The lost art of filing

Interesting article over at the Beeb (link). It discusses the concept of using a web based email system such as Gmail to store information (pictures, phone numbers etc). This certainly something I do on a regular basis. Infact if something doesn’t exist in my inbox then I am unlikely to action it. Further I have taken to sending myself emails to remind me of certain tasks and things for future reference as do others: “You want to remember something, so you send it to your mailbox.” .

However there are certain things I have noticed in such a system. This is something that people are never trained in using. Information management is an extremely complex subject, sure Google et al. can build very powerful search tools, but the searches require people to have entered the information correctly in the first place (rather akin to looking up a word in the dictionary without knowing how to spell it). For example you search for a phone-number – what do you type into the search? If the user has not entered Phone-Number in the body of the text or the full name then it could produce incorrect results. Or possibly zero results leading the user to believe that the entry was not there.

I was once researching information management and an interesting concept was discussed about electronic information management. It basically suggested that when many office tasks shifted from the real to the virtual many roles such as secretaries were no longer necessary. This was because people now had access to word processors and filing systems, yet the skills that the secretaries boasted such as filing were not ever passed on into the electronic sphere.

As I can see it much electronic information is poorly labeled and poorly organized making the task of retrieving it much more difficult. People like Google go a long way to helping us trawl through the mess, but surely effective information management and good practices must be considered.

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