Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dealing with Knowledge Artifacts that are still in paper form

When my wife and I lived in Solana Beach California my home office wall had about a 20 foot wide set of bookshelves. When we moved to Sedona, my home office shrunk to a 10x12 foot room. I also went from an ocean view to a mountain view - the change in views is fine but I miss the library shelf space! Since I consider myself, like many people, to be a "knowledge worker", I thought that it would be fun to talk about how I deal with storage problems for physical artifacts like ACM and AAAI journals, books, etc. Please send me your ideas via email, and I will add them to my list here.

Fortunately, most journals are also available online, and articles can be copied for personal use. Before throwing out old journals I take a quick look for articles that might be of use in the future and I do a web search including the journal name and the article name. Articles in the ACM Portal or AAAI Digital Library (for example) can be copied locally for personal use by members after logging in. I used to keep journals, in paper form, almost forever but now having just high (possible) value articles stored on my local file system and indexed for search is good enough. I usually just save plain text, but if figures look especially useful I save them also.

Books are more of a problem. When we moved 7 years ago, I reduced the size of my technical library from about 400 books to about 150. Now when I purchase new books, I try to get rid of an equal number as gifts to my local library or sell them at a local used bookstore. A few times a year I go to reference a book that I have let go, but in general, I think that my technical library might be more useful with fewer books because I can find things very quickly.

Anyway, local storage works well for knowledge artifacts that other people create - usually storage and archival for personal use is allowed. For stuff that I produce (except for my published books that are owned by my publishers), I prefer public web storage.

I find that is a fantastic resource for organizing bookmarks for both knowledge artifacts on the web and for fun stuff that I might want to find again.

For fun stuff: I used to keep travel and family photographs on my web site, but now I keep the best pictures on Flickr. I am tempted to start storing video clips (and I have some great stuff like dancers in India and Africa, etc.) on when I have time.

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