PIM Book overload part 2: Keeping Found Things Found – The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management by William Jones


And another one! Books on PIM are just like London buses!

“Keeping Found Things Found” is by William Jones at UW (where does he find the time? ;-), and shares its title with the research group where he works. I’m working my way through this one, so more details soon.

In the meantime: 

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PIM Book overload part 1: Personal Information Management by William Jones, Jaime Teevan, and a cast of thousands

pimbook   Well, all of a sudden, there’s a lot of books on Personal Information Management. William Jones at UW has been particularly productive! The first book is called “Personal  Information Management”,  and is an collection of papers by many of the top researchers in the field, edited by William Jones (UW) and Jaime Teevan (MSR). Many of the papers were the result of the PIM 2006 workshop in Seattle, and are grouped into four main sections:

  1. Studies of PIM behaviour
  2. New technology – Email! search! structure! I’m particularly excited to see Diane Kelly and Jaime Teevan’s chapter on evaluation. Cool technology is one thing, seeing if it can be used, let alone helps the user, is quite another!
  3. PIM and the individual – The 2 chapters highlight individual differences between users, and how the management of personal health information is an important PIM domain.
  4. PIM and group information management

Full TOC below. You can buy from Amazon (Personal Information Management) or go support your friendly local bookstore … !  TOC 1. Introduction

William Jones (University of Washington) , Jaime Teevan (Microsoft Research)

Part I. Understanding Personal Information Management2. How People Find Personal Information

Jaime Teevan (Microsoft Research), Robert Capra (University of North Carolina), Manuel Pérez-Quiñones (Virginia Tech)

3. How People Keep and Organize Personal Information

William Jones (University of Washington)

4. How People Manage Information over a Lifetime

Catherine C. Marshall (Microsoft)

5. Naturalistic Approaches for Understanding PIM

Charles M. Naumer (University of Washington), Karen E. Fisher (University of Washington)

Part II. Solutions for Personal Information Management 6. Save Everything: Supporting Human Memory with a Personal Digital Lifetime Store

Desney Tan (Microsoft Research), Emma Berry (Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Microsoft Research), Mary Czerwinski (Microsoft Research), Gordon Bell (Microsoft Research), Jim Gemmell (Microsoft Research), Steve Hodges (Microsoft Research), Narinder Kapur (Addenbroke’s Hospital), Brian Meyers (Microsoft Research), Nuria Oliver (Microsoft Research), George Robertson (Microsoft Research), Ken Wood (Microsoft Research)

7. Structure Everything

Tiziana Catarci (Università di Roma “La Sapienza”), Luna Dong (University of Washington), Alon Halevy (Google), Antonella Poggi (Università di Roma “La Sapienza”)

8. Unify Everything: It’s All the Same to Me

David R. Karger (MIT)

9. Search Everything

Daniel M. Russell (Google), Steve Lawrence (Google)

10. Everything through Email

Steve Whittaker (University of Sheffield), Victoria Bellotti (PARC), Jacek Gwizdka (Rutgers)

11. Understanding What Works: Evaluating PIM Tools

Diane Kelly (University of North Carolina), Jaime Teevan (Microsoft Research)

Part III. PIM and the Individual  12. Individual Differences

Jacek Gwizdka (Rutgers), Mark Chignell (University of Toronto)

13. Personal Health Information Management

Anne Moen (University of Oslo and University of Washington)

Part IV. PIM and Other People 14. Group Information Management

Wayne G. Lutters (University of Maryland), Mark S. Ackerman (University of Michigan), Xiaomu Zhou (University of Michigan)

15. Management of Personal Information Disclosure: The Interdependence of Privacy, Security, and Trust

Clare-Marie Karat (IBM TJ Watson), John Karat (IBM TJ Watson), Carolyn Brodie (IBM TJ Watson)

16. Privacy and Public Records

Michael Shamos (CMU)

17. Conclusion William Jones (University of Washington), Jaime Teevan (Microsoft Research)

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PIM Workshop at CHI2008 – accepted papers


Accepted papers have been announced for the Personal Information Management workshop at CHI2008 in Florence.

Loads of good stuff (see full list of accepted papers), but here’s a few highlights which caught my eye:

  • “Evaluating Personal Information Management Using an Activity Logs Enriched Desktop Dataset” (Sergey Chernov, Gianluca De martini, Eelco Herder, Michal Kopycki, Wolfgang Nejdl) – real-world evaluation is a key challenge for the PIM community. The very nature of personal information means its hard to get access, hence the need to construct data-sets of test corpora, similar to those used in the Information Retrieval community.
  • ” From Novice to Expert: Personal Information Management Behaviors in Learning Contexts” (Deborah Barreau) – Deborah wrote one of the seminal early 90s papers on digital PIM so I look forward to hearing about what she’s working on now from the perspective of Educational IT.
  • An Overview of Web-based Monitoring: Future Directions and Challenges” (Melanie Kellar) – Melanie, one of my colleagues at Google UX will be talking about her PhD work on online information seeking and associated management practices such as bookmarking.
  • “Collaborative Personal Information Management With Shared, Interactive Tabletops” (Anthony Collins, Judy Kay) – I’m intrigued, dare I say it all sounds a bit oxymoronic ,”Collaborative personal” …?

