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“Stuff Goes into the Computer and Doesn’t Come Out” A Cross-tool Study of Personal Information Management

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This paper reports a study of Personal Information Management (PIM), which advances research in two ways: (1) rather than focusing on one tool, we collected cross-tool data relating to file, email and web bookmark usage for each participant, and (2) we collected longitudinal data for a subset of the participants. We found that individuals employ a rich variety of strategies both within and across PIM tools, and we present new strategy classifications that reflect this behaviour. We discuss synergies and differences between tools that may be useful in guiding the design of tool integration. Our longitudinal data provides insight into how PIM behaviour evolves over time, and suggests how the supporting nature of PIM discourages reflection by users on their strategies. We discuss how the promotion of some reflection by tools and organizations may benefit users.
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... A wide range of research has been conducted on Personal Information Management (PIM) and knowledge workers in general, e.g. [4,5,21,31,39,49,54]. A few studies have focused on researchers [30,53]. ...
... How well-structured do you consider your current process to be when it comes to capturing and managing ideas? (1)(2)(3)(4)(5) 14 ...
... How well-structured do you consider your approach to your work in general to be? (1)(2)(3)(4)(5) 15 ...
... Studies in the literature reveal that individuals tend to follow different strategies (for example, stacking and filing) to manage their information ( Boardman and Sasse, 2004 ;Bondarenko and Janssen, 2005 ;Whittaker and Hirschberg, 2001 ). Boardman and Sasse (2004) examined the behavior of filing e-mails and editing bookmarks and stated that two-thirds of their users followed more than one method in information management. ...
... Studies in the literature reveal that individuals tend to follow different strategies (for example, stacking and filing) to manage their information ( Boardman and Sasse, 2004 ;Bondarenko and Janssen, 2005 ;Whittaker and Hirschberg, 2001 ). Boardman and Sasse (2004) examined the behavior of filing e-mails and editing bookmarks and stated that two-thirds of their users followed more than one method in information management. ...
... Therefore, most research focuses on improving or facilitating access through specific tools. However, some studies ( Boardman and Sasse, 2004 ;Bruce et al., 2004 ) have revealed that users do not take advantage of restore or access systems when they need the information again. Based on this finding, considering that individuals have no motivation to use restore or data recovery systems, they are not expected to give up their data storage habits in the future. ...
Article
The clutter of files can crash a PC and create psychological stress for individuals and cyber-security risks for enterprises. Therefore, managing digital data has become a significant issue for individuals and organizations. Although there are several articles and some research on individuals’ digital hoarding and cluttering habits, there are limited numbers of studies that associate these behaviors with people's business lives. To the best of our knowledge, no study has been found that measures and correlates individuals’ digital clutter behaviors and businesses’ digital clutter levels. This study defines digital hoarding as the acquisition of and failure to discard digital clutter and explores it as an issue. This study's main objective is to raise awareness about digital clutter and reveal the importance and potential risks of this concept for firms and employees. The research also aims to introduce a scale related to digital clutter into the literature and present a structure for measuring the digital clutter levels of individuals and enterprises and reveal the relationship among the factors. The digital clutter status of both individuals and enterprises was derived from 600 responses. This research reveals that those at the lower level of the organizational hierarchy, people with a high level of education, young people, and those with multiple social media accounts are more prone to digital hoarding behavior. The enterprise-related analyzes reveal that 6 to 10-year-old businesses and small businesses were more vulnerable to digital clutter. The study reveals that as firms transform digitally, they also transform their employees, and even if this is not enough to make the 50 and above age group superior, it still allows them to exceed expectations. This finding strengthens the estimation that the data management policies of elder firms may be interiorized by individuals, increase their awareness and prevent digital hoarding.
... Though reports of the number of files users store vary greatly, the number is always large: recent studies have found averages from approximately 4,700 (Hicks, Dong, Palmer, & McAlpine, 2008) to 15,000 files per user (Massey, TenBrook, Tatum, & Whittaker, 2014), with minimums as low as 1,000 (Gonçalves & Jorge, 2003) and maximums as high as 56,994 (Whitham & Cruickshank, 2017). The number of folders stored also varies across studies, for example from 56 (Boardman & Sasse, 2004) to 1,044 (Henderson, 2005), and in a study of one organisation the average increased 370% (from 2,400 to 8,900) over a five year period (Agrawal, Bolosky, Douceur, & Lorch, 2007). ...
