Saturday, 27 January 2018

Thing 16: Your Digital Footprint

What is a digital footprint, and why does it matter?

The internet is at this point an unavoidable part of our everyday lives. Yet it’s important to remember that whenever we do something on the internet, whenever we interact with it, we leave traces of ourselves that can be taken advantage of by others on the internet.

It’s very simple, users who are active on the internet and who take little or no precautions, are leaving a very large digital footprint. 

You might think, bar for a few extra advertisements, what difference does it make? Unfortunately, there are a large number of opportunistic entities on the network who will look to take advantage. For example, whenever you take a picture from your smartphone and post to Facebook, Instagram or other social media site / forum, you are most likely including image background information. This type of information can be as mundane as the time of the picture, aperture, type of camera, etc… But it can also include your GPS coordinates. 

Gerald Friedland has stated in his paper titled “Cybercasing the Joint: On the privacy implications of Geotagging”, that it is possible for any person with basic coding skills to access the publicly available A.P.I.s that companies like Twitter / Youtube / Instagram etc offer, and allow for searching of geotagged information in an orderly fashion. For example, show me everyone in Town X, with the following information, “holiday” or “vacation” or “new car” or “living alone” or “no alarm” or “safe”, etc… Or how about the following scenario, you have just joined a dating app. You put loads of pictures up to bolster your profile, some of these pictures are you at work, social images, and maybe at home. If you haven’t stripped this background information out / disabled the geotagging function - or your dating app also doesn’t do this automatically- you are opening up your life in a way that you never intended, especially to potential stalkers or other parties.  

Nowadays, Facebook strips this information from your pictures, but not all social media channels do so. It is advisable to check out the terms and conditions of the site you are using. Before you disable the feature entirely, remember that apps such as Tinder / Airbnb or Uber will look for your GPS coordinates to facilitate either a hook-up, suitable accommodation or your pick up / drop off locations. 

Remember too, though, that Facebook is in the business of using your data, including images, to sell itself back to its users or partners, without offering you any compensation. The old adage of "if you are not paying for it, then you are the product" is certainly true in this digital age. 

The following is a snippet from Facebook’s current terms and conditions: 

“…subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook …”

Fine Print by David Gadal / Flickr  CC BY 2.0
Sharing is set by your privacy & application settings, and within that Facebook retain the right to have a non-exclusive, sub-licensable, royalty-free…. Also, if you have shared this content or picture with others, it may still exist in the system, again to be subject to the same royalty free regime, even if you have deleted your profile and account. Many of the other social media platforms have similar terms and conditions. 

Finally, it is very important to remember that defamation law applies online as well. For example, if I was to post something that opened another person or organisation to ridicule or contempt, or lowers this person or entity in the eyes of society or potentially causes them to be shunned and my statement is not true, then I have defamed that party and opened myself up to a potential lawsuit. This can be as simple as me posting something on Twitter, Facebook, or any medium, and applies even if I only retweet a statement that is defamatory. Check out the Katie Hopkins Vs Jack Monroe defamation case in the UK or Ganley Vs Barrington in Ireland, as to how the courts are starting to come to grips with this evolving area.

As a general rule of thumb, be careful when posting, and try not to say or repost / retweet anything that you wouldn’t be happy to say to the person’s face in the cold light of day. 

How your Digital Footprint can come back to haunt you: cases

You should always remember that what goes up online about you, whether you created the content or not, forms part of your “digital brand”. Already some prospective employers will look at this publicly available information prior to calling you for interview. Now these checks are going to be limited in future so that the employer needs a “legal ground” and the search must be “relevant to the performance of the job”. However, this still leaves much scope in proving that you didn’t get called back for another interview because of an online search. Real-life examples of this are:

1. Employee X called in sick, but left posts on social media alluding to the “mental night” that was just had. 
2. Teacher in the U.S. who posted pictures of herself having fun / drinking alcohol and was subsequently fired as the school board felt her page promoted alcohol use and contained profanity.
3. 18-year-old Buckingham Palace guard who was fired ahead of the royal wedding for calling Kate Middleton an unflattering name.

What these all illustrate, is that you need to be exceptionally careful about online postings, what permissions you have given to your social media channels, what data your photographs give out, what permissions you have signed away for apps on your smartphone, e.g. location based data, microphone / camera / contacts access.

