InformationCenter

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InformationCenter

Collection points of information. Info morgues. Journaling tools. Outliners. Anything that allows a person or entity to collate information for use later.

Here's a small list of such things, and descriptions.

Info handlers

Info handlers and data morgues. Dump in your info, organize it as you please, and find what you are looking for later.

  • [Notebook] - A personal wiki on a stick solution. Freeware!
  • [Note Studio] - A personal wiki. Shareware published by dogMelon. It does have the limitation of each page can only hold 32K of text, but that is a common limitation found among info-handlers of all stripes. Useful for journaling, being data-morgue, and anything you'd like use a Wiki to do for you locally. Note: Apparently contains a Mozilla spybot in its commercial code. Whoops
  • [Personal Brain] - You enter notes and shortcuts (URL or file) into 2 dimensional relations. IE, items can have parents, children, and siblings. Allows for associating files and URLs scattered in location into a logical grouping, as well as doing other tricks. (For more of my thoughts on this go to StarPilot Personal Brain)
  • [Literary Machine] - Comes in 2 flavors, freeware and commercial. It is a free form card database, allowing for the storage, analysis, and manipulation of random information via a note-card/post it type metaphor.
  • [WikidPad] - Outliner and Personal Wiki. Freeware!
  • [Zoot]- Lets you drop in your own info and organize it as you want into however many Zoot databases as you want. Syncs with Microsoft Outloook.

PIMs

PIMS are Personal Information Managers. They are an integrated package meant specifically to track your email, appointment calendars, and contacts. May include other functionality.

  • Microsoft Outlook - your basic PIM application. Handles your email, calendar (and schedule), and contact information. Also allows you to enter and track quick text notes.
  • [Zoot]- Lets you drop in your own info and organize it as you want into however many Zoot databases as you want. Syncs with Microsoft Outloook.

Local Search Engines

Local Search Engines crawl through your local HD (and generally, network share drives), creating an index of data. Then you can search for key words on your local drive just like using any other search engine. The better ones can access various data formats, like Outlook's files, so that they can integrate their searches across your documents, emails, contact info, etc.

  • [Easy Reach] - Local search engine with a few bells and whistles. This is the successor/descendant of Enfish.


Dead Information Managers

It seems that despite the extreme need for various forms of Information Managers, these companies cannot stay in business. Scopeware is no more (sniff), and Enfish has been sold and is now a different product. Oh well. I suppose when Microsoft's Desktop/Filesystem Super-Find technology finally comes along, they'd all go out of business anyways. Why pay money for something you get for free with the OS?

  • Enfish - URL: http://www.enfish.com/ - : Information: A multi-tabbed customizable desktop search engine. Integrates with your Outlook info. Very similar to Scopeware's Vision product, but doesn't have Scopeware's superior UI. It does have the advantage that it is still currently supported and under continued enhancement (ie, you can still buy a license). Product sold to Easy Reach.
  • Scopeware's Vision Professional - URL: http://www.scopeware.com/ - Infomation: VERY Useful personal HD/data search engine on your local box, now that it is intergrated with Outlook. You tell it what (local and network) directories, as well as what RSS feeds (news sites and log sites use that format a lot), as well as what PIM (currently, only Outlook, AFAIK), and a few other things. Great for digging out all that info you have scattered about on a product or customer or what not. Worth a look if you have related info locked away in your email as well as office docs and web pages. :-D
Note - They've gone out of business. After years and years and years about Life Streams, and coming up with a real product that works well and very sellable, Scopeware is now out of business. A very similar tool is Enfish, although I much preferred Scopeware's Vision's UI (User Interface) over Enfish's.

--StarPilot


Discusions and Comments

There are many types of Information Center applications. We call them by different names when they are specialized (TopicMaps, for example).

I am interested in computer applications and systems that are meant to aid a person in manipulating information to achieve better or new understanding/insights.