... Zhang & Hu, 2014) to 12 (Bergman et al., 2010;Henderson & Srinivasan, 2009) or 16 (Gonçalves & Jorge, 2003;Hardof-Jaffe, Hershkovitz, Abu-Kishk, Bergman, & Nachmias, 2009b). Factors that likely influence the number of items in a folder include, among others, the amount of time that has passed since the collection or folder was created (i.e., more time provides more chances to add files; Boardman & Sasse, 2004) and the format of the files (e.g., users may store all their photos in one folder but are less likely to store all documents in one folder; W. Jones et al., 2015). Default folders have been found to have a mean of 19.42 files per folder (Bergman et al., 2010), and so may be fuller than folders in completely user-created branches, perhaps because they are more likely to be used to store frequently accessed documents (e.g., active project files); a complete comparison will require examining and comparing folder structures beyond those housing recently accessed files, including on devices where backups or personal archives are stored. ...
... Users thus appear to differ widely regarding most FM actions; what they seem to have in common, however, is a lack of reliance on soft file linking features such as aliases in Mac, shortcuts in Windows, and symlinks in Linux (Gonçalves & Jorge, 2003;Ravasio et al., 2004). Nonetheless, different approaches or strategies to organising have been identified among the varied findings, albeit rather broadly, so that we can describe organisers as: neat or messy (Boardman & Sasse, 2004), prone to saving or deleting (Berlin, Jeffries, O'Day, Paepcke, & Wharton, 1993), and prone to filing or piling (Malone, 1983), extensive filing or single folder filing (Henderson & Srinivasan, 2011), or mixing approaches (Trullemans & Signer, 2014a). To draw conclusions beyond these, studies are needed with commensurable contexts, participant characteristics, file system measures, and results reporting (Dinneen, Odoni, Frissen, & Julien, 2016). ...
Preprint
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Computer users spend time every day interacting with digital files and folders, including downloading, moving, naming, navigating to, searching for, sharing, and deleting them. Such file management has been the focus of many studies across various fields, but has not been explicitly acknowledged nor made the focus of dedicated review. In this article we present the first dedicated review of this topic and its research, synthesizing more than 230 publications from various research domains to establish what is known and what remains to be investigated, particularly by examining the common motivations, methods, and findings evinced by the previously furcate body of work. We find three typical research motivations in the literature reviewed: understanding how and why users store, organize, retrieve, and share files and folders, understanding factors that determine their behavior, and attempting to improve the user experience through novel interfaces and information services. Relevant conceptual frameworks and approaches to designing and testing systems are described, and open research challenges and the significance for other research areas are discussed. We conclude that file management is a ubiquitous, challenging, and relatively unsupported activity that invites and has received attention from several disciplines and has broad importance for topics across information science.
... Many personal information management studies have addressed the topic in terms of where records are saved, suggesting a largely static environment, wherein files are received or created and saved directly to where they are stored (Al-Omar and Cox, 2013;Albadri et al., 2016;Bergman and Whittaker, 2016;Boardman and Sasse, 2004;Dinneen et al., 2019;Dinneen and Julien, 2019;Fitchett et al., 2013;Gori et al., 2020;Henderson, 2005;Henderson and Srinivasan, 2009). Oh provides one of limited examples of studying personal information management as a more fluid ecosystem (Oh, 2012a(Oh, , 2012b(Oh, , 2013(Oh, , 2019, contributing to an understanding of the stages of personal information categorisation, particularly the need for temporary digital storage locations while records are in active use (Oh, 2012b(Oh, , 2013(Oh, , 2019. ...
... Of significance to our research is the use of the guided tour method of data collection. The guided tour is commonly conducted in the workplace, where participants show the researcher around their physical workplace, including their desktop, as well as electronic files and e-mail (see, for example, Boardman and Sasse, 2004;Everett and Barrett, 2012;Malone, 1983;Thomson, 2015). Thomson described it as: a hybrid visual-aural strategy, and entails a relatively shortened, planned entry into a field site by a researcher. ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction This paper considers how we can better manage personal records in the home b addressing questions such as how and why personal records are retained in an electronic form and how they are managed Method A qualitative method with semi-structured interviews was used. Participants were recruited through social media. The interviews included virtual guided tours of personal records.There were thirty participants in twenty-two interviews (some interviews were with couples). Analysis Each stage of the personal records management process described by participants was observed and categorised, resulting in an inclusive flow diagram. Results The management of personal records at home can be categorised and described in terms of a flow. Some commonalities were found between personal information management in the workplace and at home, such as the frequent use of e-mail to manage records and the use of micro-notes and reminders. Conclusion Personal records management at home can be described as a flow through which records progress. The fact that the study of personal information management has rarely addressed personal information management at home offers many opportunities for fruitful future research.
