How do we cope with our growing digital lives?  How do we manage the ever increasing amounts of digital stuff we create and use?  This is the challenge of Personal Information Management.   



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Cloud-based information travel runs into some turbulence

My love affair with cloud-based information services is now in the post-honeymoon period. I know the many benefits of these services and use them heavily:  Google Apps,  Mindmeister, Flickr, and Delicious among them. Yet as my dependence on them grows, I am starting to see what this dependence costs me.

First, there is the matter of network connectivity.  In the past month I ran into situations where the lack of instant on, immediate access to these services has cost me.  Flickr uploads that take forever; Mindmeister mindmaps not available for me to jot down that quick thought or those meeting notes; A google e-mail or document not immediately available to me.  The explanation for why this happens is rarely clear, I only know that at those moments I wish the files were on my own machine.  I'm starting to think that my assumption that I will always have a fat pipe, and that this pipe will only get fatter and more reliable with time may not be correct.  Given the net neutrality controversy and what I see to be the increasing fragility of our economic, financial, and energy infrastructures, I am less sanguine than I was a year ago about relying on the "cloud" to store my data.

Then there is the question of data fragmentation.  Each cloud-based information service is its own data silo. I want to be able to search across all my information with a single search, and these services don't let me do that. Then there is the question of vendor lock-in. The more data you put in a service and the more time you spend with it, the greater the disruption should you ever need to get your data out. Mindmeister requires me to export one mindmap file at a time. Flickr only lets me download one photo at at time. If I want to download the thousands of photos I have in that service, then I need to buy additional third party software.  Google docs is better, but it too only lets me export 2GB of files at a time--and it's not clear to me how smooth this process will be. My use of the Delicious bookmarking service is another case in point.  I will discuss this in a follow-up post.

This is part of a series of posts summarizing my PIM activities in 2011.


CC image, courtesy of Yuan2003 on Flickr

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