FORUM > How to manage yourself and re-claim your Data from the Web


I just wanted to share my personal "solution" to PIM. It does not necessarily mean that this is the solution for your requirements as well. Nevertheless, I did invest very much effort to develop and optimize my method during my dissertation on Personal Information Management. It might inspire you as well.

Disclaimer: my method is most likely only for people who are able and do not fear some kind of (one-time) effort to set up "their system". But it's worth the time!

I learned Emacs when I discovered the sheer beauty of Org-mode. If you need some motivation, please look at some tutorials or some screencasts.

Basically, Org-mode is a very huge set of Lego-bricks. It scales very well from being an outline mode for brainstorming up to spreadsheets, Blogging-system, publishing tool, and much much more. What it means to you depends on what Lego-bricks you are using and how you combine them.

Currently, I am using more or less advanced setups for following purposes: Todo-lists, project management, personal archive, contact management, reference management, mobile capturing of tasks, ... and life-logging.

For life-logging, I developed (in Python) a tool named Memacs (Memex and Emacs) that gets my data from the web back to my machine. This way, I get a calendar which shows not only events and tasks. My Org-mode calendar (called Agenda) also contains: emails sent by me, my tweets, all text messages, events from my bank statement (getting money from ATMs, credit card events, ...), bookmarks I saved (using delicious), my commits of version control systems, my newsgroup postings, my Google calendar events, files whose file name contains a timestamp/datestamp (like photographs), my phone calls, and many more data sources I can integrate using RSS, CSV, or XML.

With a nice Firefox plugin I even capture the content of all web pages I read. Using ISO-compatible file name scheme (as I do for photographs and all kinds of time-related files), I get a real web browser history onto my calendar!

Using an Android phone and Tasker, I could extend my system to log automatically when I return to or leave my flat, or set the phone to silent whenever there is an appointment on my calendar with my marker DND (do not disturb). The possibilities are endless.

If you think about my calendar, you might realize that I do have a lot of advantages. I also do not have to (re-)name my photographs as long as they appear in a certain context on my calendar such as a lecture or a sports event. Their co-appearance on my time line allows me to draw connections which are not there otherwise.

My (very detailed) diary is written totally automatically.

I want to emphasize on the fact that this happens without any effort at all (besides the one-time setup effort). Additionally, none of these data gets accumulated in the cloud. Everything I grab and derive is stored on my personal (encrypted) hard drive. Great value and privacy are no more opposing things.

On the projects web page I wrote an "Example Story" which gives you a better impression on how I profit from using Memacs.

I really enjoyed reading "Total Recall" and all the papers that relate to MyLifeBits. But I also wanted to test this features. Unfortunately, MyLifeBits got never public and only supported the Microsoft ecosystem of Windows and Office.

Memacs, however, was developed platform-independent under an open license. It is fairly easy to set-up for any advanced user and easy to extend for any programmer that knows some basic Python.

Org-mode and Memacs solved many Personal Information Management issues for me - most likely even for the next couple of decades.

If you are not scared by the one-time effort, please consider Org-mode and Memacs for your purpose as well. It's free as in free software!

PS: I also had the pleasure to conduct an Org-mode workshop to give an intensive introduction to this great piece of software.

PPS: If you are using a SenseCam, you might be interested in my method to download and rename the photos as well. Of course, it integrates into Memacs perfectly :-)

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKarl Voit