PAWDOC: Sharing files

A personal filing system enables the individual to decide what to include in it, what to specify in the Index, and what to include in the file titles. Hence, a personal file system is very specific to an individual, and it is this very specificity that would make it difficult to share an index and the items it represents over the long term.

To address this problem the Reference Numbers in the PAWDOC system were designed to distinguish between different owners and different sets of information within each owner. The thinking was to enable entries for documents in other collections to be included in one’s own Index. It certainly did enable such entries to be included in the Index; however, experience over many years showed that it was almost impossible to get access to such documents after one had changed jobs or after many years had passed. Consequently, I stopped including such entries in the PAWDOC system.

Of course, the sharing of a small specific set of files for a relatively short period is much more feasible. Collaborative file sharing has been explored by the CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) community for many years; and services such as Dropbox are widely available on the net. However, this is not the same as sharing thousands of files on numerous different subjects over many years.

Corporate Document Management Systems have also been widely implemented in recent years and these do enable whole workforces to share an index and the associated files. However, these too cannot be considered to be personal filing systems since they have very specific corporate objectives with supporting regulations and constraints.

In short, the long-term sharing of personal indexes and files does not seem feasible or demanded at present.

Specific questions relating to this aspect are answered below. Note that the status of each answer will fall into one of the following 5 categories: Not Started, Ideas Formed, Experience Gained, Partially Answered, Fully Answered.

Q50. Can two or more people share the same filing index?

2001 Answer: Ideas formed: Only with great difficulty, unless deterministic indexing rules are adhered to and controlled descriptors are used. Unfortunately, this probably reduces the effectiveness of the index for all parties.

2019 Answer: Ideas formed: I have come across no evidence to suggest this is currently feasible. Corporate document management systems do enable individuals to share the same index – but such systems do not provide the longevity, portability from job to job, and freedom of choice about what to include, that a personal filing system offers. If such a system were to be developed it would need to cater for three different types of requirements:

  • Objectives: the ability to satisfy the different approaches and preferences of the individuals concerned while providing a coherent uniform system.
  • Individual characteristics: the ability to cater for things such as the different terminology used by each individual, and for the fact that each individual will only have a mental imprint of the documents they themselves have included in the system.
  • Technology: the use of compatible technology by all individuals including things like software applications to open documents, file formats, application versions, and a commonly accessible file store such as the cloud.

Q51. What is the most effective way to enable two or more people to share the same files?

2001 Answer: Experience gained: Make entries in your own index in your own words but use the other person’s reference number in your index instead of creating your own (Wilson 1992: 2.4)

2019 Answer: Experience gained: Two or more people can share files very effectively using a cloud-based service such as DropBox. However, this is probably used mostly for a limited number of files on a specific subject for a few months or years. I have not heard of large ongoing collections of personal files being shared in this way – though I suppose it might be feasible with some sort of shared index which is also held in the cloud. Large Corporate Document Management systems also enable people to share files, but such systems have different objectives, regulations and constraints and cannot be considered to be personal filing systems.

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