Look no further that the case of Alison Chang, regarding digital footprints. She was a 15-year-old student from Dallas, who had her picture taken at a church sponsored car wash. The photographer was Justin Ho-Wee Wong and he was Alison’s church youth counsellor. Justin a budding photographer, loaded the picture up to the photo sharing site Flickr. 

His picture ended up being used in a campaign by Virgin mobile in Australia who were looking for a picture that they felt represented “goofy”. They manipulated the image, removed the second girl from the picture, interestingly they also removed the Adidas logo from Alison’s hat either because they didn’t want to offend Adidas’s IP or they wanted Virgin to be the only brand on the image. (You can see the two images compared in this news story). In either case, the subsequent heading of “Dump your Pen Friend” & “Virgin to Virgin” cause many issues for Alison in both her school life and her on-life social media life where she was opened up to ridicule by her peers. 

When Justin had uploaded his image to Flickr, he agreed that Flickr were allowed to use the image or sublicense to their commercial partners. The subsequent issue that arose was whether Virgin needed Alison’s permission for her image to be used in that manner.

A final case is that of the Ashley Madison website in 2015, illustrating the real world consequences of some of our online activities. This is a website that facilitates hook-ups between married people and has the tagline, “life is short, have an affair”. When they had a large data breach and their customer list was published online. There were subsequent reports from global newspapers about suicides that were directly linked to their names being published / associated with this site.

How do most people secure themselves against the threats presented by one’s digital footprint? Is it enough?

Changing passwords irregularly is what the average person does to secure themselves online. But in fairness, most have no idea as to what is possible on the internet and to make it more difficult, even if the average user does receive some training, the goalposts keep changing as to how you can be targeted.  For example, man in the middle attacks, reading usernames and passwords in a HTTP session in clear text. Installing a fake SSL cert in the browser to capture effectively all your details irrespective of you being in an encrypted session with the webserver and thinking that most online emails offer end to end encryption.

Training and awareness are critical to raise awareness as to the pitfalls on the internet.  

Whether the infrequent changing of passwords is enough as a defence depends on what is on a person’s device, i.e. any PII information (Personally Identifiable Information) and where they are browsing, and whether or not they are on a a public Wi-fi that is potentially an unverified access point.

If the answer is just browsing a few websites that don’t require you to login / not conducting any type of sensitive business, then the answer is most likely yes, the user is fine.

However, the reality is usually far from this. Banking sites may be used, Email (which in many instances can be referred to as the central point of your digital life, where most of your accounts can be reset --note some services now will also send a verification to your mobile which is a welcome extra step), Social media sites, work portals and cloud based services are becoming more integral to our daily online lives.

When you are downloading content, or maybe an app that is especially not part of the Android market, do you know what are you allowing to be loaded onto your device or what ports on the firewall have you given permission to be permanently opened that may be assessed at a later date? If you were to use specialised tracking software when downloading / streaming on certain sites, you would be very surprised at the amount of private and governmental organisations tracking various IP packets across the network and subsequently logging your details, potentially for use in future lawsuits, especially if you are downloading illegal content.

Your device / your bandwidth could be used to launch a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service Attack) attack in a larger botnet on government computers or a private organisations computer. You will most likely not be even aware that this is happening, bar for the fact that the internet just appears to be a little slower.

To come back to the question, based on the average users’ usage habits, the answer would be a categoric no, not enough is being done.
In conclusion and in no particular order, the following points offer a brief overview of the areas to be aware of:  

