Information to Insight: What’s in Your Personal Knowledge Management Toolkit?
What do you do with all the useful content you find on the Web? Read it immediately? Bookmark it to read later in an app like pocket or in your web browser? Hope you remember it later? Lose it?
People I meet often say that it’s exciting and overwhelming to deal with so much content every day. At work, at home, whenever they use the Web. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, pay attention to your digital practice—use a different tool or try a new method.
In my last post I wrote about adding new tools and methods to your digital practice (a To-do list app served as the example). When you’re planning a change in your digital practice, consider:
- your past experiences
- how you frame the presenting challenge
- the benefits of making a change, and
- what a digital tool or new method can do for you in the long run.
If you need to do research and do it well—for work or play—you’ll need a reliable system for finding, collecting, organizing, storing, and using web content.
Are you confident about your research skills? Happy with how you handle information? Good at keeping up with web content? It’s OK if you’re not there yet, doing solid research and managing web content can be a challenge.
It’s easy to get sloppy, so start by figuring out a strategy, making a plan, and finding some helpful tools. Decide on a process or combination of steps that will take you through finding, tracking, using, and sharing the content you need every single day. Bad habits lead straight to confusion, unnecessary work, wasted time, losing important stuff from the Web, and watching energy swirl down the drain. Get hold of your situation:
- what needs to happen?
- describe how you’d like to work with web content–write on it, add sticky notes, add labels, organize more…
- identify the web content that you’ll start collecting, commenting on, or tracking
- figure out if and how you’ll organize your own and other people’s content
- test out some tools
It seems like we consume more web content every day, and that means we need access to our digital stuff (content) on different devices (phones, tablets, desktops, laptops, etc.) for different reasons. A digital practice includes the hardware, software, and apps we use along with the experience, knowledge, and skills it takes to get everything done.
Improve your digital practice and it will be easier to take advantage of digital content for your research. Alone, in teams, or across organizations, people are creating digital libraries of resources and research with personal knowledge management tools like today’s example, Diigo.
Pronounced as Dee’go, it is an abbreviation for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff.’
It’s easy to appreciate a personal knowledge management tool that will help you:
- read productively
- research effectively
- keep up with pieces of content you find on the Web
- curate the content you care about.
I believe that using personal knowledge management tools can change your relationship to digital content. You’ll be less stressed about how much content you deal with, what you may have saved once, or where to look for whatever you need. Your energy will be better spent:
- getting personal with valuable web content—take screenshots / make notes right there / save pages / find what you save when you need it / keep your research private or share it
- curating content—pull it together / comment / use web content to show a perspective / let people know what you’re about
- keeping track of the building blocks you’ll need for bigger stories—facts, figures, examples, explanations, metaphors, connections, and so on
- learning from what other people share.
As you think about tools and methods for your digital practice, pay attention to how you like to work now and the time you’ll have to learn. Be honest about how much change you can handle and whether or not you’ll follow through. Pick tools you can use to deepen your understanding or develop new perspectives—the best tool won’t help if it’s not a good fit for you.
Can Your Research Tools Do Digital?
Highlights, sticky notes, and scribbles in the margins are tried and true ways we learn to interact with and make sense of hard copy. When it comes to the Web, accomplishing simple off-line tasks like annotating documents or making notes can be mystifying. When faced with taking an offline practice digital, it helps to review and test different tools so that you can find what works for you.
It’s no surprise that a tool originally built for educators gives you a fine place to start. If you want to highlight, annotate, tag, capture, search, and share web content as part of your research practice, Diigo can help.
- Pricing and features vary by plan
- You can test drive the free version
- All plans are cross-browser and iPhone / iPad / Android compatible
- Full text search with Basic and Premium plans
- Educators get a special deal
For example, you can use the Diigo web collector extension for Chrome (or another popular browser) and easily save or interact with webpages by tagging, taking notes, searching, and sharing with others. You choose whether to make your notes public or private and how open and social you want to be with Diigo. Whatever your choices, Diigo uses the cloud to store everything and give you ready access across different devices.
The more you use Diigo to interact with web content, the richer the resulting text mark-up will be. Your analyses, observations, notes, drawings, and other interactions can create a foundation for understanding a new subject or topic. You can then enrich your understanding by highlighting, annotating, capturing, and tagging relevant webpages. If you want to make new information meaningful in your situation, engaging and interacting with relevant web content will help.
Keeping web content organized while you work, storing it for later, then finding and searching it when you need to can be challenging in any circumstance—when you throw different devices and operating systems in the mix it can be downright confusing without the right tool.
Stay Organized with Tags
After you establish a reliable practice to guide you through consistently consuming, storing, retrieving, and searching web content you’ll feel more in control. Consistently applying tags to pieces of content will be an important part of any organizational system and most useful tools. Tags are simply labels that you create and use in a particular situation or across your programs, tools, apps, blog posts, etc. Tags allow you to group pieces of content you collect based on subject matter, relevance, interest, applicability to a project, or any other classification scheme you dream up. If your program or app uses tags, expect to be able to sort and filter pieces of content based on tags as well.
Imagine that you need to do some market research on your competition. As you click through competitor’s websites, you can use Diigo to:
- highlight calls to action (CTA) that ask a website visitor to DO something [tags: CTA + value judgment (ex. good, bad, etc.) + purpose (ex. contact, buy, sign up)]
- make notes about the competition’s target audience groups [tags: target audience + descriptor of the audience (ex. business owners, consumers)]
- keep track of prices and services [tags: prices, local, web, services]
- archive individual webpages as you visit [tag: original webpage]
- share research findings and conclusions with your team [tags: share + marketing, sales, Jane, John, etc.].
If you need to do research for a new blog post or other piece of content, you can search Twitter for information and save favorite tweets directly to Diigo. To save time and promote knowledge sharing, you can also publish your annotations as stand-alone blog posts–explore Diigo’s own blog for more tips and ideas.
I suggest that you explore the various web tools Diigo offers and imagine how those tools could improve your workflow and make your life easier. Eventually you’ll have an organized properly-sourced library of valuable content that is easy to access, use, and share.
Create a digital practice that will bring clarity to your information overload. It’s well worth the time and effort!