Help with Personal Knowledge Management
January 19, 2011 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Need help with organizing and storing documents and files as part of personal knowledge management. Snowflakes inside.

I have a lot of documents, mostly of the field I am in and others which I can refer. The reference documents are mainly templates or examples that I can use at some point in time. For example, I store Powerpoint presentations for their wonderful organization/design of slides which I hope to use when making presentations.

There are other files such as ebooks on technical subjects, photography articles, web clippings, photos/pictures. For many files, I also have associated notes/annotations that I store in text files.

The pictures are not family photos, but of clipart and related pictures

I also read a lot of stuff on the internet and store them as bookmarks or on instapaper. All this information is in different media like pdfs, Word docs, videos etc.

The big question is how do I organize all this info in a way that is retrievable in say, another 5 years? [I have read this previous AskMe, but it does not go further than where I am now.

- I started using OneNote for writing down notes and web clippings, but again, how to organize within OneNote is my question? Also, when writing some annotations, how do I link it to the document/podcast/video without creating copies?

- I use various tools such as Noteliner for outlining, Picasa for pictures (but photos are another big headache)

- I have tried using twiddlywiki, but that is not working well for me

- I tried using native Windows tagging, but due to the sheer number of files I handle on a daily basis, I fall behind in this. Also, I am unable to arrive at a clear classification system for the tags

- To complete this, I also need a strategy to backing up these files (about 40 GB)

I am ok with purchasing software, but it would be best if it were open source and freeware. I am very computer savvy and find it weird that with all the tools available, I am unable to find some decent system to organize my knowledge.
posted by theobserver to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You can link to files with OneNote. Right click your text, click hyperlink, then browse for the file. Not sure if that's what you're talking about, but you don't have to create a copy then.

So you could have a link to the file, then a link to the text file that has associated notes about it right under it.
posted by amsterdam63 at 9:46 PM on January 19, 2011

ZIm Wiki might work for you. It's a little less "wiki-like" than Tiddly Wiki. For backup, get a Dropbox Account, or something similar.
posted by COD at 6:15 AM on January 20, 2011

I'm an interesting-tidbit-saver and have found that nothing works quite as well as organizing things in 3 ways:

Insanely organized bookmarks for web references - folders and sub folders and all that, export and backup periodically.

Insanely organized folders on the computer for electronic documents - fo example you could have a folder breakdown like this Photography - Articles - Criticism - Man Ray - Paris years. And in that folder have the article on Man Ray's Paris years and all associated notes you wrote and references to pictures (which you may choose to store in this folder or just reference from another folder (are you running windows and what kind?) Also, tag appropriately, especially for files, like music, that may go on a personal device at some point.

Insanely organized files for physical documents

This process is not easy or quick to initially implement, but it really gives the most flexibility to organize how your brain likes things organized. Also, backup of the bookmarks and electronic files is easy because you just backup files.

I'm about halfway through my journey doing this type of thing and the one biggest help other than just pure time has been really cleaning through most of the stuff to analyze whether I would realistically have need for it in the future or if I should just let it go and delete it. Your brain/ memory has limited capacity, so just think of it as keeping space open for new things.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:59 AM on January 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far.

WeekendJen: I also currently use a hierarchical folder structure, but my biggest issue is that many files fall under more than one category. For example, there are presentations that are good from a content and a slide design perspective.
posted by theobserver at 11:04 PM on January 20, 2011

If you're not down with the whole cloud aspect of Evernote — if you'd like to keep yourself to yourself, for example — you might want to experiment with a free form database. One that one of my professors introduced to us in grad school was askSam. I haven't used it myself beyond what I needed to do to get a grade, but it seemed very inclusive. It doesn't have any cloud aspects, however; it's entirely a standalone database, probably only good on one computer. It seems a little quaint over there on their site, but walk through a couple of the demos and you'll get the flavor.

I have embraced the cloud, myself, but I am still trying to solve this problem. I have too many computers and not enough Dropbox space! I have just started to use OneNote thanks to the green, so maybe that will solve some issues.
posted by clone boulevard at 11:06 PM on January 20, 2011

Also, I am unable to arrive at a clear classification system for the tags

my biggest issue is that many files fall under more than one category. For example, there are presentations that are good from a content and a slide design perspective.

I think your best starting point would probably be to create your master tagging/classification list. No matter what solution you choose you need to first think about your organizational priorities. Keep the list of tags on your desktop, or in your dropbox folder, or whatever, and going forward only use your pre-determined tags. You might find you add to them eventually, but you definitely need somewhere to start. Only then can you really work a solution.

Thanks for this, it's made me think about my own massive mess!
posted by clone boulevard at 11:21 PM on January 20, 2011

Response by poster: @clone Boulevard: askSam seems to be interesting, especially categories and the folder views. It looks quite similar to OneNote, though. I have downloaded the demo and will run through it.

I also like the master classification list suggestion, although I think I may have to have a two-part system - one templated and the other is free form to describe the special properties of a document.

On further thinking, I think what really I need is an "indexing" software where I can "add" files and then add notes and tags to it. When I add files into the indexer, it does not import or creating a copy of it (like askSam does), but creates a link (I don't need a hyperlink, just a reference to where the document is).

On copying to a disk all the files, the indexer should be able to find the files from the relative path rather than absolute ones [i.e., if I originalyl had all the files and the indexer under D:\knowledge and then move everything to E;\knowledge, the indexer should be able to update the paths inside itself].

Are there any tools like this fictional one?
posted by theobserver at 2:09 PM on January 21, 2011

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