Surviving the Information Explosion

Jaime B. Teevan, Christine Alvarado— MIT AI Laboratory, Laboratory for Computer Science

November 27, 2001
Refreshments at 3:45pm


Chances are you deal with vast quantities of electronic information. Every day you probably have to extract the small amount of information that you're interested in from among the millions of Web pages on the Internet, the hundreds of emails you receive, and the constantly increasing number of files on your personal computer. This can be a daunting task.

There are a number of tools designed to help you deal with this information explosion. For example, search engines enable you to discover new information on the Web. Calendars help you to keep track of your scheduling information and email programs allow some organization of correspondence. However, the tools currently available suffer from many deficiencies, including an inability to deal with multiple types of information and a lack of sensitivity to your specific information needs. We believe that this is in part due to a lack of understanding about the way that people would like to organize their many different types of electronic information.

We present a study that explores how people organize and find all types of electronic information and the specific problems they encounter with their current scheme. We discuss the implications of this study for the design of the interface to Haystack, a personal information storage system that supports exploration and storage of all types of electronic information.

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