- Investigating serendipity
- Make Serendipitous Information Discoveries
- Understanding Focused and Non-Focused Information Seeking in Music Search
- Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find
Because The System is a CAS, and the building of Our System is the building of a CAS, there is no simple procedure for finding and using tools to take from The System what we can and create what we need in Our System. While all efforts to find useful information are doomed by the sheer amount of it, You can reduce the effect of that firehose by a combination of focus and allowance for serendipity.
Ice-Fishing is a decent metaphor that combines the concepts of focused and serendipitous search. You do not cause the fish to bite, you use their natural behavior to entice a bite. The “focus” part is the area you choose in which to fish, and the serendipity is the placing of a variety of locations for tip-ups covering areas that are not part of your immediate focus. When a tip-up is triggered, you check it to see if you got a fish.
Searching for what is useful to your individual path to personal autonomy and choice is very similar to ice-fishing. Your mental framework for what that path should be will orient you to the tip-ups that might be of value to you.
I will describe how I approach this, but the path you want will reflect your own evolving growth and experiences, and you will need to evolve a scaffolding that truly reflects you and those important to you.
There are some heuristics that you can use making decisions about that to include in your search scaffolding:
- You need a diversity of search scaffolds, so that your choices, as a group, won’t reflect a bias that systematically prevents you from accessing useful information
- You should actively add small numbers of new search algorithms as you run across them and eliminate ones that don’t show use to you in a reasonable time. I use a few months as a rough metric for assessing usefulness
- Accept that a large percentage of what you review will not be of use.
- Calibrate your judgement of what is useful to some self-chosen framework, like the headline, and have another layer of review that lets you quickly review the possible usefulness.
- Trust your intuition about what might be useful.
The value of your scaffold depends on the linkages in the information universe you search. You will always miss items of great importance and must depend on the larger network you are sampling to find that which is of use to you.
Here is a sample of the tools I use for my scaffolding. There is nothing special about these tools. I evolved my current scaffold step by step over a period of years, and the evolution continues:
- Feedly: This is an RSS reader. Though deprecated by many, RSS remains the simplest way I can sample many item summaries with little effort. At one point, I had 300 sources. Now, I have about 120.
- Medium: I use the tools of following and item recommendations, and I mute or delete sources every day, so that there is an evolving focus. The Medium universe is constantly evolving, and the same must be true of your scaffold for scanning the possibilities.
- Paper.li: This app allows for the creation of papers with themes that are published periodically. I have chosen a variety of papers with themes that I find useful. My regular scan includes the headline and a short description.
- Social Media: I review Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, etc. and the scaffolding for this review includes both my personal and policy models. Since these two models have significant overlap, I get a lot of surprises, and the surprises often show me a profitable path or paths for expanding my search resources.
- WordPress: I follow WordPress blogs that produce useful items for review.
Because, in systems theory terms, we are all “path-dependent”, every building of a personal scaffold will be unique. Strong efforts to reduce this uniqueness may have the unintended consequence of creating a systematic barrier to that which would be of use to you.