Keeping Found Things Found on the Web

Proceedings of CIKM 01 |

This paper describes the results of an observational study into the methods people use to manage web information for re-use. People observed in our study used a diversity of methods and associated tools. For example, several participants emailed web addresses (URLs) along with comments to themselves and to others. Other methods observed included printing out web pages, saving web pages to the hard drive, pasting the address for a web page into a document and pasting the address into a personal web site. Ironically, two web browser tools that have been explicitly developed to help users track web information – the bookmarking tool and the history list – were not widely used by participants in this study. A functional analysis helps to explain the observed diversity of methods. Methods vary widely in the functions they provide. For example, a web address pasted into a self-addressed email can provide an important reminding function together with a context of relevance: The email arrives in an inbox which is checked at regular intervals and the email can include a few lines of text that explain the URL’s relevance and the actions to be taken. On the other hand, for most users in the study, the bookmarking tool (“Favorites” or “Bookmarks” depending on the browser) provided neither a reminding function nor a context of relevance. The functional analysis can help to assess the likely success of various tools, current and proposed.