... It is essential for retrieval to be both successful and efficient as we cannot benefit from stored items unless they can be reaccessed [13]. Research consistently shows that users prefer to retrieve their files by means of folder navigation rather than query-based search [4,19,21,40,56]. This preference is not affected by advances in technology [6,28]. ...
... Furthermore, these pictures are usually not ordered chronologically, but separated into folders with few clear relations among them. And confirming other research on file retrieval [19,27], users seldom chose search to access their pictures. ...
Article
Full-text available
We tested the use of smartphones for retrieval of pictures of long-term, salient family events. Our goal was to replicate a study conducted a decade ago where participants used digital cameras. We found that smartphones affected picture retrieval in two contrasting ways. Overall, the constant availability of smartphones increased collection size. This increased the failure percentage for pictures downloaded to computer file system folders from an average of 43% in the original study to 71% in the current one. On the other hand, improved smartphone retrieval technologies including timeline, search, and face recognition reduced smartphone application retrieval failures to 29% on average. Overall, these two opposing tendencies canceled each other out, with no significant difference in failure percentage and retrieval time between the two studies. Results indicate that the magnitude of pictures is too much for us to manually handle and we must rely on technology for picture retrieval.
... ** -.09 * -.13 ** -.13 ** -.08 -.08 Bergman et al., 2003; Barreau, 2008;Hair et al., 2007;Hwang et al., 2015 ‫ממחקר‬ .) Barreau, 1995;Boardman & Sasse, 2004 .) ‫ה‬ ‫משנות‬ ‫במחקרים‬ ‫תואר‬ ‫ייאוש‬ -90 ‫רגשי‬ ‫כהיבט‬ ( ‫אישי‬ ‫מידע‬ ‫ניהול‬ ‫המאפיין‬ Barreau, 1995;Nardi et al., 1995 ...
Thesis
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The information society was defined by Daniel Bell (1976) as a post-industrial society where information leads processes of change and innovation. The constant flow of information in the 21st century is proving him correct. Today, people confront myriad streams of information from an overwhelming number of information channels. In the last decade, the amount of digital information has doubled every year (Jacobs, 2013; Schull, 2018). The information explosion, driven by the rapid development of new information technologies, has changed interactions between people and information and between people and the management of their own personal information (Bergman & Whittaker, 2016; Jones & Teevan, 2007). Personal information management (PIM) refers to the practices people use to acquire, organize, maintain, and retrieve information items as part of their daily routine (Jones, 2007). The personal experience of people with the vast amount of information available today manifests in changes in PIM practices (Jones et al., 2015), and in the emotions and feelings characterizing this encounter (Cushing, 2012). Most studies have focused on the use of specific PIM practices (e.g., filing and piling, navigating between folders, searching), ignoring the equally important affective aspects. Little work has examined the gaps between actual PIM behavior (how people manage information) and ideal PIM behavior (how people would like to manage information). Nor do previous studies offer a theoretical framework capturing a range of affective interactions between people and information or defining the whole affective experience of PIM. Study’s goals The study aimed to examine the affective aspects of people’s interactions with personal information and its management, with a sample of male and female participants of various ages. The research had four main goals. The first was to define the characteristics of the gaps between actual and ideal PIM behavior, drawing on Higgins’ self-discrepancy theory (1987). The second was to characterize the affective aspects of PIM and define their frequencies. The third was to examine the relations between the affective aspects of PIM and the use of practices (actual practice, ideal practices, and the gaps between them). The last goal was to define a typology of PIM behaviors and examine the affective aspects relating to them. Research questions A conceptual framework was constructed and validated to examine the affective aspects of PIM. This included the representation of the variables and their relations in two circles. The inner circle described sets of practices for the management of personal information (actual practice, ideal practices, gaps between them). The outer circle comprised the seven affective aspects of PIM: anxiety, efficacy, frustration, desperation, belonging, dependence and loss of control. It included three independent variables characterizing people who manage personal information: use of PIM platforms, age, and gender. Four research questions arose from the conceptual framework: (1) What is the actual and ideal use of PIM practices and what are the gaps between them? (2) What are the affective aspects of PIM? (3) What are the relations between the affective aspects and PIM practice use (actual, ideal, gaps)? (4) What are the types of PIM behaviors and their characteristics? Methodology A mixed methods approach was used to examine the affective aspects of PIM. This approach enables researchers to draw on the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative methods to deepen the observation of the research questions (Creswell, 