See you there?

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PIM as peformance art – list slammin’

Two list slams are happening next week in the SF Bay Area c/o Sasha Cagen:

I’m going to try and make the first, I’m intrigued to see how performance-y its going to be …

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Personal information heath – 2 stories from the NY Times

Not one but two stories in this week’s Health section (yes, yes, I know I’m getting to that age when I don’t throw Health sections straight in the recycling bin!)

  • A Clutter Too Deep for Mere Bins and Shelves – Hoarding and too little organization can be bad for you. My favourite quote from this article, focused on the physical world, is “How are you going to shoot a couple of hoops with your son if you can’t even find the basketball?”. Suffering from chronic disorganization? The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization can help. Interestingly the article does not consider the opposite end of the spectrum – and the health issues connected with being over-organized.
  • Giving Disorganized Boys the Tools for Success – Some parents are paying “organizational tutors” to help their kids organize their time and stuff. Commentary: When will kids start paying someone to help their parents manage their email?
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Personal information culture – Sasha Cagen’s To-do List


Sasha Cagen, a near-neighbour of mine in San Francisco, has published a book all about to-do lists – To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us.

One of my complaints about HCI research into PIM is that it focuses on the organization and dis-organization of scientist, engineer, and business-y types. In contrast, “To-do list” is refreshingly real world. The book is itself a list – a list of to-do lists from all aspects of life – new years resolutions, lists you make whilst bored at work, relationships, shopping and more. All the lists were sent to Sasha’s To-do list magazine and blog, and each comes with a background story from the original list author, and a related “DIY list idea” from Sasha.

I couldn’t resist a list of some of my favourites:

  • A recovering list obsessive
  • Contacting God
  • Lofty goals
  • The list that won’t die
  • A list in code

Get yourself a copy to balance out your PIM bookshelf!

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Kanji on the hills above Kyoto

If you find yourself in Kyoto and want to escape the hubbub, I recommend a climb up Mount Daimon-ji, famous because of the large kanji symbol (literally meaning “big”) carved on the hillside. You can see it huge from the centre of town, look on the hillsides to the northeast.


For such a beautiful nearby hike its surpisingly hard to find. Here’s what you do

  • Travel to Ginkankuji, “The Silver Temple”, in the northeastern outskirts of Kyoto. There are plenty of buses from Karawamachi station.
  • Facing the temple entrance, head down the street to the left, and take the first right before you go through the stone gate. Note there’s no need to pay the 500yen entrance to the table.
  • Start heading up the valley, past the car park. The path splits a couple of times, take the branch each time with the most “footpath-looking” signs!
  • After 30 mins you arrive at a small shrine at the centre point of the kanji, and you will be rewarded – if its clear – with a beautiful sweeping view over Kyoto, all the way down to Osaka to the south and the hills of Kurama to the north.
  • The kanji turns out to be made up of a system of concrete bonfires which are lit for festivals.
  • You can climb up further to the summit of the mountain through lovely forest (another 20 minutes each way – 466m). The path continues east from the summit. Watch out for snakes! I walked 200 or so metres further and saw the biggest snake I’ve ever seen slithering into the buses. Admittedly I haven’t seen that many snakes, but I was glad I had my trusty walking stick!

Here are some more pics:




Posted in Hiking, travel, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

MyLifeLots – Gordon Bell in the New Yorker

Its not every day that PIM makes it into the hallowed pages of the New Yorker. Well, May 28’s New Yorker has an interview with Gordon Bell of MyLifeBits fame – a “lifelogging” project which is archiving a stream of his life experiences – well that much which is currently digitisable:

  • Photos (58000 and counting, thats nearly as much as some of my more prolific Flickr contacts). For this he uses a “SenseCam”, a device he wears round his neck which uses infrared to detect people and scene changes which it promptly takes a photo of.
  • Phone conversations (I wonder if he plays a “this conversation may be recorded for life archiving purposes” when calling data centres)
  • Window management on his desktop – e.g. opening and closing applications
  • “Ephemera” such as wine bottle labels.