  • Be very careful giving out personal information to websites that you are unfamiliar with.
  •  Do not respond to phishing emails. Remember, Banks or Paypal, etc will never ask you to send personal details or to “Click Here” to login. Only ever call them on a number you trust or login into your account on a trusted computer on a secure internet connection that you initiated.
  • Don’t download illegal software - apart from the legal ramifications - quite often, this software will have backdoors programmed in to allow access to your device or information at a later stage.
  • Be careful when connecting to the internet when out and about. For example, a coffee shop, or bar or airport waiting room. Make sure that you are connecting to a legitimate hot-spot and that it is encrypted. In the public domain there is potential for fake wi-fi hotspots to be set up, such as “freeStudentWiFi” that could steal your information.
  • Do read T&C’s of the apps you download so that you can give “informed consent”
  • Be aware online of what you post, both from a defamatory perspective and regarding giving out too much information about yourself or your family.
  • Educate yourself about the basics of the internet and how it works. This will allow you to become more aware of the risks out there and how to mitigate them if needed
  • Do use an alphanumeric password, i.e. characters, numbers a special character. Do not use the same password or a very close derivation for all your accounts. Remember, if I can get access to your email account, I will be able to reset most of your online accounts and take control of them. Change your passwords reasonably often.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself online but always remember the pictures or content you post could potentially end up in a newspaper / in an ad campaign / looking back at you in a job interview, etc... So be prudent and careful about your digital footprint.

Your task: Look through the above list of points to be aware of in terms of your digital footprint. Use these to run a kind of diagnostic of how you protect yourself against violations of your privacy on the internet. How do these compare with the precautions that you take?

Additional tools / resources

DuckDuckGo: It’s a search engine that, unlike Google or Bing, doesn’t track you. You can download the app, and an updated version has just been released.

WhatsApp messaging app: features end-to-end encryption to protect your privacy.

ProtonMail: An encrypted email service

Library Freedom Project: Collection of resources to help protect privacy. Includes Toolkits for Librarians and curricula for courses in online and mobile privacy.

VPN (Virtual Private Network). Allows the user to hide their IP address and encrypt traffic from their local computer to the VPN server. Note VPNs and TOR are separate things and allow for varying degrees of anonymity on the network, but further discussion is unfortunately beyond the scope of this article

Thing 16 was written by Brian Hickey, MBS. Brian is a professional member of the Irish Computer Society, has extensive information technology industry experience, predominantly in the areas of IT consulting, project management and training and development.

Brian is currently a Senior IT Lecturer at Dublin Business School, delivering industry focused tuition to students up to and including level 9. His research interests lie in the fields of Data Privacy, Risk as it relates to Cloud based business solutions and Cloud technologies.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Thing 15: Evaluating Information

For Thing 15, on Evaluating Information, we invite participants to first evaluate and perhaps re-evaluate their approach to Wikipedia, an information resource we paradoxically both take for granted on a day-to-day basis and, as information professionals or educators, sometimes think of as a bête noire of the information universe. Thing 15 begins with a Q&A conducted over email between Dr. Rebecca O'Neill, Wikimedia Ireland Project Coordinator and Rudai 23 project team person Kris Meen. After the Q&A, we’ll turn to a task that will involve applying your critical and evaluative skills to potentially improving Wikipedia itself.


KM: Taking a look at Wikipedia as part of the Critical Thinking part of the course and as part of this Thing in particular in part follows my own reading of Heidi Jacobs' 2011 article on "Posing the Wikimedia 'Problem'". The article argues that Wikipedia might be more productively considered a 'problem' -- in the sense of a puzzle that can be worked with and through as a means of learning -- rather than a 'problem', in the sense of something negative that ought to be avoided or eliminated. What is the approach of educators, including librarians, these days when it comes to Wikipedia? Is it still approached as a ‘problem,’ that people should shun? To what extent would you say this is the case?

RO: Increasingly Wikipedia is being viewed and utilised by many within academia broadly as a pragmatic tool for teaching critical thinking skills. As many academic librarians are engaged in teaching skills associated with literature searches, plagiarism, referencing, and assessment of sources, an increasing number are looking to employ Wikipedia editing as method of teaching what can be abstract concepts to many students. However, the uptake in Ireland is still low in comparison to the UK or other countries, underlined by the fact that this paper is from 2010. Many academics and institutions in Ireland still maintain a more conservative view of Wikipedia, advising students to avoid it at all costs and perpetuating the scepticism of its veracity or verifiability which have been around since the project’s inception.

I have found that this distrust of Wikipedia comes from a misunderstanding of how it works in real terms. In giving a quick presentation, or a workshop on how to edit Wikipedia, many of the misconceptions evaporate quite quickly. Even a brief introduction to editing illustrates quickly how rigorous the standards are on Wikipedia in relation to references and plagiarism, as well as how quickly vandalism can be reverted and even minor errors be corrected. It is a demonstration again of how thinking about Wikipedia working effectively in abstract leads you to conclude that it can’t, but somehow it does, reinforcing the often quoted idea that: “The problem with Wikipedia is that it only
Wiki Loves Monuments Launch 2016 by Smirkybec
CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
works in practice. In theory, it can never work.”