2015). Most data were quantitative; the qualitative data were used to support the findings and suggest their meaning (Creswell, 2009). Quantitative data were used for the following proposes: measure actual and ideal practices and the gaps between them; examine the affective aspects of PIM; to define the relations between affective aspects and practices; define a typology of PIM behaviors. Qualitative data supported the findings by describing the affective experience of participants and giving examples of PIM behavior types. Participants included 465 respondents, 351 female and 114 male, aged 19-73. They filled in two questionnaires developed and validated for the study: a PIM practice questionnaire examining actual and ideal use of 25 practices, and a PIM affective experience questionnaire addressing the seven identified affective aspects. In addition, 16 in-depth one-hour interviews with eight females and eight males were recorded and transcribed. Quantitative data were analyzed via IBM-SPSS statistical software. Descriptive and explanatory procedures included Pearson correlation, t-tests for related and independent samples, two-step cluster analysis, and ANOVA. Qualitative data were analyzed using the Moustakas (1994) content analysis method, including horizontal and cluster of meanings analysis. Findings Findings revealed that the PIM experience becomes complex for people who manage personal information spaces in a digital, overloaded, and connected world. Participants were unsatisfied with their PIM behavior and wished to conduct more PIM practices that would enable them to reduce clutter and overload in the personal information space. Gaps between actual and ideal behavior were expressed in a complex and intense affective experience characterized by anxiety and frustration on the one hand but by a sense of high efficacy and little desperation on the other. The first research question examined the gaps between actual and ideal PIM behavior. Findings showed significant gaps between actual and ideal use for most practices. These gaps were mostly positive, revealing that participants wished to use more practices than they actually did and were not satisfied with their PIM behavior. Gaps were extremely large for organizing practices. Women had larger gaps between actual and ideal behavior; these were related to negative feelings and decreased with age. The second research question explored the affective experience of PIM. Findings revealed participants had high levels of anxiety when thinking about a possible loss of personal information or a failure of their digital platforms. They felt dependent on their personal information, were concerned about the amount of personal information they accumulated, and questioned their ability to organize it. On a more positive note, they expressed a sense of high efficacy in managing their personal information, seldom felt desperation, and felt more in control of their personal information than expected. Similar to the gender and age differences in the PIM practices, the affective experience was more intense for female participants and decreased with age. The third research question examined the relations between the affective aspects of PIM and the PIM practice use. Findings showed the affective experience of PIM was correlated mainly with PIM ideal behavior. For example, the more the participants felt anxiety, frustration, belonging, and dependency, the less they deleted information items and the more they filed emails in folders. With increased anxiety and frustration, participants wanted to use PIM practices less. The fourth research question examined types of PIM behaviors. The cluster analysis indicated four types of PIM behaviors differing by activity level (actual PIM) and satisfaction level (ideal PIM and gaps): passive and satisfied, active and satisfied, fairly active and unsatisfied, and active and fairly satisfied. Types differed in their range of affective aspects and in their use of digital PIM platforms. Conclusions and implications The study showed that people do not give up on managing their personal information spaces, despite the growing challenges posed by the information explosion and the divergent, multiple information technologies. However, it is impossible to ignore the intense negative affective experience accompanying PIM, including feelings of anxiety and frustration, or the substantial gaps between actual and ideal PIM behavior. Gaps can motivate people to actively reduce the discrepancies between actual and ideal behavior, but large gaps could harm motivation to manage the personal information space and trigger a more intense experience, especially in the unsatisfied type of information management behavior. The study has implications for research, consumer training, and platform design. Theoretically, it suggests self-discrepancy theory and the theoretical framework of the affective aspects of PIM could be useful in future PIM study and HCI research. In a more practical sense, it suggests principles for a training program to improve people’s PIM literacy skills. Finally, it indicates the need for platform designers to develop affective-sensitive and type-sensitive digital platforms for PIM.
... Traditionally, PIM research has focused on empirical investigations to improve systems and tool development (Boardman & Sasse, 2004). With our data analysis, our goal was to use the birth certificate as a gateway to understand the context in which the PIM and PDA is performed by a marginalized group (LGBQ parents in Ireland) in the context of this document. ...
