Sunday, July 31, 2016

Digital genealogy organizing project Step 2: Results of and tweaks to the highest-level structure

It took me an hour or two to move all of the folders from the Dropbox top level to the 4 folders I had created: one for work, one for genealogy, one for everything else, and one for unassigned files (the inbox).

As I moved items, I was able to delete a few of them when I recognized them as outdated or otherwise no longer needed. But there were some remaining folders that appeared that I decided to leave at the top level.

One was a folder I share with George. Because it contains a mix of genealogy-related content and home-related content, I decided to leave it where it was.

Another was the Apps folder, used by a number of software tools to share data between my desktop computer(s) and my mobile devices. For instance, it contains a RootsMagic folder.

There was also a Camera Uploads folder, which was used by Dropbox to move items taken by my mobile devices. Because I couldn't guarantee that my photos would all fit in the category of genealogy or be work-related, I decided to leave it at the top level, with a scheduled project to go through it at a later date and move the photos to appropriate folders.

Because I wanted my main folders to be easy to find without the need to scroll, I put an exclamation point in front of each one, and two in front of the Inbox so that it would remain first.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Digital genealogy organizing project Step 1: The highest-level structure

When you are looking to re-organize your digital files (or just plain organize them), the best way to start is by looking at your highest level organization on your desktop/laptop device. For me, I want to have everything in Dropbox, so that it will be available to me on my other devices. This means going into Dropbox and setting up new highest-level folders to begin the process.

The number of highest-level folders is going to depend on how I mentally think of my files, minimizing the situation where I can't quite figure out which folder I would put the file into. For instance, my computer usage is divided into essentially 3 things: my full-time job, my genealogical activities, and everything else (mostly home/personal files).

In addition, I need at least one catch-all folder to put things that I haven't yet filed away. This is like the physical inbox on your desk, or your email's inbox system. Because I want that one at the top, I like to name that one using an exclamation point, so that it will automatically sort to the top.

So this gives me 4 highest-level folders:

Work (or the name of the place I work)
Other (or Misc)

And once I have created those, I need to move all of my existing folders and files from the topmost level to one of those folders.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A digital genealogy organizing project (a 3-month goal)

Now that my Organize Your Genealogy book has been published, I've been thinking more of ways to help people apply its principles to their own situations. Genealogists seem especially overwhelmed with the amount of paper and digital images that they have accumulated.

Personally, I want to eliminate as much paper from my home office space as possible, and that means scanning whatever is important and discarding the paper copies once I have the digital versions. (Yes, I won't discard those unique papers and photos, even after scanning, although I'll want to move them into appropriate storage elsewhere.)

Yet before creating even more digital documents to add to the enormous number I already have on my various systems, I need to go through and organize the ones I already have. Interestingly enough, I was listening to a favorite productivity podcast this week, The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency, as the host interviewed Paul Akers about "Lean Thinking". Akers discussed the history of lean management, with origins in the Toyota Production System and the concept of kaizen (continuous improvement).

But what struck me was Akers' focus on a "3-S" system for improving workflow (picture a factory floor): Sweep, Sort, and Standardize. Isn't this what we need to do with dealing with our overwhelming piles of documents and hard drives full of digital files?  We need to "sweep" out the stuff that we don't need, to "sort" the stuff that remains into more appropriate piles, and then to "standardize" the binders/folders and file names so that we can find what we need when we need it.

In the next 3 months, I plan to do this with my home computer system (I'll do something in parallel at work). And you can hold me accountable as I implement this.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Upcoming Research Trip and Viewing Hometown Newspapers

Not very long from now, I'll be going on a trip that will include some time for genealogical research. To make the most of it, I have to think about where I am going, what repositories will be available, and what I might need from those repositories that I don't already have.

One of the things that I can't access from home is my hometown newspaper for years starting in 1923.   (Earlier years are available online via Chronicling America.) Although some issues are actually scanned and online via the Google News Newspaper archive, there are gaps. For example, the issue containing my parents' wedding announcement is not online. So my best bet will be to visit the local public library in my hometown, which has the microfilm.

To save some time, I'm going to use my genealogy database's feature of displaying all events in a given location during a certain time period. This will give me a chronological list of dates that I can use to process the newspapers in an efficient way.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Time to Organize Your Genealogy

I think a lot about organizing stuff, especially information. Books, magazines, papers, digital files. The stuff that piles up in tubs and boxes in my home office and my work office. The stuff that piles up in folders on my desktop computers and the many apps on my tablet and smartphone.

And it's not just the information that needs organizing. It's also my schedule, my to-do list, my goals and projects and tasks.  Sometimes I amaze myself that I was able to write a book last year, which just became available on Kindle today. No doubt if I had been even better organized and less stressed, the book could have been produced even sooner.  (And what about future books?)

But if you're reading this, you're probably more interested in your own organizational and productivity issues. I do like to talk about technology and methodology as they apply to genealogical research, but a big part of that now has to do with using technology to organize, and creating methods to organize.

I don't believe in New Year's Day resolutions, mainly for two reasons: You have to wait each year until January 1 to start them, and the idea is that you're going to do something for an entire year. I don't want to wait. And I can only work on small things at a time. 3 months, maybe?

So how will I be spending my time during the next 3 months? There's a research trip somewhere in there, which means getting ready for that. There's a bunch of new podcasts to prepare (The Genealogy Guys Podcast continues, and in between, new episodes of Genealogy Connection).  There's a new Patreon site to finish and promote. There's ongoing book promotion.

But I would really like to get back to my researching my own family (not just with the research trip). And I want to make better use of my DNA matches.

Let me leave you with an idea to help your own information overload, a clever little experiment I participated in during the past 5 days, and which I found fun and productive: Infomagical.  You can sign up at pretty much any time, and it begins the Monday after you sign up. Here's the link:


Go do it, and a week from now, tell me what you thought about it.