Comments on reunions with old documents

My colleague, Clive Holtham, was instrumental in putting me in touch with suppliers who loaned me a scanner and document management software around 1995, to enable me to progress my mission to understand how personal electronic filing would work in practice.  Some six years later, in February 2001, Clive and I met up for dinner and a catch up on what we’d both been doing. I explained that as well as scanning new hardcopy as I acquired it, I was also trying to scan all the legacy documents I had acquired since 1981, when I started this electronic filing adventure. Clive pointed out that it would be interesting to see what I thought of each document in retrospect, as I carried out the scanning process. After all, the point of indexing and filing the documents, was based on the assumption that some of them would have some value downstream. Here was an opportunity to get an insight into what their downstream value might be.

I took Clive’s suggestion on board towards the end of 2001; but, to minimise the effort required, I decided I would only comment on those documents which prompted some particular thoughts. The comments would be recorded at the end of the Title field in my filing index; and they would be identifiable by being placed within a special set of characters in the following format: <<! Date: Comment Text here !>>. To make it easier, I created a script in my Indexing software to automatically place the delimiter characters with current date at the end of the title field, and assigned it the keyboard shortcut CTR-8. This seemed to work in practice, and I got into the habit of making my comments in real time as they occurred to me. After a while, I started to use the facility to record other information, such as a document being duplicated in another Index entry, or problems I had had with scanning a document. Now, in 2021, 20 years after starting to record these comments, I find that 584 records within my filing index possess such comments; and 20 of those have two comments.

This is an analysis of what those comments say. They have been placed into one or more of 5 categories:

  • Comments on the impact of the material (7% of the 584 records with comments)
  • Comments on the contents of the material (32%)
  • Comments which prompted questions and thoughts (23%)
  • Comments about memories forgotten and/or remembered (17%)
  • Comments about filing, indexing and scanning activities (46%)

The full list of comments and the categories to which they have been allocated is provided in this link. The comments have been further allocated into sub-categories  which are used in the discussion below. However, the following two salient points need to be born in mind when considering the results of this investigation:

Scale: Although 584 records with comments may sound a large number, in fact comments have only been made on a small subset of the contents of the filing system: 584 is only about 3% of the 17,350 records in the index. This could indicate that the sample size is too small to be generalised; though, I believe it is more likely to indicate that relatively few documents merited a comment. Unfortunately, there is no data to investigate which of these two possibilities is the case – the decisions to include comments were made in an arbitrary manner over many years.

Lag: The time between a document being included in the filing system and when a comment was made about it, has almost certainly affected many of the comments. Presumably, the more time that passes, the less likely the contents of a document are to be remembered, and this may make them more remarkable when they are encountered again. The actual lags that occurred have been calculated as a number of years by the difference between the Creation Date field in the Index, and the date recorded at the beginning of each comment. This shows that over 93% of the comments were made more than 10 years after the documents were included in the filing system; and over 50% had comments with a lag of over 20 years. Only 12 items had comments with a lag of less than 5 years.

Comments on the impact of the material (43)

These comments include remarks about documents which have influenced my thinking (8). For example, “This is a most important paper because it alerted me to the key insight that to get the most out of an OA investment the organisation must change the way it does business”. A further 9 comments relate to documents which were more generally important to my work, for example, “This was an important edition of EDP analyser and highly relevant to NCC’s OA team of which I was a part”. Finally, 26 comments were made about documents that are special in a variety of other ways, for example, “This is a great example of how to do brainstorming”, and “This is an interesting document to have from the early days of the net”.

Comments on the contents of the material (188)

Just over a third of this category is concerned with comments about a document I wrote or activity I was involved with. This is hardly unexpected given my intimate relationship with the events. For example, “Have just read the suggestions I made to Esprit about its CSCW program. I wonder if they made any kind of difference”; and “This was my one not very successful claim to broadcast fame – and I’m not even sure it got broadcast”. A quarter of the comments just remark on ‘interesting content’, for example, “This is a fascinating article because it represents a twilight period in the change from old style typists to individuals doing the typing all themselves”; and “This was worth another read – definitely food for thought…”. The remainder includes comments in a range of other sub-categories – listed below together with an example for each one.

