP enterprise management system.
Perhaps something should be implemented here such as a pipeline for solving a problem that passes through several people.
The simplest example is a joint purchase. You and your other half go shopping, on the tablets the same shopping list is open in which you make notes, you do not need to call up and buy the same thing twice by mistake.

PIM Objective: Support user group collaboration.

Information Security

PIM must implement information security principles.

1) Encryption of the information carrier, which stores all the data structures that PIM creates to avoid access to information by strangers.
2) Availability of information. Those. You must have access to PIM at any time as necessary and circumstances should not prevent this.
3) Safety of information. The storage medium must have backups. Those. loss, theft, damage, damage to the media should not lead to the loss of all accumulated information.

PIM objective: ensuring the safety and accessibility of information. Protection against unauthorized access.

PIM Ideas

PIM can significantly improve human performance. PIM will not replace the brain, but should become an organic extension, such as an exoskeleton for the brain.
The brain is a workbench on which the current task is being solved, PIM is a huge warehouse of finished products, blanks, templates.
PIM can increase the efficiency of interaction and work in user groups.

Software implementation

Now I’ll write a little about software, which, from my point of view, partially implements the requirements described above. Mentioned here is free software or paid software with a fairly functional free version.

1. The file system. Structure of folders, files, text documents in Word or OpenOffice format. Primitive enough, but reliable. It requires discipline to avoid confusion and turning the entire system into a dump of files in which it is impossible to find something useful.
2. Emacs + Emacs org mode. It didn’t work close to this system, but judging by the manuals it is a very powerful system, on the basis of which you can implement a lot of what I described. But there are drawbacks: the system requires high qualifications in the field of working with * nix, the main users of such a system are computer geeks, it does not draw on the universality of application by specialists in various fields.
3. Evernote. Simple enough, intuitive. Allows you to distribute tasks to several people. But before you begin, you need to create your system from notebooks, notes, tags. A good article on the implementation of GTD principles was found somewhere on Habré. Storage of a large library of materials is difficult, although 1G of personal space is allocated once a month.
4. Docear. The so-called Reference Management Software focused on scientific activities is mainly the writing of term papers, doctoral and other scientific works. It is interesting because it was born from a project to build MindMaps. It combines the process of accumulating a library of materials with the process of building MindMaps using markup automatically extracted from documents, it is possible to manually modify the resulting structure and, as a result, generate a document in PDF, DOC, etc. based on the resulting MindMaps. Moreover, the project is absolutely free. Here is an interesting video presentation of the project:

5. WikidPad - quite an interesting multi-platform notepad-wiki with the ability to edit data in WYSIWYG mode. Allows you to create a repository of materials.
6. Thunderbird - I heard about an exotic way to use this email client as PIM. Notes are implemented as letters. Tasks are also in the form of letters. The letters are divided into folders, which allows you to implement work with tasks from different projects separately. Completed tasks / letters are moved to the appropriate folders. The library of materials is stored in the form of letters with attachments. Immediately enough just to send a letter / task to another interested person. In some ways, the principle of operation resembles working with Evernote.
7. A diary or notebook. For some time I used a notebook with interchangeable blocks on the rings. The key point on the rings, as I conducted each task on a separate sheet and, after its completion, moved it to the completed section. It is convenient enough if the place of work is permanent and you do not need to move a lot, otherwise the high risk of damage, loss, and just using a notebook on the go is not convenient.
8. Yahoo! pipes, a project which, according to Yahoo experts, will allow you to arbitrarily combine, filter, process information from a wide variety of Internet sources. The combination of flows is carried out visually by Drug'n'Drop. You can add your own scripts. But this project is unfinished, is still in the testing phase, and what it turns out in the end, it seems no one represents.
9. Feedly, a fairly powerful RSS aggregator, well after Google Reader of course. Has the ability to integrate with Evernote.

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