The user-subjective approach to personal information management systems



In this article we suggest a user-subjective approach to Personal Information Management (PIM) system design. This approach advocates that PIM systems relate to the subjective value-added attributes that the user gives to the data stored in the PIM system. These attributes should facilitate system use: help the user find the information item again, recall it when needed, and use it effectively in the next interaction with the item. Driven from the user-subjective approach are three generic principles which are described and discussed: (a) The subjective classification principle, stating that all information items related to the same subjective topic should be classified together regardless of their technological format; (b) The subjective importance principle, proposing that the subjective importance of information should determine its degree of visual salience and accessibility; and (c) The subjective context principle, suggesting that information should be retrieved and viewed by the user in the same context in which it was previously used. We claim that these principles are only sporadically implemented in operating systems currently available on personal computers, and demonstrate alternatives for interface design.