  • Comments on technology developments (16) – “Seems very advanced for 1978”
  • Assessments of predictions (8) – “The prediction of a day in the life of the CEO in 2013 didn’t get it quite right”
  • Comments on the author or other people (8) – “I’ve been thinking about getting in touch with X again”
  • Comments on photos in documents (7) – “While scanning this I discovered that it contains a photo of X”
  • Content which I thought I might find useful (26) – “This document is highly relevant to the assignment I am about to start”
  • Comments which provide a critique of content (5) – “I think this process missed out the key element of Improvement by Learning by Doing”.

Comments which prompted questions and thoughts (135)

The majority of these comments – some 60% – were general reflections and musings prompted by the documents concerned. For example, “I think it demonstrates that prior to the internet and the web there was a different way of thinking about information: in those days having the information meant having the actual item, whereas today in the internet/web/mobile era having the information is all about having a device and knowing where to look”; and “It would be interesting – amazing – to re-run this event with the same people”. The other six sub-categories are all specific questions:

  • Is this still around/available/the case today? (10 comments – for example “I don’t hear the term ‘Groupware’ much these days – I wonder if it has fallen out of use”
  • What’s a person doing today? (15 – “I wonder If X is doing anything related to this now – havn’t seen him for about 20 years”)
  • Is this still relevant today? (12 – “This might be interesting to read to see if 25-year-old advice about dealing with Info overload still applies”)
  • How does this look in retrospect? (4 – “There was a big fuss about X’s thinking on this – would be interesting to see how it all looks in retrospect”.
  • What was the impact of this? (5 – “This work on Teletel was ground breaking and was subsequently successful. How it affected the French use and take-up of the web I don’t know”)
  • How did these predictions fare? (6 – “The Booze-Allen Hamilton report was very influential. It would be interesting to see how its predictions fared”)

Memories forgotten and/or remembered (100)

70% of these comments are about things I’d forgotten either partially or wholly; and 30% about things I remembered about associated aspects, or about people. Examples of each are provided below:

  • Forgetting something about a document or a related activity (28 comments), for example, “I’d forgotten these details and didn’t know I had these notes”
  • Forgetting about the document or activity all-together (41): “Can’t remember giving this talk”
  • Remembering associated aspects or it prompted memories (19); “This was a pioneering machine – we really liked the Snake game, and the early type of remote access mail through the phone lines was relatively quite advanced”.
  • Remembering the author/other person (12); “That’s a name I haven’t thought about for years! – think I met him”

Filing, indexing and scanning activities (266)

Over a third of all these comments concern filing practicalities – not an aspect which was envisaged when I established this comment facility. Recording information about the operation of a filing system is definitely an overhead, so there is a natural tendency to minimise the effort spent on it. Consequently, the fact that it was quick and simple to create comments in a form which was tightly coupled with individual documents and their index entries, made this facility an obvious choice for quickly documenting issues or important observations. The 22 separate sub-categories of comment listed below together with an example for each one, illustrate the extensive range of topics that were encountered as the PAWDOC collection grew and aged (note that over 93% of these comments were made at least 10 years after the document concerned had been included in the collection).

