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Information behaviour that keeps found things found (19 Oct 2004)
Research into the function of piles and files has also focused on electronic documents. Most computer users have support for the creation of different folder hierarchies into which electronic information can be filed. But if the desktop is often obscured by various open windows, research by Kaptelinin (1996), for example, observed that the accessibility of each item is reduced. Researchers have also studied the organization of piles and files in relation to e-mail use Whittaker & Sidner (1996) observing that the filing decisions (for e-mail)- which folders to create, what to name them, how to organize them, etc., -are fundamentally difficult regardless of the item being filed. Filing takes time and the folders that are created today may prove to be ineffective or even an impediment to access to the information in the future. In addition, subjects in this study reported an 'out of sight, out of mind' problem that items placed in a folder were sometimes forgotten until well after the period of their usefulness had passed. Like their paper-based counterparts, folders of electronic documents such as e-mail messages may contain too few or too many items to be effective or they may be simply obsolete (Tauscher & Greenberg, 1997).The e-mail inbox provides pile-like functions of accessibility and visibility but these functions are clearly reduced as the number of items in the inbox increases and especially for older messages that scroll out of view.

There is also an extensive body of research from which we can speculate upon the role of a personal information collection in the information seeking and use of particular professional groups. Generally, these information behaviour studies tend to identify a characteristic set of information needs for the group being researched, and then observe the way that members of this group locate the information that is needed for specific aspects of their work or the practice of their profession. It is impossible in the scope of this paper to adequately summarize this body of work but the findings of this type of research tend to include the reported preference by members of these professional groups to seek information internally (from a personal information collection - which includes their contacts with colleagues and experts in their field). These professionals also tend to follow habitual patterns of information seeking, and are primarily concerned with the time and cost involved in finding the right information.
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