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(PREPRINT DRAFT) Effort, Memory, Attention and Time: Paths to More Effective Personal Information Management

(PREPRINT DRAFT) Effort, Memory, Attention and Time: Paths to More Effective Personal Information Management

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PREPRINT DRAFT - PLEASE see final version

My Ph.D. thesis examines the reasons people struggle to stay organized in the fast-paced world of the Internet.

PREPRINT DRAFT - PLEASE see final version

My Ph.D. thesis examines the reasons people struggle to stay organized in the fast-paced world of the Internet.

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Published by: Max 'Electronic' Van Kleek on May 24, 2011
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05/26/2012

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Effort,Memory,AttentionandTime: PathstoMoreEffectivePersonalInformationManagement
by 
Max Goodwin Van Kleek 
Submitted to the Department of Electrical Engineering andComputer Sciencein partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science and Engineering at theMASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY June 2011c
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2011. All rights reserved. Author.............................................................Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceMay 20, 2011Certied by........................................................David R. KargerProfessorThesis Supervisor Accepted by .......................................................Leslie A. KolodziejskiChair, Department Committee on Graduate Students
 
Effort,Memory,AttentionandTime: PathstoMoreEffectivePersonalInformationManagement
by Max Goodwin Van Kleek 
Submitted to the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Scienceon May 20, 2011, in partial fulfillment of therequirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science and Engineering 
 Abstract
 With the widespread availability of powerful digital tools for storing, accessing,andsharinginformationanytimeandanywhere,whyissomuchinformationstilllost, forgotten, or kept on random pieces of paper? The work in this thesis findsthat such disorganization results from problems in the designs of the personalinformation management (PIM) tools in widespread use today. Such problemsimpedeinformationcapture,forcemanydiverseinformationformstobeleftout,and cause information to be easily forgotten.How can such problems be mitigated? Our
Information Scraps 
study, foundthat PIM tools should support a more diverse set of information, and prioritizethe conservation of a person’s time, attention, and memory for retained infor-mation items, so that such items can be effectively later used. We evaluate ap-proaches to achieving these goals through prototype tools we developed.Our two-year study of 
List-it 
, a simple note-taking tool, found that partici-pantsnaturallywrotedownalargevarietyofinformation,andthatnotesserved5primary roles: reminders, reference items, progress trackers, places to think, andarchivesforinformationofpersonalvalue. Ourexperimentintroducinglightweightstructured text and contextual activity capture with
Jourknow 
focused on tech-niques to aid the manageability of large note collections. Towards attention ex-tension,
Atomate 
demonstrated the use of reactive automation to help managethe deluge of interruptions and new information that afflicts many workers. Fi-nally,
Poyozo 
demonstrated a simple approach towards helping people maintainbetter awareness of their past activities.Together, these studies and systems identify the unmet needs of personal in-formationmanagementtoolstoday,andprovidepossiblecoursesofdirectionforaddressing them.Thesis Supervisor: David R. KargerTitle: Professor2
 
 Acknowledgments
TheworkinthisthesisowesmuchthankstoalargenumberofindividualswhomI have been in contact with over the last 10 years of being a graduate student atMIT.FirstandforemostIwouldliketothankmyparents,ShaunaandPatVanKleek,andgrandparentsTsuneeGoodwinandSueandDarrellVanKleek,forsupportinme patiently through this exceptionally long journey that, at times, seemed likeit might never end.No one has been more influential to my research than my co-advisors DavidKarger and mc schraefel, who encouraged me to seek, in equal parts, rich theo-retical questions and real-world problems that ordinary people faced every day. WithDavidandmcsguidanceIfoundafieldthataddressedbothperfectly,andaset of problems that affected millions of people every day. Their matchless stan-dards as well as those of my other committee advisors, Rob Miller and HowieShrobe, have been largely responsible for helping me conceive and realize themany projects that comprise this work. Among collaborators, Michael Bernstein was a instrumental collaborator onthe information scraps and Jourknow work, and his expertise has been indis-pensable throughout. Brennan Moore (aka zamiang) has been nothing short of amazing, and Poyozo and Atomate, in particular, were conceptualized and im-plemented with him. Greg Vargas and Wolfe Styke have been undergraduateresearch heroes, helping me build List-it and provide technical support for itsnearly 18,000 users.I would like to thank my “Ph.D. coaches” who have given me both academicand life advice and inspiration (and, in some cases even source code!) to getthrough the journey, including Bill Freeman, John Maeda, Paul Robertson, BenFry, Jamey Hicks, Ora Lassila, and Mark Adler.Jack Costanza and his team at CSAIL (in particular Eric Schwartz) deservespecial mention for eternal patience and dedicated 24/7 systems support for my 3

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