  • Practicalities of using PAWDOC (5) “Must force myself to search for stuff even if I don’t think it’s in this index!”
  • Deciding what to include/remove (5) “Artefact removed for inclusion in PAW personal collection”
  • Notes about where items originated (6) “The Quick Reference Card was included in Nov2018 when I found it inside the WGEM starter pack”
  • Notes about what version is filed (8) “This Aug86 version must have replaced an earlier version in my collection”
  • Notes about artefacts (6) “Specified this as an artefact at this late date because it’s the first issue I have in this new format”
  • Notes about cross-references in the collection (7) “See also PAW/DOC/0110/145”
  • Notes about duplicates in the collection (87) “Some of these documents are duplicated in PAW/DOC/7971/01”
  • Notes about Archiving (6) “This was in an archive box but archive status had not been specified in the Movement field”
  • Comments on Reference Number (16) “This document has the number PAW/DOC/0005/03 at the top – but that number is for something else”
  • Comments on Title field (9) “Inserted the info about the abstract when I was scanning because there was no reference to it in the title”
  • Comments on Creation date (12) “Don’t understand how the date on this paper is 1986 but the record was created in 1984”
  • Comments on Publication date (3) “2019 properties of the word doc say this was modified on 31May1985 so this was probably the publication date”
  • Comments on Movement field (10) “Don’t know why this says it was scanned and paper destroyed in 2004 – in Feb 2006 there was a full envelope of material in the box”
  • Losing/deleting index information (4) “I deleted the title text of this accidentally when scanning so this is a replacement title text”
  • Lost or misplaced documents (17) “Found the electronic version of this filed in FISH under PAW/DOC/4052/01”
  • Relationship with Personal files (8) “I found these PAW/DOC papers in one of my personal home files”
  • Notes about physical characteristics of items (17) “This printout had almost completely faded so it was a challenge to see if the scanner would bring the text to light – and it didn’t do a bad job!”
  • Notes about disks in the collection (6) “This included a disk containing a DOS version of the ITSforGKProposal”
  • Management of the FISH DMS (8) “This seemed very necessary at the time when disk space was short – and very complicated. Now in 2006 with 40Gb on my PC it doesn’t seem to be an imperative at all”
  • File formats & Digital Preservation (7) “No longer able to read the floppy disk when it came to take this material out of archive to scan it in 2006”
  • Notes about loading electronic files to FISH (17) “The Word version doesn’t have the appendices so I PDF’d the Word version and then scanned the appendix pages from the hardcopy. Unfortunately, the pagination of the Word document is slightly different from that of the hardcopy – but the words are all the same”
  • Notes about Scans and Scanning (49) “These pages were too thick to go through the duplex scanning process so I had to do one side first and then the other side”.

Conclusions

No great revelations have emerged from this investigation. However, its clear that reviewing old material in this way provides an opportunity to reflect, and perhaps to rediscover potentially useful material. These are luxuries that are hard to come by amidst the pace of modern life. Whether such activities actually provide any tangible benefits is hard to say: I can’t remember if any of the rediscovered documents made a difference in my subsequent assignments; and the benefits of reflection are difficult to pin down at the best of times (though I personally feel it is always worthwhile).

The one practical finding that has emerged from this exercise is that there are significant advantages in being able to quickly and easily annotate a filing index with any relevant additional information, be that extra detail about content, or factual information about the way that content has been filed. The former augments the information provided by the filing system, and the latter assists in its smooth operation. In fact, the latter is more than a mere nicety. My experience has shown that, as this type of personal filing system grows and ages, the number of imperfections it possesses increases substantially. The long list above of sub-categories of ‘Filing, indexing and scanning activities‘, and their associated examples, provides an indication of the range of issues that can arise. Having the ability to quickly note details of those issues in a place where they are likely to be immediately visible to the user, is of great benefit.

Pandemic constrained Plans

The second of our investigations involved me marking up 19 documents on which I had previously placed sidebars next to parts of the text between 22 and 39 years ago. This was completed in August last year, and, since then, we’ve been analysing the results. My collaborator, Peter Tolmie, made a numerical assessment of the match between my mark-up of the original and my new mark-up; and I reviewed my original and new mark-ups and documented my comments on what I had done. We then recorded a one-hour video conference in which we discussed what had occurred with three of the documents – we had no time to discuss any more because such a wide variety of general points emerged from this conversation. The recording was processed through the Otter transcription service from which a written transcript of the session was produced. Peter is now planning to produce an overall interim report on our findings to date.

Our original plan (documented in the post for 10th August 2019) involved undertaking a further similar investigation of mark-ups on documents; but this time conducted in the form of a face-to-face interview in order to be able to examine the reasoning for what is marked up in greater detail, and to discuss the findings of the previous two investigations. However, the pandemic has interrupted these plans. We still feel this final investigation is worthwhile undertaking if and when travel restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, however, the Otter transcript and the interim report Peter plans to produce, will be the primary outputs from which we hope to be able to summarise some hard and fast findings in a post later this year.

