A personal journey in information management


Information overload

When we think about organizing our own stack of personal, business and professional reference, is “information overload” the phrase that most often comes to mind? It is for me.

... a new ingredient - the magic sauce that makes this something really different.

I struggled with this for decades. It's nothing new but it is getting ever worse. Our ability to access, store and scan more and more information is making the problem grow at an alarming rate. We feel out of control. This story looks at some of the alternatives, and how one person built a solution.

That solution used a new angle on some existing ways of organizing. Plus a new ingredient - the magic sauce that makes this something really different. We'll get to the sauce later.

Indexing software

The first thing to get out of the way is text indexing software. Windows built-in search; X1; Copernic; Cindex; Macrex; SKY Index . . . many more. These programs can be useful. They undeniably help find things sometimes. Some are pretty buggy.

For me, indexing software offers only a limited solution. Why?

Search terms -

... because ... I can't always identify the appropriate word or phrase.

For example, I was looking for something I copied from the web about stress in children. I looked for 'reduce stress', 'stress reduction', 'cope with stress'. The specific item I wanted, when I found it by hunting, turned out to mention 'alleviate stress'.

Too many results -

... because ... far too often, when a search gives any hits at all, it gives too many hits for me to want to search through. In the case I just mentioned, searching for the word 'stress' alone gave far too many results (and I must stress this point!), 1,609 in all.

Drain on performance -

... because ... having indexing software running can slow a machine down. I've got a reasonably fast PC, but even so it can take a hit when indexing kicks in. For example, when moving files around or working on files temporarily, it will still index them. I know it's a temporary move, but the indexer doesn't, and we don't want to have to remember to turn the indexer off at that point.

Another performance issue is that though disks are cheap, space required for indexes is large, and if you do a daily backup the indexes add to its load.

Indexing alone is not enough -

... because ... whether I have indexing software or not, I have to impose some order on important material anyway - I just don't feel safe relying on indexing alone.

So what are the alternatives to indexing ⇒