What if I could organise and search all my stuff?

Welcome to the first What if? post.

During the startup of my business I’ve had a problem. Actually, I’ve had this problem for some time but it’s come to a head while starting my business and throughout evaluating a few opportunities over the last couple of years. I find it hard to find all my stuff.

There’s an answer to finding other people’s stuff. It’s called a search engine. Your friend Google does a pretty good job of finding stuff that other people have published.

There’s an answer to organising and categorising stuff online. It’s called tagging. You can assign tags or keywords to your bookmarks (e.g. Delicious), your blog posts, your photos (e.g. flickr) etc. Other people can assign tags as well. Everyone is in tagging heaven.

There’s an answer to finding stuff on your own computer, and now mobile phones, through local search. Things like Spotlight on the Mac, Google Desktop and the like. You can search your files, emails and contacts. It isn’t perfect because you can’t alway find exactly what you want.

There’s and answer, albeit a very inefficient one, to organising and categorising stuff on your computer. It’s called a Folder. Folders have limitations such that it may be necessary to create two files in different locations to be able to find it when you’re looking for it. For example, if you want to organise your invoices, do you put them all in an invoices folder or do you stick them in a customer specific invoices folder. Maybe you put it in both? There are a few options for introducing keywords and tagging to files and information on your computer but they are either specific to a file type or they aren’t integrated with the underlying file system or miss certain types of information. For example, iPhoto allows you to tag photos, Punkea allows you to tag all broad range of files from across your computer.

So here comes the what if.

What if I had a document in google apps and wanted to be able to see that next to documents I may have created on my computer? What if my gmail contacts showed up next to to documents on my computer authored by that person. What if their twitter feeds and facebook updates showed up with that person as well.

What if there was a universal way of tagging all the information that you create, whether it’s offline or online, and a way to search all of that information, irrespective of what and where it is? It would definitely make my life a lot easier :) . With the proliferation of new online services every day, I would hazard a guess that it will make other people’s lives easier as well.

Another way to look at it would be – What if there was a search box that allowed me to look at all the stuff that I have created and saved on my computer and in online services?

Hmm, just a thought.

As with all of my posts, I’m happy to be corrected. Let me know if you’ve come across anything that already exists or if you want to expand on the What if? Maybe you’re in a position to solve the What if? I’d love to hear from you.

One Zero One Launched

A piece of shameless self-promotion. I’ve finally managed to take the leap and launch my own business – One Zero One. It’s taken some time and I’ve still got a long way to go but it’s exciting (and challenging) times.

I will be providing specialist training and advice to businesses to help them take advantage of the wealth of opportunity that the online and digital world presents.
Check out the site at One Zero One. Maybe you should even sign up for insights101, the newsletter to find out how online and digital technology is changing the business landscape.

What if? series

Anyone that know’s me personally knows that I’m always talking about “new ventures”. Read that as I’m always talking about new ideas to do my own thing. One thing that I noticed once you’ve taken that step is that you start identifying potential opportunities left and right. I have a list as long as my arm of potential opportunities for someone to solve a problem.

Now, I’d love to be working on all of these but there’s one problem. I only have about 16 waking hours in the day and they’re already full. I wish I had more more time as there is so much opportunity out there. Particularly as the Internet and Digital world grows and matures there’s going to be more opportunities than ever.

So where am I going with this? Well, I thought I’d start a series of posts that highlight some of the problems that I run across. Where a problem exists, so does and opportunity so I thought it would be a good idea to put the ideas out there. What if I shared some of the ideas i have? What if I could have more hours in the day? I think that last one was solved in Harry Potter with that Time Turner thing.

Stay tuned.

Image courtesy of Adreanna

How do you characterise online?

The other day I was working on trying to distill the different elements of the online world to help in classifying the benefits it brings.  I came up with core online attributes (i.e. those things that make online what it is) and then the key categories of activities that those attributes have fostered.  I thought you might like to see what I came up with.

Characteristics/attributes of online

So what are the fundamental characteristics of the online world?

online key characteristics

So what do the characteristics they mean?

  • Ubiquity – You can get online from anywhere now.  No longer the desk.  It’s the mobile phone, it’s the aircraft, it’s the airport, it’s the TV, it’s the fridge (what ever happened to that?).  You can get information anywhere now.  It’s also getting closer to real time each day.
  • Equality – The barriers to entering the online world are very low.  Cost and the required knowledge are continually dropping.  One website and/or service is fundamentally (technically) the same as the other.
  • Reach (another word ending in y?) – The sheer volume of individuals that have access to the Internet.  Over a billion at last count.  Borders mean nothing, apart to those still protecting the borders of old.

Online activities

So what are the core activities that I think these attributes foster?  This is really about the uniquely identified activities that happen on the web.  We have a word processor on our computer and one online.  What’s the difference?  Collaboration, ubiquitous availability etc.

online unique activities

The activities are relatively self-explanatory I think but for the benefit of all:

  • Communication and Collaboration – converse and interact using online technology.  This allows businesses and individuals to stay in touch and solve problems without having to be physically present.  Guess what?  The fax is dead (really?).  This is the foundation of Social Media as well.  Maybe I should call it Creation, Communication, Collaboration.
  • Selling – Where people go, the selling follows.  I don’t know if that’s a saying as I made it up.  Just then.  Big bucks are where it’s at, or so you think.  Selling is getting a revamp due to online cutural and social changes (e.g. “Free” by Chris Anderson) .
  • Searching – You need to be able to find and be found.  There is a lot of information online.
  • Outsourcing – I wasn’t sure whether this should be a characteristics.  I put it here because it really is something that you “DO” as a result of online being available.  Why do it yourself when the tools for someone else to do it are far more powerful these days?  I would also consider a lot of services that are online

So what?

I think this kind of structure is important for understanding where to focus your attention if you want to do something with your business using online technology.  It helps structure thoughts as to where to invest your time and effort and some of the reasoning behind it.  I’m sure it will be out of date by tomorrow.

What do you think?