I have been writing about my spring office cleaning exercise, and that has included much frustration about what to do with an enormous stack of great articles in a "Reading" pile. Do you have one of those?
I pawed through it; it is really excellent stuff, titles from David Stroh's "Leveraging Change: The Power of Systems Thinking in Action" to "5 Insightful TED Talks on Social Media" from the Mashable blog- all great information that I want, but I just don't want it right now (and especially don't want it taking up prime real estate in my tiny office).
Information is a Flow
Of course when I do need it, realistically, the last thing I will do is paw through that stack to find the most appropriate articles. Even putting them in topical files (like in the old days) seems like dooming them to the dark corners of my filing cabinet - and so many of them would have multiple filing locations, so I would have to go through many files anyways. Enough to put me off of that.
There is a limit, and a kind of perverse unintended consequence in this type of system in that the larger the pile grows the more good information that is there, true, but the more time it would take to go through it and therefore lessening the likelihood that I will spend the time to "query" the pile for information. Plus, let's be super realistic, in the face of that I would probably just Google anyways. Information is now a flow and not a stock.
The Search Revolution
However, Google has its limits too. Some work has been done to filter out good stuff, say, from the 8.7 million results that you get when you put "informal learning" into Google. We are now using our Friends as filters, whether real friends or the mavens in the topics we care about. To use this new Search system cleverly we just need to know who knows what and who is doing what. So I follow the leaders, and they throw up good tidbits of information that are useful and interesting, but again too much and often not what I need at the moment when I find it.
So I do need some type of personal knowledge management system that I can query, that is between "I'm Feeling Lucky" of Google, and my former OCD response of printing and carefully "filing" by placing on top of the stack of reading under the table in my office.
Personal Knowledge Management System - Building for Scale
Please do not do the math (as in how long would it have taken me to just read that stack), I just spent some hours (still in the single digits) putting every single still-interesting article in my stack into Evernote (as in "Remember Everything").
I will admit that this whole process of converting paper to online links took me longer than needed as I first linked the sources through my Delicious account (thinking it would be great to share this good work with others - still a good attitude I think). Only to be informed by my husband, a tech news devotee and generally up on all this stuff, that the talk on the street is that Yahoo (owner) will soon close Delicious. So, I went to Evernote. After I got the hang of it, it was pretty easy to just open the Delicious links in new tabs and copy the content of the article with the URL into Evernote, adding a tag called "Articles". Although it took time, the system now is built to scale -as in, it can get as big as needed and is still as useful as it would be if it was a small resource - unlike that pile of papers, which can only get as big as the table top, or the ceiling if I wanted to live like that. It's useful because it is searchable by content, not just tags (like Delicious) or titles (like in a paper file I would skim).
Filtered Resources On Demand
It is also more useful as the content of the articles will be stored locally in Evernote on my devices (laptop, iPad) as well as on the cloud, so I can read them on the plane (yes, I could also read paper, but I would have to carry that around, and still have to do something with it afterwards to be able to refer to it later - choke up my GTD files, or back to fire hazard under table).
Now I can recycle those papers, and still query them electronically by any word I want through my Evernote interface. And I can add more as interesting things come in from the people who know. This is just one part of a greater Personal Knowledge Management system, as there are lots of other go-to places for knowledge. However, I am feeling good now about managing those articles and other resources that really stand out. And I rest easier knowing that this was an initial set up investment of time, and that upkeep will be faster.
Did you hear that? That was the sound of an enormous pile of reading hitting the recycling bin!