Data, catagories and organization

I used to have to keep all my electronic documents in folders that would be labeled in one way or another.  The problem was always that usually my documents fit in multiple categories which required me to put the same document in multiple folders or try to remember that one folder had material that was relevant to other subject matter (and given my shoddy memory that was hardly a good idea).  I was never particularly satisfied with either solution and wasn’t aware of any tools to help me organize my material better.

Then, I hit a perfect storm…

About six months ago I switched my internet browser to firefox and immediately wondered why I ever used internet explorer.  Among its great features is the ability of users to build ‘add-ons‘ and get customized additional features.  One of those add on is Zotero which is a tool designed for researchers and students to organize their reference material.  Among other (many other) things you can do with Zotero, you can:

  • store links, snapshots of webpages, or files (in any format)
  • categorize all of your entries via tags
  • generate bibliographies in numerous styles
  • grab meta-data from a bunch of sites like Amazon for citations
  • etc. etc. etc.

Best of all, Zotero is free and being constantly worked on and improved (and wicked easy to use).  Here’s an audio interview with one of the development gurus discussing what’s next for Zotero.

In related news, check out this article by Clay Shirky about the end of traditional categorization or this video by David Weinberger, author of a book titled “Everything is Miscellaneous” who discusses the same sorts of things.

If you’ve found yourself in possession of a lot of .pdfs, audio/video files and other assorted electronic documents on your hard drive, thumb drive or other storage media, do yourself a huge favor and use Zotero to organize your collection(s).

(Note to self…if you’re going to suck up to some group make sure they aren’t a non-profit first).


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