The Gallery Debut

The Trophy Gallery that I’ve created consists of some 150 Thumbnails representing 67 Publications, 97 Reports and 42 Awards & Certificates. They were assembled in a single Powerpoint Slide of custom size 30 x 88 cm – the size of the frame that they were to be mounted in. To print it, I split the slide into two and printed each one out at different ends of a sheet of paper of width 30.2 cm (the maximum physical width my A3 printer would take) and length 86.2 cm (twice the paper length permitted by the printer software). It took a little trial and error but I eventually was able to adjust the position of the contents of each slide so they joined up satisfactorily. The print was then placed in the frame, and the frame fixed to a place on my study wall where it is easy to see the thumbnails and to read the relevant numbers.

The end result does look reasonably presentable and is certainly accessible. The accompanying numbered electronic files are all in the SideBooks app in my iPad as shown below.

I have now packed up the Publications and Reports taking space on my bookshelf. They are all in a case and stored away in the loft.

I have to say, I did feel a tinge of sadness as I took the volumes off the shelf and put them into the suitcase – after all they not only represent some of my achievements, they are also old friends that have been with me for many years, and that remind me of times past. I think I’m unlikely to see them again. The next time they see the light of day may well be when my nearest and dearest have to decide what to do with them. Of course, this isn’t anything particularly new – no doubt there have been millions of relatives in the past who have been presented with such a dilemma (it IS a dilemma because such material is massively uninteresting to the vast majority of the population). However, something has changed: the rock solid undisturbability of those volumes on the bookshelf has been breached by the IT hurricane, and their essence can be reproduced in other ways. Authors, Owners, and Recipients, all have other options, which may, in turn, give rise to other interests, motivations, and desires.

I must confess that I was too timid to take the ultimate step of banishing the books I’ve had published, to the loft. I retained those select nine volumes to still sit on my physical bookshelves and proclaim to myself and the world that I made a tiny contribution to the development of our race’s awareness and understanding of the universe and our place within it.

With the physical items stored away, I’m going to give myself about a year to see how I get on with my Electronic Trophy Gallery. I’ll be reporting my verdict here towards the end of the year.

Designing and Assembling the Gallery

I started this journey off with the idea of having a numbered list of the trophies down the middle of a page surrounded by equivalently numbered thumbnails of one or more of the following for each trophy: Publication cover, First page, Place of creation/achievement, Associated people, Topic. However, I soon realised that not only was there insufficient space for lists and extra thumbnails, but that actually they were superfluous. All I needed was a single thumbnail to remind me of a particular achievement and a number to enable me to access the associated file.

I experimented with thumbnails of longest side 3, 2.5, and 2.3 cm; but ended up with 2.2 cm because of the limited space that I had. However, that size seems to be quite adequate, as does the 12 point font size that I used for the numbers latched onto each thumbnail. I think they’ll be plenty big enough to be able to discern when the Gallery is on the wall.

Choosing the thumbnails was sometimes easy, as in the case of a cover of a book or a photo of a swivelling workstation that I designed; but sometimes it was very difficult – especially for reports on esoteric subjects with first pages comprising entirely of small text, for example, the X500 Schema document. In those cases I resorted to overlaying some Text Headings in large bold font on the front pages; and, in three instances, I just put large coloured text in a box (for example, ‘Radii Lessons’). In some cases, it seemed appropriate to represent two or more items with a single thumbnail, and in these cases I placed all the related numbers around the edge of the thumbnail. All of these approaches seem to produce usable results.

