Reviewing what I’m after: A Personal Information Management System
Let’s put some order behind what I’m after. Functionality I: Organizing the information
What do I see when I navigate? (“THE Metaphor”)
- A system for building a digital reference file.
- Ways to catalog this reference file with metadata, that I can use later to search, group, glance to the different objects within the system without having to ask myself: “What was this all about?”
- Ability to build taxonomies of objects, based on hierarchies of categories so I can access and look at the information from different, alternative, perspectives. Kind of alternative views for the information.
- Ability to define automatic categories by contents (searches), particular categories such as format/object type, dates, author, other standard metadata fields, source (where did the information came from the system, link to original if this is a capture, etc)
- Ability to surf through the information following the different taxonomies as if it were an explorer. Being able to locate objects after selecting different categories and getting the OR or the AND results of them. Here Evernote functionality is the point of reference, with the auto categories, manual categories, drag-and-drop among categories and category intersection.
- I can navigate across the alternative categories. The root of each taxonomy is the first level of a “tree” that classifies the information.
- Note that there are no conceptual bindings for these categories, so we can perfectly arrange a “favorites” category and add to it the most used objects, or even a “favorites” hierarchy, such as “at Work”, “at Home”, “Fridays”, etc that are indeed sets of objects that are being used frequently together. Of course the system can try to learn, or accumulate patterns of usage and suggest this type of sets as “usage based” auto-categories. Here the limit is the imagination (and system resources, of course).
How to I present this information?
- A side panel with the taxonomies from which I select which subset of objects (categories) I want to work with (as in Evernote).
- A search bar, to filter further the results from the side panel selection.
- A main panel with the associated results.
What can I do from these views?
- A list objects with key attributes from metadata: filename/title, with or without an abstract of the rest of the metadata, as in Google, but it can be via popup. This lists can be refined by a key attribute, such as object type, or not at all.
- A space of thumbnails plus key metadata.
- A space or list of icons plus a list of attributes (filename, title, etc)
- Tabular view.
- As with Evernote’s actual search results, a list with a preview of the matching objects or a list of icons for non “native” objects (more later) and a preview of “native” objects.
Functionality II: Content generation
- Open the object.
- Edit its particular metadata (title, description, author, etc). Either massively by multiple selections or individually (of course, depending of the attribute, it could be editable massively or not).
- Edit its classification (categories, taxonomies, etc). Drag-and-drop where possible.
- Copy / duplicate, delete, etc (note that move would not make much sense, as it would be actually a reclassification)
- Send via mail
- Zip it, add to a queue for listening, etc etc (basically whatever methods are available today in windows explorer with a right-click).
- Extendable with plugins to add more methods, more ways of visualizing (e.g. ways for dealing with photos, music, new formats, etc).
- Being able to capture information from the web. Simple, fast, as transparent as possible, with the ability to classify it on the fly and then get it easily indexed and searchable.
- Being able to crop, edit, highlight this captured information
- Being able to build a knowledge network from scratch, or enrich the contents with a knowledge network
Functionality III: The wiki stuff:
- Being able to create documents from within the system. They will be called native objects from now on.
- This implies an editor for this native objects. I would add a wysiwyg feature to make it more user friendly and avoid having to think about how it will end up looking, instead just getting to it from start.
So, where are we now?
- Being able to create a network of documents by specifying them by some technique (be it CamelCase or a typical select-and-click)
- Being able to link to pre-existing objects. I would like to be able to either create a typical text- based hyperlink or a more visual icon-based hyperlink (along with object name).
- This way I can provide another, more rich way of relating the information, by means of a document that would contain information and links to related objects.
- Being able to import existing objects outside the system. That is, being able to insert into the “catalog” the files progressively. In fact, the folder structure could be another taxonomy, the physical one.
- Potentially, being able to define sets of objects, to which I can assign metadata to the set as whole, such as name, description, and specific attributes. This can be easily implemented by associating metadata to categories themselves. This way the set is indeed a category with its particular properties.
Into a new way of accessing, organizing, classifying and managing the information. A new metaphor for storing, processing and retrieving the information inside a computer.
This could be reduced to a new, tag-enabled explorer, but it is indeed much more. It would be a new layer, a knowledge layer, for the file system, closer to the way human beings represent and think of information, as well as leveraging the indexing and searching technologies that are arising nowadays.A step beyond
In this era of information and collaboration, we should also be thinking in functionality such as synchronization, (web) publishing, group collaboration, remote access, discussion associated to each object, RSS feeds or syndication for new content, etc.How do we get there?
I see this functionality distributed among a number of products:
- Evernote, which as a great deal of what I’m after, only lacking the “view results” stuff, as well as the “wiki” or better termed “knowledge network” feature.[/o]
- MediaMonkey, has a nice way of cataloging music files. This is what I talk about when I say “edit metadata”.[/o]
- Windows Explorer, the multiple views like icons lists, tabular (detailed list), thumbnails, etc.[/o]
- Wikipad, or any other wiki for that matter, mainly PMWiki and Instiki.[/o]
- Copernic Desktop Search, for the search functionality and the way it presents the search results.[/o]
- Windows Desktop Search, for the search, preview and add-in functionalities.[/o]
- Scrapbook (Firefox extension), for capturing web content, cropping, highlighting and then searching. Has many other features and after onfolio’s buyout, I guess it will go further.[/o]
- Many others that at the time of this writing, I cannot recall well.[/o]
As for the specific actions, let’s build them from here.