Monday, April 4, 2011

Fighting Back the Chaos

Today's world is full of information overload.  Perhaps it would be accurate to say application overload in some cases.  As we move from device to device or application to application, maintaining some semblance of organization is critical.  Yes, critical.  I'm not an organization freak as those around me will attest, but having some idea of how to organize information and resources is important.  We constantly run across websites we want to refer back to later.  We identify resources that are useful to share with others.  We also access certain information from different browsers or applications.  For example, I have about 3 different applications for twitter just on my laptop which I use interchangeably.  Then we move from our laptops to our iPhones to iPads etc.

CC Information Overload by Jorge Franganillo (Flickr)

We are not always on the same device so how do we make the "cloud" (internet based applications and storage of resources) work for us?  If we do not have a plan, chaos will take over and we will just miss out on resources buried in an overwhelming pile of stuff.  We need to help students with this skill too. I'll outline some of my own personal strategy to fight back the chaos.

I am always surprised how many people don't use bookmarks (see my previous post for more on bookmarking).  I have all my common sites in my toolbar.  This makes them easy to access anywhere.  I use Xmarks to sync all my bookmarks across all my devices.  This also makes them accessible by logging into the Xmarks site when on a public computer.  Although Xmarks can do other things like sync passwords and such, I use it solely for syncing bookmarks across devices and browsers.  It has an install plugin for almost any browser on any platform.  I have upgraded to the premium and find it worth every penny but a free version is available.

I also use Dropbox.  Lots of different applications allow you to use Dropbox to access information across devices (see more info here).  I find this is a valuable tool for having files and information easily synced across multiple devices.  It also makes a backup always available in case a device is lost or stolen.

I like Instapaper for reading articles later.

For example, I typically check my twitter network on my phone which regularly gives me useful links and information.  I have several methods to deal with this information.
  1. I have created a free account with Instapaper.  I have added this bookmark applet to my toolbar on my browser which allows me to just click on "Read Later" and it is saved to my account.  Instapaper can be accessed on my iPhone or laptop easily.  It tracks what I have read and I just archive after I have finished.  I always know what articles are yet to be read.  
  2. I often just skim my Twitter and don't do extensive reading.  So I email myself a tweet at my gmail account.  I have setup a filter that automatically removes it from the inbox and labels it so I can review it later.  Filters are powerful and often underused email feature.  This also makes it easy to search tweets I want to find later.
  3. I can use my Diigo account to bookmark certain links right in my phone.
  4. Xmarks makes a lot of this simply because it syncs my bookmark applet for Diigo and Instapaper across browsers and my phone.
Lastly, I also highly recommend RSS feeds.  I use Google Reader to keep up with blogs that I follow.  It is easy and accessible on my phone or laptop.  

How do you keep your life organized between browsers, applications, and devices?  Do you have other recommendations to share?


  1. iPad RSS reader: Early Edition. Beautiful, imports feeds from Google Reader.

    Email: Mac Mail. I have a Mobileme account so it is great for that. I also read all my Gmail account action from here (it imports labels wonderfully). Also has nice RSS capability.

    Public storage: iDisk. Great for keeping files handy to all computers and devices. Public folder is great for students to get/drop off documents.

  2. Thanks for sharing your apps/subscriptions. Those are definitely some good ones. I haven't used iDisk much because Dropbox functions in much the same way. Both will also sync to a mobile device like an iPad or iPhone too which make them much more powerful.