Although the article has little new in the way of technology – it does have a few interesting anecdotes:

  • Bell cites 3 major “eiphanies” in starting MyLifeBits – (1) Raj Reddy’s late-90s book digitization project made him realise the technology was possible, (2) Vannevar Bush’s legendary Memex papers of the 1940s were an early influence, raising the possibility of hyperlinked documents and images,  and (3) a desire to make a “personal transaction processing system”, one which can prove you did X or said Y at time Z. Maybe this will come bundled with MS Windows 2008? (-;
  • Bell has a personal assistant to help him with the scanning. I think we can forgive him this, he’s in his 70s.
  • Retrieval is still the challenge. Modern computer technology makes experience capture and storage trivial. However, how does one get back to that particular photo of the cute girl you met at the party last week? Microsoft’s Horowitz details time-based retrieval techniques (e.g. show me “July 4th 2007” but it remains to be seen how well this scales to an archive of the size of Bell’s)
  • Bell is based in San Francisco where he likes to stir things up by wearing a C.I.A. cap. I like his style!

More on MyLifeBits here.

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The Utah Subway

Just back from Zion NP in Utah, a truly amazing place. Thanks Mor and Tonya for inviting me along, and to Mor for taking the pics.

zion valley

We did 3 fantastic hikes – all of which I think would make my lifetime top 20 (if I kept one)

  • Firstly, Subway, which we did top-down, the more exciting direction. This is way off the tourist roster and was positively Indiana-Jones-esque. Imagine a 10 mile long slot canyon, hundreds of sheer rock face above you on both sides, carved into wonderfully surreal shapes by the occasional flash food. You need 60 feet of rope, although Mor managed to bring 60 metres (he should get a job with Nasa ;-). You need the rope for 2 of 3 spots where you need to abseil down waterfalls and small cliffs, so make sure you have someone who knows ropes, how to belay etc. The water was pretty low for us, but I still got wet – there’s a couple of places where you have to swim (imagine carrying 60 metres of rope over your head whilst treading water!). In the end I just hiked in my swimming trunks.


  • We also did “The Narrows” bottom-up – basically hiking up a river in the bottom of a canyon. Top-down is the classic backcountry 15 miler which gets you away from the hordes who do it bottom-up. We set off at 9am on a Sunday since we didn’t have a permit for top-down, and were basically alone for 90% of the hike. So the morale is – leave early.


  • The third hike was Angels Landing in the valley, a prime spot to head to for amazing views. Its much more accessible than Subway, but thankfully is steeper and the final portion involves clambering up a ridge with a chain which puts off a lot of the daytrippers. The views are amazing and the path itself is an engineering marvel.

angelsOther tips:

  • Depending on water levels you may get soaked, and if the risk of flash floods is high they don’t let you go up the Narrows or anywhere near Subway.
  • There’s a lottery to get a permit here for Subway and Narrows (top-down). You can turn up the day before but you have to get there early I’m told.
  • For both hikes, its worth renting canyoneering boots and a stick from Springdale just outside the park. Incredibly, quite a few people do the trek in heavy boots.
  • Park your car outside the park in Springdale and take the shuttle in.
  • Oscars in Springdale is great for dinner. And lunch. And breakfast. They do real beer too (Utah isn’t as anti-fun as rum ous might have it), including Polygamy Porter, the Mormon’s favourite! Oscar’s Cafe 948 Zion Park Blvd. Springdale, Utah 84767 (435)772-3232
  • We stayed at the Zion Park Hotel – which proved a satisfactory motel. One weirdism – the showers are designed for ewoks so you have to squat down to wash your hair (Zion Park Motel, 865 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767, 435-772-3251).
  • More Zion routes on canyoneeringusa.com.
  • More pictures courtesy of Mor (warning – Rick in swimming trunks):
Posted in Hiking, travel | 2 Comments

Setting up Vista for my 97yo gran

I’m at SFO, about to fly to the UK, and I have an upcoming challenge: setting up my 97yo gran’s new Vista PC. Oh, for a relaxing holiday (-;

My Gran is an absolute superstar and has been using an Amstrad Emailer for several years, becoming a capable text-only emailer (she was a secretary for 50 years so typing is no challenge!).
My family has decided to try an upgrade since the Emailer has a tiny keyboard and screen, has poor spam filtering, and does not handle photos well. The risk is that a PC is much more complex and needs to be as locked down as possible. Although she’s fine at typing, I don’t think she’ll be up to window management. She lives alone so there will be no local support, and I live 8 time zones away …

Ideally I’d like to setup email and web access in “kiosk” mode, so that my gran can’t inadvertently minimize windows, lock the screen, or prompt any other of the zillion potentially confusing things that PCs like to do.

Surprisingly I can’t find much on this online. I’m aware of the MS Accessibility tutorials, and Alan Cantor’s excellent guide for setting up PCs for older users. These focus on setting up keyboard-based control and the like. However, I think I have to go further and lock down the PC in some kind of kiosk mode. I’m hoping to setup Firefox in kiosk mode, or IE if I have to, hardcoded for Gmail as a first step.

Watch this space for how it goes …

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