Thursday, June 6, 2013

How much classification is enough?

This certainly isn't new thinking, but it gave me a couple of aha moments. There seem to be 2 ends of the spectrum regarding information retrieval/storage/management. Here I am thinking about things like email, tweets, general information (trivia like).
Do you classify and organize - e.g. lots of outlook folders all arranged neatly with rules putting incoming messages into these folders? Or do you keep them in a giant heap and use search tools/techniques to help you locate critical emails when you need them?
It turns out that philosophies of manging email differ quite a lot from person to person. I used to be an organizer and classifier - until I realized that I could never set the rules up sensibly. Things would get "mis-filed" so it was hard work finding them anyway. Should I organize by date? Should I organize by from (in the inbox at least)? Should I organize by keywords (Oh dear which an how many copies do I need to keep)?
Of course I could take an entirely different approach. I could pile all the mail into a single folder and have very potent tools. But that also puts some significant burden on me. I have to remember the words that might have been used - and their spelling! If I get an email from an English colleague and s/he is talking about organisation and I want to correlate that with some observations from an American colleague, it is going to be tough using just a search method. Search is improving, but still it isn't easy yet.
My natural tendency is to "classify at the moment of use" - i.e. to base my filing "system" around search. That extends to physical filing too - one look at my desk would convince anyone that I don't organize! Of course that drives madame nuts, but that's a story for a different time.
Which are you? Do you tend towards one end of the spectrum or the other?

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