Filers, pilers and other strategies of document management - do your recognize yourself?

Many researchers tried to classify people in groups depending on PIM strategies. Here's a short overview of classifications.

Paper documents

Malone 1983 [2]: files and piles are the basic building blocks of paper document management.

  • neat: designate a category for every document and place it the location corresponding to that category; the location may have been a folder inside a filing cabinet, a paper tray, or a named pile.
  • messy: pile up documents over time, in a less structured way.
Whittaker and Hirschberg, 2001 [10]
  • filers: filers amassed more information, and accessed it less frequently than pilers;  filers engage in premature filing: to clear their workspace, they archive information that later turns out to be of low value; given the effort involved in organizing data, they are also loath to discard filed information, even when its value is uncertain
  • pilers: tend to amass less documents and access it frequently than filers

Computer files

Boardman and Sasse 2004 [9]:

  • total filers: file majority of items on creation.
  • extensive filers: file extensively, but leave many items unfiled.
  • occasional filers: file occasionally, leave most items unfiled, have few folders.

Henderson 2009 [3]:

  • filing strategy: variants of the pro-organizing, frequent-filer and keeper categories identified by others - filer is organized, with just in time folder creation, combination of browsing and searching only as a last resort, the hierarchy structure is medium in depth and width and has a moderate number of unclassified top level folders.
  • piling strategy: analogous to messy, no-filers, keepers, and organizing neutral strategies identified by other researchers
  • structuring strategy:variants of the pro-organizing, frequent-filer and keeper categories identified by others - high depth, low level of unclassified files, folders created in advance or just in time creation and consider themselves to be fairly organized.

Email

Mackay 1988 [1]

  • prioritizers: concentrate on managing incoming messages
  • archivers: use email to archive information for future use
  • requesters and responders: use email for task delegation

Whittaker and Sidner 1996 [6]

  • no filers: allowing all their email to pile up in the inbox using search to retrieve emails
  • frequent filers: attempted to place all their emails into folders
  • spring cleaners: periodically attempting to put their emails into folders

Balter 1997 [5]

  • no filers: allowing all their email to pile up in the inbox using search to retrieve emails
    • folderless cleaners
    • folderless spring-cleaners
  • frequent filers: attempted to place all their emails into folders
  • spring cleaners: periodically attempting to put their emails into folders

Boardman and Sasse 2004 [9]:

  • frequent filers: file or delete most incoming messages everyday
  • extensive filers: try to file many messages everyday (employ different above mentioned strategies e.g. a combination of frequent filer, spring cleaner, and no-filer)
  • partial filers: file only a few (<5) messages everyday (employ different above mentioned strategies e.g. a combination of frequent filer, spring cleaner, and no-filer)
  • no-filers: do not file any messages.

Gwizdka 2004 [7]

  • cleaners: have specific times for dealing with email, and don‟t keep events or to-do items in their email
  • keepers: read email constantly, allowing tasks to be interrupted by email; they keep events and to-do items, and search their email archives.

Web bookmarks

Abrams at al 1998 [8], depending on whether and when the user saved web bookmarks during a browsing session

  • no-filer
  • creation-time filer
  • end-of-session filer
  • sporadic filer

Boardman and Sasse 2004 [9]:

  • extensive filing: file many bookmarks as they are created or at the end of browsing session (employ different above mentioned strategies)
  • partial filing: file bookmarks sporadically (employ different above mentioned strategies)
  • no-filers: never file, all folders abandoned
  • no collectors: not collecting bookmarks

Boardman and Sasse also found out that people use different strategies in different hierarchies. People filed more files than they did email and bookmarks. Kamaruddin [4] studied folder creation and found that people either plan in advance or retrospectively create folders and employ both strategies depending on the project. Note that she classified folder creation and not people into groups. This is contrary to Henderson's study where she clearly divided people who create folders in advance and people who create folders retrospectively. Our study (see Publications) also showed that people employ different strategies depending on project/task evolution. Some tasks are well defined in advance, while others 'become tasks' after a while (when users see them as tasks) and might or might even not get organized in folders (cost/benefit approach).

[1] Mackay, W.E., More than just a communication system: diversity in the use of electronic mail. in CSCW'88
[2] Malone, T.W. How do people organize their desks? Implications for the design of office information systems. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems, 1
[3] Henderson, Sarah, Personal document management strategies, CHINZ '09
[4] Azrina Kamaruddin and Alan Dix and David Martin, Why Do You Make A Folder?, BCS HCI '06: Poster
[5] Balter, O. Strategies for Organising Email Proceedings of HCI on People and Computers XII, Springer-Verlag, 1997.
[6] Whittaker, S. and Sidner, C., Email Overload: exploring personal information management of email. in CHI'96
[7] Gwizdka, J., Email Task Management Styles. in CHI'2004
[8] Abrams, D., Baecker, R. and Chignell, M., Information Archiving with Bookmarks: Personal Web Space Construction and Organization. in CHI'98
[9] Boardman, Richard and Sasse, M. Angela, "Stuff goes into the computer and doesn't come out": a cross-tool study of personal information management , CHO '04', 2004
[10] Steve Whittaker and Julia Hirschberg, The character, value, and management of personal paper archives, TOCHI, 2001

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