The contents of the Gallery are in three parts – Publications (67 items), Reports (97 items), and Awards & Certificates (42 items). The Publications were self-selecting – if I’d had something published it was on my publications list. The choice of reports, however, was at my own discretion. At the time when I selected them from my archive of work documents, I’d been looking for significant pieces of work. However, about a year later I had produced a book of my IT experiences in which I had included supporting images, which must have given me different perspectives on some of the material. Consequently, when I came to assemble the reports section of the Trophy Gallery, I was surprised that some of my original selections either didn’t seem worthwhile including or that some things which I thought should have been included were missing. I guess it just goes to show that the things we choose to focus on and the stories we tell can vary hugely depending on our motivations and accumulated experiences at any one time.

Assembling the Awards & Certificates was a different experience again. For a start, they were all over the place – photos of trophies I’d thrown away, certificates in envelopes in drawers, items indexed in sets of mementos, and engraved glass tankards in kitchen cupboards. They were also different because many were very old from my childhood, and I’m sure several were just missing (for example the china lamb that I got in primary school for my Times Table, and that I think I must have sold off in my train trunk in my late twenties – a great shame). So, I made no attempt to create a definitive list – I just assembled the ones’ that I could lay my hands on quickly. Perhaps that was fortunate because even the subset I assembled seemed somehow very trivial, and I felt embarrassed to include some of the items. Is the bronze swimming personal survival certificate I got when I was 14 really a substantial achievement to be celebrated? Does the Certificate for coming second in the Intermediate Boys High Jump at the North East Derbyshire Inter-Schools Championships celebrate my athletic capabilities?

In fact, going through them made me realise that I’d never been the outstanding performer that I imagined I had been. Nevertheless, they do testify to the fact that I did DO things. The Trophy Gallery is primarily for me, and these are things I can be reminded of. They are all as relevant as each other because they are all true and have a slot in the jigsaw puzzle of my life.

Despite my misgivings about missing and trivial items, the overall assembly of Publication, Report, and Awards/Certificate thumbnails makes for a very crowded assortment of small images on two A3 pages. I suspect that, once the display is framed and on the wall, quantity is going to be more apparent than quality.

Feelings about Achievements

The Electronic Bookshelf and Electronic Story Board expeditions enabled me to eliminate most of the physical books that were no longer central to my interests. However, there is still one set that is taking up precious bookcase space in my study – the originals of my publications and reports. They are rarely accessed, but I do value them as physical testimonies to my achievements, and I’m not prepared to destroy them and be left with just their virtual equivalents. So, I’ve concluded that I would be happy to have them safely packed up and stored in a box in the loft, provided that I can install some physical reminder of them and that I am able to access their contents electronically.

My current thoughts about how I would do this entail listing the numbered items down the middle of a page and surrounding them with numbered thumbnails of any or all of the following elements which apply to each item:

  • Cover of the publication
  • First Page of the paper, article or report
  • Photo of the place it was created or delivered
  • Photo of any person(s) strongly associated with it
  • The Topic in abbreviated words and/or photos

This should enable the viewer to go from a surrounding thumbnail to the relevant item on the central list. A correspondingly numbered PDF will be provided to enable the viewer to look at the full contents on either the iPad or the Laptop.

While trying to think of an appropriate name for this journey, I came to realise that, in a way, these publications and reports are trophies of my work achievements. However, from that perspective, I realised that I have other physical items which represent other types of achievements – Cups and Tankards for my athletic successes; and Certificates for academic and other types of achievements. So, I decided to combine these other types of physical objects with my publications and reports in a single overall journey to explore the Electronic Trophy Gallery.

I already have complete lists of my Publications and Reports, and all the associated PDFs. So, my first task will be to come up with an equivalent list and associated PDFs of my cups, certificates etc.  Then it will be a matter of going through all the items to identify appropriate thumbnails. I currently envisage arranging all this material on a vertical page and mounting it in a 32x90cm frame which is currently unused in the loft and which will conveniently fit in one of the few available spaces in my study walls. Whether this approach will be viable, usable and useful has yet to be established.

New Boards Live

I finished compiling the physical story boards and associated self-contained PDFs on 24th December, and would have had them all printed out and up on the side of my bookcase before Xmas but for running out of printer ink (very poor stock control). Anyway, it arrived yesterday and I’ve now completed the job.

