Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sometimes we forget to use the simple tools

Wordle: Life of a Genealogist

I admit it, my memory gets worse every year.  Never was I in need of lists like I am now.  These are not reminder lists I'm talking about, such as:
  1. Request death certificate for Grandpa Baudermann
  2. Request SS-5 for Grandma Lucking
Although I do have those types of lists, the lists I refer to are filled with bits and pieces of information that I want to remember, but know I won't, hence the lists.

What brings on the need for lists?  No, I will not give an credit to "you are getting older."  My reasoning, or more likely, my excuse is that never before have I had so much information at my fingertips!  How can I take it all in, process it and remember it all?  I use tools designed to help gather, store and organize information, that's how.

I love the Internet, FaceBook, LibraryThing, Twitter, Google, podcasts, wikis, message boards, mailing lists, blogs and YouTube.  I love gadgets, widgets, toolbars and apps.  I love them all!!  And it is these very things I love so much that fuel my information overload and lead to my forgetfulness.

Now, I could get more tools to manage all my information gathering tools, but that will only add to my problem, won't it?  Because you know just any free down-loadable tool managing tool will not work.  Once I have downloaded and installed the tool to manage my tools, it would need to be customized to my liking, with a creative background and cool fonts and graphics.  The tool most likely would have capabilities to manage tools that I currently don't have.  Of course, I would need to add these new tools to my arsenal (I can't miss out on the latest and the greatest) and then the circle would start again.  I would begin asking myself "what was I using Feedly for and why, doesn't Google Reader do the same thing?  Do I really need TweekDeck and Hootsuite?"

Now you see my dilemma.  I am a fairly early adopter of technology and realize how all things tech can enhance our lives.  But, my first passion is genealogy not technology.  How great those two "ologys" can work together...and one can certainly get in the way of the other.  Time and again I find myself distracted from my research because some tweet came through that sounded so interesting I had to click the link right then.  A half hour later I might get back to what I was originally doing.  So, will I dump all my tech toys?  Absolutely not!  Will I continue to use these tools to support my genealogy research?  Absolutely!

How will I address my forgetfulness and wandering web browsing, in the wake of this time of information overload I find myself in?  Very simply, I have a notebook, with paper and I write in it with pen or pencil.  I have it with me all the time and I call it my "Gem Keeper" (after my favorite genealogy podcaster).  The notebook is 4"x6" so it fits in my purse and goes where I go.  Anytime I run across a website, article, blog or document or task that I want to remember I jot down the "gem".  I don't have to visit the site or read the article right then because I've created my reminder.  Once or twice a week I'll flip through my notebook and pick something out that interests me.  Some items get marked off as completed and some items stay "open" forever.

I'm composing this post in my notebook right now and I will leave the pages in here, scribbles, cross-outs, arrows and all.  Some other genealogist down the line will find this notebook and probably say "too bad she had to use pen and paper."  That's OK, I'm going to stick with this simple tool.