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Do the thinking

Sunday, July 03, 2005

I think I am going to stop clipping from the web. I have this idealized (read: imaginary) scenario in my head of building a personal, local, easily searchable reference library of things that interest me (or have interested me in the past). So I clip articles with gusto as I surf. And yes, there are times when I actually find something interesting in the virtual reams of information I've clipped.

I realized, however, that clipping actually offers very little value and is really a productivity drain. The problem with clipping anything that looks vaguely interesting is that there is little thought given to how the information integrates with my goals or actions. No mental connections are made, as I am relying purely on storage and retrieval for the benefit. One day, software may help connect some personal conceptual dots, but we are clearly a long way from getting any real assistance from software in this regard.

Why assume storage duties when it's much easier to offload storage onto others? As long as I have Google, do I really need to store copies of articles and other tidbits of info? True, it's highly frustrating to not be able to locate something you know you've seen before, but the times when this happens are pretty rare. The cost of clipping every interesting thing is probably not worth it.

Storing tagged pointers to resources (à la del.icio.us) may be a better approach than trying to store content itself. But even this is perhaps worthless. The real value in information comes from applying it to actual events. The application seems to come from thought, so I must do the thinking.

Before I was heavily invested in digital information, I did much more high level thinking. Now, I always assume that I can "put it together later" as long as have the source material readily available. The thing is, I never put it together. I rarely even search through my collected articles. I simply continue to harvest more source material.

And let's face it, I don't have time to think about every interesting article on the web. That would be like trying to savor every granule of salt in the sea.

So my new resolution is to decide at the moment I come across something whether it is worth doing the thinking right then and there. What does this entail? For me, it means absorbing the material, taking notes and considering the relationship between the information and my life and work; in other words, deciding how I can actually apply the information. Depending on the material, this could take a couple of minutes or a couple of hours. But if it's not worth doing right then, the reality is I will never do it. And I can always do a new web search later if I'm doing some planning and want some specific information to be used at that moment.

There is something to be said for having a subset of information that you know you care about that can be quickly searched. However, I think there is a lot more to be said for focused thought. We'll see how it goes.

Posted by murt at 1:17 PM

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You might enjoy this article," Finders Keepers?" from First Monday.

http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue9_3/jones/
7/03/2005 5:44 PM  

Blogger murt said...
Thanks, that's an interesting article. I want to clip it for future reference. :-)
7/03/2005 6:19 PM  

Anonymous Silvia said...
I use Scrapbook now, a Firefox extension. I can clip all the website or just a word. The interesting thing is that I read again or delete things I've clipped because they are handy.

ScrapBook 0.18.4 By Gomita
http://amb.vis.ne.jp/mozilla/scrapbook/index.php?lang=en
12/21/2005 4:47 PM  

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