Since I am continously trying to evaluate our every-day behaviours around multimedia and especially my personal ones, I recently bumbed into an interesting observation while discussing my work habits with someone who seemed to have a more traditional approach. My daily work seems to be driven by TIMELINE THINKING! Let me explain:
In the past we mainly used the phone to call someone one on one, we wrote letters one by one, we opened the phonebook to find a company address that has probably been listed in it for years and we neatly categorized all of our paper correspondance in files.
Today we not only communicate to much more people every day using email for example, but we also use several technologies to communicate ONE TO MANY: CC, BCC, Facebook, Twitter, conference calls / chats... In addition the constantly changing information on the internet is easily searchable through search engines.
Looking at my daily work habits and the loads of digital information flowing through my laptop and my brain, there is no other way to tackle it efficiently than TIMELINE THINKING: I do not categorize emails any more, since I only have two folders also to archive them: Inbox and Outbox stored away by quarters of the year. I rather use the search function since everything on my laptop gets indexed anyway. In addition the sorting function is really important to look at the historic timeline of emails I received or I wrote by anyone that is currently prioritized by my TIMELINE THINKING.
I must admit that I still archive email attachments and files in folders that are grouped by department, task, project, etc. however since I started to use google apps for example, I found out that searching for documents through categories is really inefficient since the google search finds the documents I am looking for much faster. So again TIMELINE THINKING prevailed. Even in the past I was not sure whether or not I stored a file e.g. in the "Finance" or "Strategy" folder and I used the MS Windows search which was ok to say the least. With better indexing technologies TIMELINE THINKING becomes even more efficient.
So today not only the growing internet as a whole with the new pages I browse on is a timeline for me, but also my Twitter timeline, my facebook timeline, my email timeline, my chat timelines, my documents timeline... My computer and the stored communications in Outlook, Skype, google apps, etc are my memory and new information gets prioritized and indexed in a second. All my brain needs to do is remember the right search term, e.g. a name, a word in a document, a topic, etc. to find an important set of data later on. google wave was also supposed to build on this principle and it even had a rewind function, which I really liked as an idea. Imagine you enter a search term into your PC search, e.g. "capital increase 2008" and the search would rewind or play backward all files, emails, chats that had to do with that capital increase, so that you could instantly remember who send what and when...
99% of the time todays search capabilities of the above named office software already works perfect for me and I find what I am looking for within one or two minutes. Quite different than all the folders piling up in the filing cabinets of the past, don`t you THINK?