Jane Hart describes her daily personal knowledge management (or PKM) routine. It’s an inspiring yet practical workflow for information curation. Or information wrangling, as I like to call it:
I like this framework for various purposes, starting with how it describes a way of handling information overload. It’s also a good model for helping people transition from an analog (print, in-person) set of habits to one including the digital world.
Inspired by this, I’d like to describe my own.
Every day I work through a series of channels and sources (Hart’s “Seek” category), reflect on what I find (“Sense”), then share those reflections (“Share”). I’ll break it down into three aspects, but keep in mind that there’s a lot of back-and-forth across them.
1. Seek, or Inputs
I find stuff, or stuff finds me, throughout the waking day. Some of this is continuous, while the rest is punctuated. Continuous is social media, while email and much RSS I try to finish before noon.
Materials arrive by the following routes:
RSS: I have several hundred feeds organized into 45 folders. These are arranged according to various aspects of my consulting and research, with topics like libraries, mobile learning, semantic Web, current and past clients, etc. Most feeds are blogs, while some are queries or podcasts (see below).
Which reader do I use? After discussion earlier this year, I rely on two. Digg’s Reader is my laptop go-to tool. My phone prefers Feedly. Neither is as satisfying as Google’s late, lamented Reader, but they are the next best things for now.
Podcasts: I find these to be both underappreciated and very useful. Some I listen to for content, while I follow others in a mixture of pleasure and learning more about the podcast craft (annotated list here). I consume most podcasts while away from laptop and phone: while driving, working on the land, doing a physical workout (treadmill, kettlebells, etc.), or doing housework. Depending on the format and tendencies of a podcast, I might be able to listen to them while doing laptop work – i.e., if a show’s style is leisurely, or I’m not interested in all of its contents.
Email: some content appears through this ancient internet technology. There are still newsletters and listservs where people share content they don’t duplicate elsewhere. Digital Book World, for example, has a nice bulletin, as does the Dispatches from the Future of Museums. And individuals sometimes contact me by email with questions, suggestions, and news. As said earlier, I try to take care of all email before noon, a la Inbox Zero.
Social media in general: Twitter is my main social media feed these days, after RSS. I have curated lists of Twitterers based, like my RSS feeds, on my research and consulting work. So there are columns in my Tweetdeck labeled Futurists, Political Folks, Educational Technologists, and so on. Unlike RSS or email, I check Twitter fairly continuously during a given day.
Print materials: I read books for research every day . This is a kind of alternate dimension for the digital world, as most commentary focuses on easily Web-available content. Like podcasts, I find print underappreciated for the technology and education scene. (I used to read print magazines for the sole reason that they were the best thing to do on airplanes during takeoff and landing; I do less of this, now that the FAA has allowed airlines to permit electronic devices at those times)
2. Sense, or Reflections
Working through the above material, I make several determinations. I look for patterns and signals of possible futures, sketches of emerging trends which can shape what comes next. Repetition of the same story or pattern across channels can be useful in this regard.
I draw on my experience, my intuition, and context to assess the utility of each story.
I like to reflect while immersed in the digital world, searching for context and commentary, then taking myself offline. In the home office this can mean taking a walk, working on the homestead, or doing physical exercise. This frees up my mind to range broadly and to be more creative.
Then I consider how best to share these thoughts and discoveries in a way that adds value. So I weigh audiences and their needs, venues, and ways of entering conversations. Which brings us to…
3. Share, or Outputs
Where to share my questions, comments, broodings?
A major outlet is social media, such as comments on someone’s blog post, a Facebook update, a Google+ post, or, most commonly, a Twitter ping. Some Web content ends up in my social bookmarks (Diigo, Pinboard, and yes, even Delicious, still). I comment on print book readings on Goodreads (NB: both for research and entertainment). Longer reflections appear as posts on this very blog. I always hope for discussion, rather than static posting from these social media emissions.
My work involves a steady stream of presentations, both face-to-face and virtual, and these information inputs naturally end up there (some on Slideshare). Every month I publish another Future Trends in Technology and Education report, largely driven by this process. At greater length and temporal remove from this daily torrent of info-wrangling are my articles and books; reflections ultimately land therein.
What’s not on here? App.net, which turned out to be a dead end for me. Second Life, which never seemed to offer me many spaces for conversation and information-sharing. The apps ecosystem, beyond my partial use of Feedly; I prefer to get information over the open Web.
Final thoughts: seeking, sensing, sharing, I developed this routine over nearly a decade, trying out many strategies and often discarding them. It requires some time to monitor and tweak: adding and subtracting Twitter follow-ees, checking time spent on a resource versus rewards gained. This routine owes much to friends and acquaintances who have done similar work and shared it with the world, such as Howard Rheingold and Stephen Downes.
How about you? What’s your routine like? What do you make of my wrangling setup?