Article
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This research reports on qualitative interviews with 31 participants who are Irish parents, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer (LGBQ), and who expressed difficulty in the process of obtaining birth certificates for their children. Our aim was to use personal information management (PIM) and personal digital archiving (PDA) as a lens to explore the invisible work that the Irish government requires of a sexual minority parent group to obtain “equal” treatment in the birth registration and birth certificate process. Our findings suggest overlap with existing information behavior research (IB) that explore invisible information work, IB as a burden, information marginalization, information vulnerability, and information overload, and the everyday in IB. We propose a new framework: personal information burden (PIM‐B) which is characterized by additional PIM activities, negative affect, lack of identity self extension to the personal information, and additional information seeking. We propose that a PIM‐B may be used as an indicator of inequality in future research.
... Finally, the role of software in influencing PIM and FM has been suggested by several studies, particularly because the tools (e.g., file managers) and software environments (e.g., operating systems or OS) adopted during some task enable, restrict, and affect user behaviour [4,11,18]. One study [3] explicitly examined the role of OS in FM, and found that participants retrieved files from their Mac computers faster than participants did on their own Windows computers. ...
Preprint
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Despite much discussion in HCI research about how individual differences likely determine computer users' personal information management (PIM) practices, the extent of the influence of several important factors remains unclear, including users' personalities, spatial abilities, and the different software used to manage their collections. We therefore analyse data from prior CHI work to explore (1) associations of people's file collections with personality and spatial ability, and (2) differences between collections managed with different operating systems and file managers. We find no notable associations between users' attributes and their collections, and minimal predictive power, but do find considerable and surprising differences across operating systems. We discuss these findings and how they can inform future research.
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This paper summarizes and synthesizes two independent studies of the ways users organize and find files on their computers. The first study (Barreau 1995) investigated information organization practices among users of DOS, Windows and OS/2. The second study (Nardi, Anderson and Erickson 1995), examined the finding and filing practices of Macintosh users. There were more similarities in the two studies than differences. Users in both studies (1) preferred location-based finding because of its crucial reminding function; (2) avoided elaborate filing schemes; (3) archived relatively little information; and (4) worked with three types of information: ephemeral, working and archived. A main difference between the study populations was that the Macintosh users used subdirectories to organize information and the DOS users did not.
This observational study investigates the methods people use in their workplace to organize web information for re-use. In addition to the bookmarking and history list tools provided by web browsers, people observed in our study used a variety of other methods and associated tools. For example, several participants emailed web addresses (URLs) along with comments to themselves and to others. Other methods observed included printing out web pages, saving web pages to the hard drive, pasting the address for a web page into a document and pasting the address into a personal web site. Differences emerged between people according to their workplace role and their relationship to the information they were gathering. Managers, for example, depended heavily on email to gather and disseminate information and did relatively little direct exploration of the Web. A functional analysis helps to explain differences in “keeping” behavior between people and to explain the overall diversity of methods observed. People differ in the functions they require according to their workplace role and the tasks they must perform; methods vary widely in the functions they provide. The functional analysis can also help to assess the likely success of various tools, current and proposed.
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In this article we suggest a user-subjective approach to Personal Information Management (PIM) system design. This approach advocates that PIM systems relate to the subjective value-added attributes that the user gives to the data stored in the PIM system. These attributes should facilitate system use: help the user find the information item again, recall it when needed, and use it effectively in the next interaction with the item. Driven from the user-subjective approach are three generic principles which are described and discussed: (a) The subjective classification principle, stating that all information items related to the same subjective topic should be classified together regardless of their technological format; (b) The subjective importance principle, proposing that the subjective importance of information should determine its degree of visual salience and accessibility; and (c) The subjective context principle, suggesting that information should be retrieved and viewed by the user in the same context in which it was previously used. We claim that these principles are only sporadically implemented in operating systems currently available on personal computers, and demonstrate alternatives for interface design.
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Virtual environments based on the desktop metaphor provide limited support for creating and managing project-specific work contexts. The paper discusses existing approaches to supporting higher-level user activities and presents a system named UMEA (User-Monitoring Environment for Activities). The design of the system is informed by activity theory. The system: (a) organizes resources into project-related pools consisting of documents, folders, URLs, and contacts, (b) monitors user activities, (c) automatically adds new resources to pools associated with active projects, and (d) provides personal information management tools linked to individual projects. An empirical evaluation of the system is reported.
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With the increasing flow of email, strategies for organising email messages become more important. Research describes various strategies used for archiving and retrieving messages. Categorising these strategies is important to identify special needs, problems and solutions for users of each strategy. This study extends earlier categories by grouping users after folder usage and cleaning frequency. Conclusions are that the strategies are affected by the choice of mail tool and number of incoming messages, but no influence by the work task or position could be found. Some advice on interface design to support the different strategies is given.