My question is this: Why is it that there doesn't seem to be a good and robust "Information Center" application/system? It all amounts to the same thing... information. We merely like to filter our information, as that makes it possible to easy to comprehend.

--StarPilot


KnowledgeManagement is a HardProblem. Here is a nice tool collection:


I'll repeat... how can this be a HardProblem? All we are talking about is an Information Center that allows users to filter their data and show that filtered data in various views. That's it. We know exactly what information we want to track, and what we want to do with it. That's the clearest set of requirements any designer has ever had.

What's the difference between a TopicMap and a ConceptMap and a MindMap? In some software, nothing. :-) Look at Inspiration for that as an example. TheBrain's various 'Brain' plexes are nothing more then a mind map that constantly resets the center node to the currently active node (a requirement for a MindMap is that any node or branch can became the center the node). And the difference between an Outline and a MindMap? Merely how it is drawn/presented...

There are two major ways to truly record information... textually and visually. Textual information tends to be 'chunky'. Like this Wiki. Lots of chunky information, on InformationPhysics, for instance. :D

Visual information tends to be very 'light' or 'thin'. This is done to clearly communicate a few key or highlighted information chunks. The presenter of the picture wants you to 'Find Waldo' very quickly. That's why they are presenting it to you visually (as an image).

I understand that specializing an app to only deal with one thing means it has the possibility of doing that one thing well. But... the information center/intelligence/information enhancer systems... they strike me like 'magic'. All these 10,000 different techniques and algorithms to do the same thing... focus one's will strongly and impose a particular outcome onto the universe, and thereby bring about that outcome. Surely, just as the arts of magic have led to more precise sciences, we should be able to isolate the commonalities and reproducible to form a true information center that can be used by WE to aid the individuals in whatever mental information processing (intelligence) they seek to do. Or are we still in the dark ages rubbing potatoes harvested under a new moon with vinegar and then smearing that on our neighbor?s window to cause their good fortune to spread to us? ---StarPilot


Shannon's "ideal information decoder" is an abstraction, it is not a solvable problem, and it can only be approximated. There are organizers and search engines. Managing knowledge is hard ultimately because truth is relative to logical context. Even one topic has meaning in many relevant contexts from the holistic view.

I am still unsure what your information center is. Wiki is a general purpose organizer of text and links. It marginally handles images. WE are making an information mess here in WikiWorld because we lack the norms and the will to do the organizational tasks (summarizing, factoring, categorizing, ordering, etc.). -- JimScarver


A mess? No, merely inputting various ideas, thoughts, opinions, and a few rare facts. It is only a "mess" because WE have not yet focused our interests.

And I'm looking for a something that allows me to collect, search, and view (in a few forms) digital information. The knowledge is up to me, the user, to decide/derive.

I am currently using PersonalBrain and Literary Machine Pro primarily. But I have quite important information in other apps as well. Very aggravating. As my need to track and organize various information changes and grows, I keep adding on more information and apps to handle it. This is No good.

I am not looking for something that can graph like Visio, and handle my email and PIM like Outlook, say. Merely something that isn't so limited in what it does. After all... it's all digital information. It's all numbers. So let me, the user, decide how it should treat that number. Whether it's an image, ASCII, or what not. Don't force me to have to use three applications to track one document's information. Right now, I use Personal Brain to give me a project's document--- it can handle tracking the shortcuts to the information which is split into various files types. But it cannot handle more textual oriented information directly. Literary Machine can, but it only handles chunks of up to 32K. And no outside linking.

I dislike having to build and rebuild and re-rebuild the same basic collection of documents or relationships. That sucks. Just a waste of my time. But it is the only way, currently, to keep track of all the information I need to track.

Knowledge is something the User applies to the numbers. I am looking for a good, basic InformationCenter. Let me decide what the knowledge is, let the computer's application handle holding the numbers for me. It has a better memory then I do, after all. At least when it comes to details. :-D Let us, the humans, use that capability much better then currently. Everything out there I've found seems to be so many little infant?s toys... it's all numbers to the machine, after all. Let us take advantage of that, somehow.

