In 1981 I was working in the newly formed Office Systems team in the UK National Computing Centre, and I was interested in how the new technology could support the management of an individual’s office documents. So, a colleague and I decided to experiment with our own documents. This was the start of a still-running practical exploration of how to manage personal documents using digital technology.
It was my practice to highlight key text with a side line as I read documents, and, as my document collection grew, I began to wonder how I could make explicit use of this very specific information. No doubt the act of highlighting was in itself helping me to assimilate documents; but I wasn’t sure if all the highlighted facts were being retained in my brain and being used to develop new concepts.
During the 1990s, the trendy new topic of Knowledge Management emerged which provided a recognised arena in which I was able to explore these ideas. Sometime during this period, I latched onto the term ‘nugget of information’ (the first published mention of this in my filing index is in an article by one Ted Howard-Jones in the March 1998 issue of the Groupware and Communications Newsletter). My attempts to relate lowly personal filing to the Knowledge Management field eventually fizzled out in the face of much sexier concepts such as an organisation’s ‘intellectual capital’. However, in the early 2000s, I did make a specific attempt to see if I could use Concept Mapping software to capture nuggets, by applying it to 19 new age books on the pyramids and the like; but that is where my knowledge nugget endeavours ended.
Now that I’m trying to find a home for my document collection, and to identify the findings from its long term operation, it seems a timely moment to review this particular aspect, to do some practical work on the nuggets I’ve identified over the years, and to draw some conclusions on the topic.