KM: A less prohibitive approach to Wikipedia that has been popular for some time has been to say that it is ‘useful as a starting point for research’. Wikipedia itself has taken this idea on (as in here: ). Can you expand on what this might mean, in practical terms? When should research with Wikipedia begin and end?

RO: It is useful to think about Wikipedia in the way many of us would have with a paper encyclopaedia: it is the first port of call. If a topic is new to you, or you want an introduction to a topic, it is a useful first stop when immersing yourself in a subject. Wikipedia is even more useful than the encyclopaedias of old however, in that it endeavours to provide you with a list of references from which the article has been constructed. In providing those references, the student or engaged reader is essentially given a reading list from which they can then engage with the topic in more in-depth way. Whilst not always the case, the vast majority of the references used should also be accessible to readers, as many editors rely on mainstream information sources or on open resources. In the same way that citing an encyclopaedia would have been seen as academically insufficient in years gone by, Wikipedia should be viewed in the same way. It is not suitable for usage as a reference within an academic work, but can be used as that initial introduction to a topic and a selection of potentially useful further reading.

From the point of view of using Wikipedia as a tool to teach critical assessment skills, this is where a complex set of skills manifest in the real world. Students can be presented with an article, and tasked with assessing the content, and the references to see if they are a balanced and accurate reflection of the topic at hand. At times this assessment can be very simple, particularly if an article is very short or if the number of references are very small. As article length or complexity increases, as does the assessment of it. This opens up the possibilities of students assessing the individual sources for various forms of bias, which in relation to current events and news sources, it is a priority for Wikipedia not to perpetuate any bias or unsupported speculation.

KM: What misconceptions of Wikipedia are there?

RO: The biggest one is that it is wholly unreliable. As anyone can edit Wikipedia, this is interpreted to mean that any and everything can be added to and remain on Wikipedia. This is perpetuated by the constant news stories about people “hacking” Wikipedia, generally with comic edits. However, these edits rarely persist for any meaningful amount of time, and often will be reverted within minutes rather than hours or days.

KM: What weaknesses does Wikipedia have? How are these weaknesses being addressed?

RO: One the major weaknesses that has been the focus of a lot of work in recent years is the bias towards white, “western”, and “male” topics on Wikipedia. Generally active Wikipedia editors (those how make 5 or more edits in a month) are male, white, between the ages of 18 to 30, have attended third level education or above, have no children or partner. This has meant that the content on Wikipedia tends to over-represent the interests of this group of people. What this means in real terms is that every type of bullet or train carriage ever manufactured has an article, but female artists of colour are less likely to have an article. Speaking of English language Wikipedia specifically, currently only 17% of all the biographies are about women. It has been referred to as the Gender Gap, and a huge effort has been made to not only make the content of Wikipedia more diverse, but to increase diversity within the editorship. Projects such as Women In Red and Art+Feminism have been leading the way in addressing the gender gap. This is done in a number of ways, from in-person editing events, virtual editing drives, as well as working with partner organisations to make material
Dublin Pride Parade 2017 by Smirkybec CC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons
available to write these articles.

These problems of diversity are not only an issue with the active editors of Wikipedia, however. Given that Wikipedia relies on traditional information sources, journals, books, and reputable news sources, Wikipedia perpetuates the diversity issues inherent within these forms of knowledge. The fact that people of colour, women, LGBTQA+, and other minorities are generally poorly represented within these forms of written knowledge, it results in these subjects not being deemed notable enough to be included within the Wikipedia project.

KM:Initiatives like 1lib1ref present librarians with new opportunities to engage with Wikipedia. What are the benefits to librarians of doing so?