Regarding the cross-linking between Story Boards, this was straightforward for the in-Laptop version in which a simple link to the file of the relevant Story Board could be specified. However, in the iPad version it was necessary to include a copy of the target Story Board into the body of the relevant self-contained PDF.

I also encountered a few technology problems with the way the Sidebooks app handles PDF documents (inability to deal with sound elements, different sized documents, and links to multiple embedded photos), and these took time to understand and work around; and, in three cases required different versions of the Story Boards to be produced. In contrast, the in-Laptop solution was relatively trouble-free. This illustrates the problems of trying to produce a solution by integrating different systems.

While I was laminating the new Story Boards, I was struck again by how relatively permanent these Story Boards are. Their very physicality exudes factuality and veracity; even though I know how flimsy their fidelity is.

I will now live with these Story Board for several months, changing the Story on display from time to time, and perhaps inviting members of the family to experience them and comment. My personal overall assessment, and my thoughts on how this set of diverse Story Boards compare to the original all-book-related Story Boards, will appear here before the end of 2021.

Rethinking the Table Present

It’s been a tradition in our family to have table presents at the Christmas lunch, but this year we didn’t; it had all become a bit difficult and expensive, and, in this year of pandemic lockdowns, there were only three of us at the table. However, its quite a nice thing to do, so I got to thinking there might be an easier and cheaper way. Maybe the present could just contain a piece of paper describing something you think the person concerned might like but didn’t know about. For example, a holiday destination, or a hotel, or a book, or a hobby, or a restaurant, or a walking trail, or a type of pet, or a band, or a piece of clothing, or a voluntary job with a particular charity…. or almost anything really that you think the person might enjoy. Might also work for New Year meals as well.

Laptop Story Board Musings

Earlier this week, I completed the laptop version of ESB2: a PDF with thumbnails of all 35 items on the first page, each linked to its own story board fully populated with links to material elsewhere on the laptop.

Bear in mind that my following observations on this construction represent just a single point of view, and that of a builder rather than a viewer:

  • The main practical difference between the laptop version and the iPad version is that the size of a target file is immaterial in the laptop version, but impacts the overall size of the self-contained iPad PDF. For example, one link was to a 200+ page file of letters from a friend. For the iPad version I may only select a subset of the pages to include in the PDF. For the laptop version, I have defined the link to open on a particular page, but the rest of the file is available to browse through if the reader so desires.
  • In the laptop version only one single file can be linked to, whereas, in the self-contained PDF version, several different items (photos, for example) can be included at the destination of a link in the PDF either together on a single page or on multiple pages.
  • As I constructed the laptop version, I became aware that for both the laptop and the iPad versions, any story I create is only one of many possible stories that could be constructed for a particular Story Board. If another person had created it, or if I had created it a few years earlier or later, the Story Board would almost certainly be different. However, in as much as these Story Boards now physically exist, they will have a far more powerful influence in the future than those stories that didn’t get created, or than the stories that may be generated when people in the future recount their memories of these or related topics.
  • I find the main Index page both satisfying and flat. It is satisfying because I know that everything is accessible from that one single page; but it inspires no excitement because somehow there is no coherence among the 35 separate items represented on it. Somehow the 7 different types of material (pre-marriage mementos, post-marriage mementos, letters, loft items, music, photos, music and books) just produce a muddled interference with each other.
  • I set out to ensure that there were a few links between each of the 35 Story Boards; and have ended up with at least five such inter-relationships. However, I have no thoughts as to whether this is useful or not – I just feel instinctively that there would probably be many such relationships in a large collection of personal items, just as the many links between internet web sites enable almost endless web surfing. However, I am only able to explore this capability in the laptop version because the application within which the self-contained PDFs will be held on the iPad (SideBooks) does not enable links between PDFs.

I’m now proceeding with the final stage of this exercise – to construct the self-contained PDFs, and the associated physical story boards to hang on the side of my bookside.

