This title might sound like the start of a self-help entry, and in some ways it is. We have written a few blog posts in the past about seeing information as flow (rather than a stock). These posts included How is Information Like Electricity or Water? and Knowledge Has Changed: 6 Big Ideas from George Siemens. And we have even tried to experiment with this notion in our own lives, for example in our office, which we wrote about in the blog post No Trees Were Harmed Setting Up This Office. However, when you come right down to it, people just want to keep things, bits of information, papers, books. No doubt there is some deep psychological reason for this (did my family move around alot when I was a child?) or maybe I just don’t have enough time to read all these things in the first place (so I imagine that I will have more time later?)
I have been active recently on a new community social networking tool called a ning. One in particular is devoted to informal learning, run by Jay Cross, called the Internet Time Community. On that site, the community of 90 members (this number has tripled, it was only 30 last week) discusses community building, blogging, PLEs (personal learning environments), and more, all at the same time. Here is where I found something that helped me take another step in letting go of paper. I shared with this community my urge to print things (I had just started a physical folder of interesting articles on web 2.0 and somehow it seemed very anachronistic) and asked them for some advice.
Several members of the community answered this question. Here is what Jay Cross (author of Informal Learning) said: “Try using Del.icio.us or Magnolia. When you see something you like, click and you have a breadcrumb back to that item. You can tag it for retrieval by any terms you want. And you can even see who else has tagged the same thing. “
So I just spent the last hour setting myself up on Del.icio.us and I must say, it’s satisfying to go back through those many emails I sent myself with URLs to useful sites and documents. I was able to annotate them, and tag them for future reference. I won’t lose them and I won’t print them. And it feels good knowing that they are there – just like those community members in the ning; they helped me take one more small step towards letting go…