RO: 1lib1ref has a number of benefits for librarians and other library professionals. On a very basic level, it is a simple and effective way to improve the content of a resource which is one of the most visited website globally. On a more fundamental level, those who work in libraries tend to have easy access to resources that are either physically or monetarily out of reach for the majority of people globally. In this way, I would view this as a form of information advocacy, in a small way addressing the information access gap. This is particularly true of paywalled or other difficult to access material.
From an Irish perspective, this means ensuring that topics relevant to Ireland are represented well on Wikipedia. In practical terms, it will move Wikipedia articles which are often written from a UK or American perspective, to having a more representative or holistic breath and scope.

KM: What is the role of groups like the Wikimedia Community Ireland, and similar groups? What do they do? Who are they for?

RO: First and foremost, we are here to serve the Irish community of editors, as well as encouraging new editors and contributors to Wikipedia and its sister projects. We run events and campaigns to promote the use of Wikipedia in education and cultural initiatives. We do this with support from the Wikimedia Foundation, as well as Wikimedia groups around the world.


Your Task for this Thing:
Option a: It's a good time to be thinking about Wikipedia, as #1lib1ref is currently running, as of January 15, through February 3. It's a great entry-point into Wikipedia editing, the focus of the event being finding secondary sources and adding them as citations in order to strengthen the reliability of Wikipedia articles. If you'd like to use this as an opportunity to try your hand at a bit of Wikipedia editing, go ahead, there is plenty of support and instructions on the 1lib1ref home page, here

Adding a few edits to Wikipedia isn't technically difficult, particularly with its Visual Editor tool. But if trying this out seems a bit too involved, then try:

Option b:
This will make use of one of the tools that can help with 1lib1ref, the Citation Hunt tool (available at ).

This tool hunts down passages in Wikipedia where there is a missing reference and invites you to find one to fill the gap. Check it out, and find a missing reference for which you think you could likely find some information about. Find a couple of possibilities. Then, apply one of the evaluation of information tools that are rapidly doing the rounds in this our current fake-news environment; the most heavily being circulated probably being the CRAAP test (Google 'CRAAP test' and you'll find any number of examples from various university LibGuides). How do the sources you've found rate in terms of their currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose -- and/or any other evaluative criteria you might use?
If this exercise has given you the bug, then go ahead and try to insert the citation into the Wikipedia page. But if that does seem overly daunting, feel free to stop here.

Having done either option a or  b, think about the following questions. How do you find your own evaluation skills? Does needing to find rigorous information on your own help to put yourself in the shoes of people you might be helping in your work? Does going through this kind of exercise make you feel better equipped to talk others through the need for a critical or evaluative approach to information -- and how one might take such an approach?


Rebecca O’Neill by VGrigas (WMF) CC BY-SA 3.0.
via Wikimedia Commons
Dr Rebecca O'Neill is the Project Coordinator of Wikimedia Community Ireland, the recognised affiliate group of the Wikimedia Foundation in Ireland. She completed her PhD in the University of Hull establishing the concept of the citizen curator, as seen through crowd sourced and collaborative initiatives such as Wikipedia. Within her work with Wikipedia, she takes a strong interest in addressing the gender gap on Wikipedia and improving the coverage of Irish subjects generally. She runs editing and other workshops with partner organisations to train new editors and educate on issues such as Creative Commons licenses.

Follow or get in touch with Wikimedia Ireland at the following:

Work Cited

Jacobs, Heidi. 2011. Posing the Wikipedia 'Problem': Information Literacy and the Praxis of Problem-Posing in Library Instruction. Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, eds Maria T. Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, 179-197. Available:

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Thing 14: Personal Information Management

Welcome to the first Thing of 2018. We hope that you had a restful break and found time to catch up on the course if needed. We are thrilled to see so many of you applying for your Open Badges. For those of you that haven't applied yet, you can find links to apply for the first three badges on the home-page of our blog.

If you are having any difficulties with the course please feel free to contact us. If you have just registered with the course a moderator will be in touch with you either by email or by commenting on your blog. Please remember to allow comments on your blog posts so that we can engage with you throughout the course.

Personal Information Management: What's that?

Personal information management (we’ll call it ‘PIM’ from now on), consists of the activities that a person undertakes to organize the seeking, acquisition, storage and discovery/re-discovery of all of the information pertaining to the diverse components of one’s life -- at work, at home, at play, with the family, anything relevant to any one person (Jones 2012).

By Sahra693 CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
PIM can refer to information in any kind of format. It can refer to electronic and paper documents, and electronic information can include web-based electronic information or information stored locally (as in one’s desktop email application, or information in a local hard drive).