How that information is presented to the user causes an impact in how we think and treat it as well. Humans are always going to try to chunk it down somehow. That's why things like the PersonalBrain come out of MindMaps for instance. A focused, local view to the overall network/nodal view. This means we shall need a few views on our data. Preferably, specifiable by us... such as searches/queries, that sort of thing. Presenting the results as some form of drillable list or what not.

And the ability to go from some form of graphical/iconic view to text/outline/hierarchal and back again would be very useful.

There has to be a better way to deal with the information then is what is being told to us. It is all just numbers inside the digital realm. Whether it's a picture of your ThanksGiving dinner, an MP3 of your favorite song, an RTF of meetings notes, or a Microsoft Project thingie. Right now, there are many ways to use the associated document's application embedded/hosted on the Windows application, which would seem to me to make a proper Information Center even more likely to exist, or be on the verge to exist.

I guess I am just tired of being in a slowly rising information lake. I'm not drowning, but I dislike not being able to get a central view on everything, and being restricted from using a central search on my information, to help me drive out knowledge in the odd set of numbers that represent other things. ---StarPilot


Thank you StarPilot for the very apropos metaphor about being in a slowly rising information lake. [[|http://www.brightidea.com/obviewidea.asp?ideaid{7643717A-C33F-419C-9DC6-45CBCB0A77FE}&bucketid I||LorraineLee]]'m sure there are scads of people who could teach you how to swim, but they'd probably have to kill you. To mangle a very tired cliché, "give a critter to fish and it eats for a day, teach a critter to fish, and you've violated your nondisclosure agreement". Nevertheless, I'm glad to find out I'm not the only being who dislikes not being able to get a somewhat well-informed (let alone central) view on anything (let alone everything) so I'd like to recruit you to PubWan, which is of course (like the SSFTASS) is opposed in principle to secrecy. Not that there's any organization to recruit you into. It just seems that like minded people have to look out for one another. And everyone possesses some kind of information they could volunteer if they wanted to.


I get more enthusiastic with tools that organize my stuff after the fact (such as Enfish) than ones that require me to categorize them up front, if that what this does. Obviously that's because I'm so disorganized, and I know everyone is different. -- Steve Barth, http://www.global-insight.com


Well, I've used Enfish for a while. Decided I preferred Scopeware's Vision product for my local searching and organizing needs. Nothing against Enfish, I just prefer Scopeware's GUI.

Literary Machine Pro is a good product, but I?m finding that I am not using it as a local 'morgue' for interesting articles and research anymore. Scopeware's Vision does that well, so long as you don't have too much extraneous other 'links/also may be of interest/breaking events' tagged in (best way to do that, is to do 'print friendly' versions of online articles, and save that locally). Of course, LM Pro is primarily designed around the needs of writers and writing, so it has its own way of doing things. As a notecard database/organizer and writing tool, I think it's great.

Well, my search goes on. ---StarPilot


It's been a while since I last contributed to this page.

My workplace upgraded my workstation. Since its a new machine, and I have new projects to work on (as well as maintaining my old projects), I've decided to try out a couple of information tools.

Enfish - I installed this on my box. Previously, I was using Scopeware's Vision (a fantastic desktop search engine). I had noticed in a previous testing that Enfish had killed my machine (at that time). Since I've got all my old material backed up safely, I thought this would be a good time to see how Enfish has improved. The answer: Not much. However, it hasn't killed my machine.

Enfish really needs to add in an RSS reader feature. That would really help make it more useful in a "what's happening now" aspect. (Enfish tries to be a portal as well as a search engine).

I still haven't figured out how to get Enfish to actually run its auto-indexer. There's something flaky there, preventing it from running as scheduled. Maybe its a user error/bad user settings. Maybe not. But as long as I remember to tell it to "Update Index Now" (via its buried index settings), I can then use it to search for my most recent additions to my personal DB of copied web articles.

