Information wrangling

I’m not particularly happy with the state of how I collect, absorb, share, and store generic information electronically. (On the whole, I’m generally happy with how I browse information, however. It’s not too hard to spend too much time reading about interesting things.)

  • I use Google Reader to browse information, from which I can also share items I find interesting.

  • I use Delicious to share other things that I’ve read from plain old “web browsing”.

  • On my computer, I store in a BibTeX database a subset of whatever appears in the above two public feeds plus “other things” that I haven’t shared for whatever reason.

    The BibTeX database also contains links to local content on my machine, so I can still read articles and watch videos that I’ve collected, even away from a network.

  • Keywords or tags are used separately both in Delicious and in BibTeX to help organise the items therein, but the tagging is inconsistent and not kept in sync.

It’s all a bit of a mess. To top it all off, I still don’t have any good way of organising all this local information so that I can browse through it in a way that doesn’t remind me of combing through a poorly-maintained database (which is exactly what it is).

Furthermore, all of the organisation of my actual research literature I have no way of sharing with anyone. Someone coming along to do a similar literature review as I’ve done will either have to read my thesis or start from scratch, and even reading my literature review will hardly give a good overview for their research interests.

There are sites like Cite-U-Like and so on which aim to make academic literature reviewing a more “social” activity, but the fact that they are web applications means that I still need to locally sync my databases whenever I add new content. Manual syncing is simply not a useful solution. (Aside: I’m looking at you, Things.app.)

Furthermore, I can’t maintain an online database of research and be able to store the papers offline in a local database that contains a superset of the online content. In other words, I don’t want to maintain a folder structure and file-naming scheme for content that’s mirrored in a database.

All of these factors indicates to me that there’s still something missing to tie together all of these different aspects of information wrangling. I hope a solution rears its head at some stage in the not-too-distant future. What’s the point of 3D animation on the web if we don’t have similarly-advanced information systems with which to play?