PIM is a whole field of study within information management, one that studies and considers the behaviour of people vis-à-vis the information they use. Its practitioners tend to be interested in studying this behaviour to come up with cool tools to help people become more literate – more conscious of, more effective, better able to make informed choices and be more effective practitioners – about their own personal information. It also involves a lot of quite technical debates.

We’re just going to scratch the surface of all that a bit here, and see if we can use this phrase as a way to approach some cool tools that are out there that are, in general terms, there to help one’s organize one’s life – or, more loftily, enhance your ability to create meaning out of the information you engage with day by day. One aspect of PIM we’ll work with is its assumption that people take an active role in giving shape to their own information environments. People aren’t merely recipients of information; they aren’t just consumers of it, even vis-à-vis information platforms widely associated with the mere consumption of information, like the web, particularly 1.0 as compared to 2.0 (Jones 2012; Whittaker 2011).

Lots of hash by Michael Coughlan CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr
PIM might seem like an overly fancy way of referring to a collection of very mundane, everyday activities. What’s being referred to are things like creating folders and folder hierarchies to store information; or applying labels to information to help better find it later on. It’s important to remember though, that people order information according to their own priorities; this ordering and making sense of information is a conscious, critical, even creative act. It’s in the spirit of this assumption that Whittaker refers to these activities as ‘curation’ (2011). This is also a good way to refer to the management of one’s personal information (it’s the term we used in an analogous Thing
in Rudai 23’s first iteration).

One hot topic in PIM is the difference and interplay between different modes of ordering information: specifically, the difference between folders and folder hierarchies, and tags or labels referred to, above (for example, see Bergman et al 2013). Tags experienced a burst in popularity as of the emergence of Web 2.0, as people started using them to find information circulating over social media (two examples of note being the hashtag that Twitter made famous, and the social takes of the now, finally, probably, maybe not defunct social bookmarking tool Folder-centric systems like Windows O/S eventually took these on, and you can now tag up documents as well a store them in a (nested) file in your hard drive. More pertinently, tags and labels tend to be features of the kind of web-based tools that are Rudai 23’s bread and butter.
Lettuce from the garden by Robert Course-Baker CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

Expert PIM practitioners are really interested in bringing down the barriers between information systems, moving towards a tool that brings all the information in one’s life into an interoperable, organized personal system – bringing information currently separated by incompatible systems together into one tool. So one collection of researchers, for example, are currently working on something called ‘Thymeflow’, which integrates emails, calendar and contacts with location history. To some, this might seem pretty handy (see Montaya et al, 2016).

Some research has shown that a lot of people don’t really like these kinds of omnibus, life-organizing tools (Jones 2012: 66-67). What we’ll be presenting here is a bit of a taste of both. On the one hand, we’ll introduce tool that can do quite a lot in terms of information management (particularly web-based information): Evernote. Then, we’ll introduce a small collection of tools that are good for organizing particular aspects of your life.

“Remember everything.” That’s part of Evernote’s current slogan. Evernote is sometimes referred to
as a tool to organize your ‘notes’. Indeed, you can keep and organize notes in Evernote. But better than your average binder/coloured divider combo, a ‘note’ in Evernote is a blank space where you can jot down, yes, your thoughts, those of your lecturer or team leader or whomever, but it’s a place where you can put pretty much any electronic information. Web links are a big one, and thus one potential use for Evernote is as a souped up bookmarking tool: you can save webpages here, but also annotate them, with text or image.
You can also attach related documents to notes; it can be an annotated document drive. You can attach reminders to notes, so that Evernote can function as a kind of task manager. There are many sharing features, and increasing interoperability between Google tools in particular. And of course, you can organize: create a system of Notebooks into which to organize your documents; and come up with labels for your notes to make them searchable.

To get started with Evernote:
1.       Head to and sign in for a free account. (You can pay for premium access, which will give you increased storage space and extra functionality)
2.       Create a note or two or three using + in a green circle icon, at the top of the left-hand panel.
3.       Try typing into a note. Give it a title. Write something in the body. Attach a file (using the paperclip button at the top of the note, near the center). Insert a link to something interesting.
4.       Create a new Notebook to begin organizing your notes. Do so either within a note by placing your cursor in the note title, and clicking the drop-down menu above; or, if you’re in the body of your note, click the Notebook icon, second icon from the bottom in the left-hand panel (it's a nearly solid green book).