Building observations

Yesterday I finished the last of the second set of 35 story boards. Its been a long and tedious job. Tedious not just because its quite hard work putting these things together, but also because it’s not an exciting new thing I’m exploring – it’s a second time around using the same old format to explore how it works out with different types of artefacts. Anyway, it’s done now, so it just remains to create the links to all the additional material on each of the 35 pages. However, while its fresh in my mind, I’ve listed below some of my observations as I constructed the story boards:

  • The general procedure I followed was: first import an image of the artefact in question, then copy and paste each of the pre-recorded thoughts, and then add in the supporting material. Having the pre-recorded material was very helpful, and made it easy to get a quick start on the board.
  • Sometimes I collapsed two or more thoughts together into a single piece of text; sometimes I adjusted the text; some of the thoughts I just left out; and sometimes I created new text. Such decisions were taken depending on what was most appropriate in order to tell the story. ie. the pre-recorded thoughts were simply the building blocks; the shape of the story was created when the elements were assembled together on the story board.
  • On a number of occasions, I used the net to acquire additional information and images to support the story being constructed.
  • On at least one occasion, I realised that the pre-recorded thoughts contained errors. For example, I recorded that the air conditioning was noisy on a particular foreign holiday; but realised in the course of creating the story board that it was, in fact, on another holiday that we had had that experience. It reminded me yet again, that humans often remember things incorrectly, and that one must always be aware of that possibility; and that, by setting down such erroneous rememberings in a physical artefact like a story board, incorrect information is given a degree of credence which may be hard to dislodge.
  • I found it was hard to come up with variety in the way I was presenting each story board: I got into habits of where I was placing things on the story board, what font sizes I was using, and my use of coloured text and text boxes. I think this was partly because it was a prolonged process and I just wanted to get on and finish it; to get arty about each story board would have just taken too long.
  • I became very aware that I was creating a particular version of the story in question – a version that was fashioned from the state of my mind at that point in time, and from the particular artefacts I was coming across and assembling to support the story. Each story that emerged was very much just one point of view out of the totality of views that were available from the all the possible memories and artefacts that could be brought to bear. However, that single point of view will gain a high degree of visibility, credibility and endurance by virtue of becoming a physical artefact (digital or printed) in its own right, to the probable detriment of all the other possible points of view.

Generic Category Prompts

The first ‘Record’ stage of the second ESB trial was completed earlier this week. Five examples from each of seven different collection were randomly selected:

  • Mementos from two separate collections, each with their own index
  • Letters scanned and held digitally on my laptop
  • Items stored in the Loft and recorded in the uGrok app
  • Music held on my laptop
  • Books scanned and held digitally on my laptop
  • Photos held digitally on my laptop

Random selection was achieved by using the free random number generator at Random.Org, and applying it to serial numbers in indexes, or to the numbers of folders and files in the laptop, depending on how each different collection was managed/stored.

Taking each collection in turn, in the order listed above, each item was considered and the thoughts generated were noted. The thoughts were then categorised, and a set of generic Category Prompts derived; these were then used to prompt thoughts in the next collection, and the process was repeated. As this exercise was completed across each collection, the list of generic Categories was built up. The final set of Category Prompts, expressed as a series of questions, is listed below:

Use the questions below to comment or speculate on the item

  1. What facts do you know, don’t know, or had forgotten about this item?
  2. What feelings does this item inspire in you?
  3. What does this item remind you off
  4. What opinions would you put forward about this item
  5. What action has the item prompted you to take with what results?
  6. Does this item inspire any thoughts about Collecting and Indexing?

The items selected, and their associated original thoughts, were then revisited using the above questions to identify any further thoughts; and all thoughts were then allocated to one or more of the six categories. Statistics associated with this whole process are shown in the following table.

The next stage of this work will use the Recorded Thoughts to Create a separate Story Board for each item.

[NB. While undertaking the above process, I started to think about how the creation of Story Boards could be automated. One possibility, which I shall ponder in the coming months, is to pose a question to users when they store collection files, for example, ‘What emotions and thoughts do you want to remember about this item?’. This could be augmented by the full set of Category Prompts if requested by the user.]