[Abrams, 1997] Abrams, D. (1997). Human factors of personal web information spaces. Technical report, Knowledge Media Design Institute Technical Report 1, University of Toronto.


"Human factors of personal web information spaces" is a detailed statistical study of how people use bookmarks, including observations on filing and navigation patterns.

Many of the issues raised in the paper have been addressed by recent innovations in bookmarking. For example, browser-based bookmarks allow you to automatically check if pages have changed or disappeared. The flat tag-based organization of services such as http://del.icio.us reduce much of the cognitive load of organizing projects. http://del.icio.us also offers a chronological view of bookmarks.

This paper made me think about organizational strategies for categorized tasks. Tasks in Planner and other PIMs that allow you to directly hyperlink to resources (Microsoft Entourage, Microsoft Outlook) act as bookmarks, creating a personal information space annotated by the things you need to do.

Task- and schedule-related personal information suffers from many of the same problems as the World Wide Web. Information overload comes in the form of e-mail about tasks and appointments. The inbox is polluted by irrelevant messages. Task- and schedule-related information tends to be less chaotic than the Web because the former is personal by nature, but it still lacks aggregate structure and a global view.

This paper makes me want to look into the organizational strategies of PIM users. For example, how do people categorize their tasks? Creation-time filing or sporadic filing? How do they choose categories? How do they deal with long task lists? Do they really reorder tasks for priorities, or just scan through them and pick items? Can I characterize PIM users by scale, like the way Abrams describes light to heavy bookmark users, citing characteristic strategies?