5.       (Optional). One of the handiest functions of Evernote is its web-clipper. This lets you ‘clip’ webpages to Evernote notes as you browse. Google 'Evernote web-clipper' to find and download the plug-in. Here are some of the options you have when you clip with this tool:

So Evernote can do a lot. The following tools are much more focused on organizing a particular aspect of your life.


One thing that Evernote won’t do is to organize RSS feeds. Feedly will. RSS feed readers seem to come and go with bizarre regularity. Feedly seems to have some staying power, and is a good one to try. To get started:
1.       Head to and start up an account.
2.       Add a blog or webpage that updates regularly by clicking on ‘Add Content’ at bottom right, then click ‘Publications & Blogs’.
3.       Cut and paste the URL of a blog or other publication you would like to follow. Click ‘Follow’ (Feedly will often detect multiple feeds, one that is usually the main blog post feed, then another for comments. ‘Follow’ whichever you feel useful.)
4.       You will have a choice to arrange your newly followed blog into categories that you will have made (click ‘New Feed’ at the bottom of the list to create a new category).

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk is a task manager. (Tasks are be-devilling. The PIM research literature is really interested in managing tasks). You can create a task, and then label it with due dates, location, relevant personnel, as well as custom tags. To get started:
1.       Head to, sign up.
2.       Add a task you have forthcoming by clicking ‘Add a task’.
3.       Using the icons below where you’ve typed the task, note where you can add a due date, start date, location, then ‘give to’ a contact. You'll see how these become labels on your task.
4.       In the menu to the left (which looks a lot like email folders), you can define criteria, including contacts, lists and tags. Try definine a couple of lists and tags. Do these seem useful?

Not to be mistaken for a bookmarking tool, Pocket is a tool for saving online reading that you come across that looks interesting to you, but which you don’t have time to get to at the time. So you can put it in your Pocket for safekeeping, until you do have time. Then you delete it.
To get started with Pocket:
1.       Head to
2.       In a new tab, find some really heady article at or something like that. Cut and past the URL
3.       In Pocket, click the plus [icon], top right.
4.       Wait at least three hours, until you feel you have time to read a long article. Read it. Then click the garbage can to delete it.
5.       (Optional-ish). Google ‘pocket plugin’ and download the plugin. Pocket really works best with the plugin, so you can plunk things into your Pocket as you are browsing (without going to the website and cutting and pasting).

Your Tasks
1.       Set up a couple of notebooks in Evernote. Think of some projects you are or might or would like to work on. Find some online content to put into your notebook as notes, and add in some annotations of your own. Define some tags that might help you find the content at a later date. In other words: try it out!

2.       Try out two of the three smaller tools, from Pocket, Remember the Milk and/or Feedly. Do either of them seem like something you would use? Do they seem too limited in their functionality? Is there a way you can make them work together?

Take a look at our Evernote notebook for this Critical Thinker section of the course here. 

We also have notebooks for the previous two sections of the course: Communicating Visually and Networking Online as well as a general one on Technology in Libraries. 

Thing 14 was written by Kris Meen, currently Assistant Librarian of Academic Skills and Marketing & Engagement at NUI Galway library.

Works Cited
Bergman, Ofer, Noa Gradovitc, Judit Bar-llan and Ruth Beyth-Marom. 2013. “Folder Versus Tag Preference in Personal Information Management.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64/10, pp. 1995-2012.

Jones, William. 2012. The Future of Information Management, Part 1: Our Information, Always and Forever. Morgan & Claypool.

Montoya, David, Thomas Pellissier Tanon, Serge Abiteboul and Fabian M. Suchanek. “Thymeflow, a Personal Knowledge Base with Spatio-Temporal Data”. 2016. Proceedings of the 25th ACM International on Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, pp. 2477-2480. DOI 10.1145/2983323.2983337

Whittaker, Steve. 2011. “Personal Information Management: From Information Consumption to Curation”. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 45/1, pp. 1-61. DOI 10.1002/aris.2011.1440450108


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