The other information tool I've been using is Zoot.

I'm using Zoot to build a Zoot database set for Space related information, as well as in the use of one of my new software development projects. So far, Zoot has been doing excellent for me. It takes a little longer using an "opt in" information tool (a tool in which you copy info you are interested in into it), but at the moment, it's okay. Plus, it handles "Post It" type info impressively (since its the same thing to Zoot as any other piece of info). Enfish really fails at its "Post It" info.

Anyways, we will see. I've noticed that Zoot starts having trouble displaying a database query results when theres more then 3000 items in the results. It only takes a couple of years to get to that count when you are adding 10 items a day to one database. Zoot wasn't meant to report on such large result sets (but its handling the total items pretty well).

More later (eventually)...

--StarPilot


StarPilot's log 2006-02-01:

These search engines are no longer around.

  • Enfish - Local search engine with a few bells and whistles. Comes in a few flavors. Index less then 10K items (Personal), and Index unlimited number (Pro).
  • Scopeware - Another local search engine.

Enfish sold their code/patents/IP to Easy Reach. EasyReach has updated the old Enfish with a few bug fixes, and added a service in which you can user your BlackBerry to get to your Indexed material.

Zoot is doing great for me. I like it. We will see what I think about it in another year. That's the true test of information trackers/keepers.

I was out and about on the web, checking up on interesting possible new tools and came across this wonder: [[ http://www.pantha.net/index.php?requestdisplaypage&NodeID2 ]] transLucid is the successor to LucidFriedEggs. I'm still checking things out, but it looks to be freeware, and a good alternative to people that want to run their own private Wiki-like webs or to publish their transLucid's to the web.

Speaking of PersonalBrain, while I was hunting around to see what other information tools there were out there, I became aware of the fact that after 12 years, I'm still using my PersonalBrain every day. I can't say the same for any other tool I am currently using, other then Programmer's File Editor (a nice little word processor that does more then Notepad, but isn't the bloated software that is MS Word). Of course, I'm using PersonalBrain mostly as a bookmark manager, but I do occasionally use it for higher information processing/tracking/envisioning.

I'm still searching for the perfect tool or toolset to track and present info in ways that are significant to me. I'll post more later. Eventually. =-)

--StarPilot


Well, it turns out that NoteStudio has a Mozilla spybot in its commercially distributed code. Whoops

I've really gotten into using Notebook. It's text editor is very basic, but it makes a great "Wiki on a stick". As a bonus, it's freeware

I've been using WikidPad for more tasking activities. It's an outliner/Personal Wiki. WikidPad is also a freeware solution. You do have to install it somewhere so it's not a perfect wiki on a stick, but it is well done Personal Wiki.

--StarPilot


StarPilot's log 2006-07-05:

Ok, I have cognitated how InformationCenter is pertinent to WikiWorld. It is this: Wikis are a type of InformationCenter, an open collaborative InformationCenter. =-) As WE collect various data for our own nodal use, WE could use our own personal InformationCenter.

Now, my other thoughts of the moment: I am irritated with Zoot at the moment. It is an old, old program, still living in the Win16 world. It's creator is busy making a true 32 version, but in the meantime, I'm suffering through Zoot pains. It doesn't handle not having absolute access to the file system and memory well. And it occasionally wipes out its open databases when this happens (it's blocked because something else like an anti-virus scanner is scanning its prior activity to make sure its clean, memory is busy being compressed, etc). Makes for a very unhappy StarPilot when that happens, and it's happening much to much on my busy workstation. I may have to desert Zoot for something else if this continues to trouble me.

BTW, I've given this a lot of thought, and what I am questing for is a decent ZigZag implementation. Seeing as computer users have been searching for that since the beginning of regular main-frame usage, as far as I can tell. So that means a problem well over 50 years looking for a reasonable implementation.

--StarPilot

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