research

Hypersnips - How Policy Debaters Can Research Better with Pandexio

The Pandexio reader also lets you snip out the salient bits, describe and organize them without interrupting your reading.

The Pandexio reader also lets you snip out the salient bits, describe and organize them without interrupting your reading.

When you finally get the resolution, it's go-time. You know that your case will only be as good as the research you do. The months and months of scouring and saving and organizes all pays off with the ease and speed with which you can find that right tidbit of knowledge or information.

Pandexio begins with the idea of research.

At its core, research comes down to finding and collecting salient information, statistics, quotes and ideas from a source material. 

At Pandexio's core is the Hypersnip: a connected and easy way to mark, collect and manage salient information, statistics, quotes and ideas from documents, charts, pages, images and more, all without losing context.

Each hypersnip is added to a universal snip feed with all the other hypersnips from all the other documents in your project. This means it is much more than a note taking tool; it's a way to pull your finds out of their sources without breaking the connection.

All the hypersnips from each project are easily accessible

All the hypersnips from each project are easily accessible

Yo blogs, wikis and Powerpoint: a light-yet-mighty knowledge object is coming to town


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As you use Pandexio, you will notice that all sorts of thoughts pop into your head while you read and encounter nuggets of useful information.  Those nuggets get the gears spinning, triggering ideas, conclusions, points you seek to make, questions you have.  Our goal with our “snip” object was to make it as easy as possible to capture your thoughts at the time they occur, and within the context that triggered them.

Sometimes those thoughts will happen a level higher than the context of one nugget you found in a document.  Instead, they will represent your multi-nugget synthesis of some form.  Perhaps your brain “synthesizes” them into a point you seek to prove, or draws a conclusion from them, or simply lumps them all into a category of some sort.  You need an easy way to capture this, hence the Pandexio Point.

Point object Aaron.png

Soon you’ll be able to drag snips into the point column, order them however you like, and the make a point, which can be anything:

  • A bullet, paragraph, or just a single word
  • An outline for a test or paper
  • A point you’re gonna ram down the throat of the guy in the next cubicle over, who is influential but usually wrong, whom you seek to expose and stifle during the next meeting with hard-cold facts and sources you summon in a mouse-click

Sorry, got carried away with that last one, but the point is that whatever the heck the snip-group means to your brain, you can capture it.   Or, if you started this whole process with a theory or point in mind, or grouping, then create your point first and drag snips under it.

And then, should you seek to share your creation with others, you can publish your point and share it.  Here’s a first-cut from visual design on what the published point object might look like:

 

The above is a 3-layer, 3-dimensional information object.  Those who view your points can drill-down to the snips that support your point, and from each snip they can further drill-down to the underlying source content that produced the snip:

          Point level --> snip level --> source level

We think this is a tighter, more impactful way to communicate stuff you know to your fellow humans.

You can share points as stand-alone objects, or embed them into blogs, wiki entries, slide presentations, reports – basically anywhere that you can paste a hyperlink.

That’s the Pandexio point… engineered for those who love cliff notes and dread foonotes.

Footnotes banned at Berkeley, Dow skyrockets, 14th century monk found shot.

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Humor me for a moment.  Let’s assume people take the time to actually check footnotes as they read.  Would that really help much?

The whole point of the footnote is to prevent the reader from getting BS’d by the author, yet here’s how they work:

  • The author has the sources (allegedly), the reader does not
  • The author knows where they got the sources, the reader has no idea
  • The reader has to go on an egg hunt, trying to find sources that could be anywhere in the virtual or physical world, to which they may or may not have access

I couldn’t design this more backwards if I tried.  This is what you design when your goal is to BS the reader while giving the illusion you are not.

This is a problem.  We are now a knowledge economy, and footnotes are entrenched in how we assess the quality of written communication.  They represent one of our primary quality control mechanisms and that is not something to be taken lightly.  

Quality management is likely to be just as pivotal to our success in a knowledge economy as it was when we were an industrial economy.  It arguably propelled the United States from lowly British colony to world economic power.  Any credible historian would vouch that our quality control systems, methods and guidelines were crucial to America’s success –TQM, statistical process control, Six Sigma.

Here in our bleeding-edge knowledge economy we feature a bunch of footnote style guides: Chicago Manual, APA, MLM, AMA, NLM, ACA, IEEE, BlueBook, Maroonbook. Heaven forbid someone misplace a period or underline something that should be in italics.

We appear to be hopelessly shackled into using a quality control mechanism that was probably developed by a pre-printing-press monk somewhere in medieval Europe.  If an archeologist looked hard enough they might find a footnote on a cave wall or papaya leaf. 

How long are we going to continue with this nonsense for the sake of academic tradition?   We have generations of students in grad school, undergrad and high school who are being required to learn and use a quality control mechanism that belongs to another time and age.   They have even less time and patience then we do, a ton more information to process and their load is only going up.

What do you think?

Agree or disagree?

Are we capable of breaking this paradigm?

 

Knowledge management fails because it puts the company cart before the employee horse

Cart horse.png

Let me get this straight:  Companies implement knowledge management systems such as document repositories, blogs and wikis, so they can capture and manage employee knowledge, right?

I get the goal, believe it is crucial to succeed in our knowledge economy, but are employees capturing and managing their own knowledge?  Seems to me that we need to have that in place first.

The knowledge of most people, myself included, is scattered across paper piles, computer files and brain cells.  It’s on desk surfaces, in file cabinets, on sticky notes and yellow pads.  It’s buried deep within multi-level file folders on multiple systems – some local, some cloud, increasingly on numerous devices.  It is in bookmarks, email attachments, Evernote and a growing host of other apps.   The reality is that our facts, findings, ideas, IP, questions and conclusions are scattered and disconnected. 

And now the company wants us to create something for the corporate repository, blog or wiki.  Presumably not the scattered mess described above, but some bottom-line synthesis of what we know on key topics that is accessible and useable.

I don’t have that for myself, do you?  This is a prefatory problem that needs to be addressed.  This isn’t just a matter of contributing what we already have.  I could contribute my entire hard drive and it would be of no value, I can barely find stuff there.  This is a synthesis request/need.

I use a formula to explain knowledge management failure, call it Burge’s law:

     Personal benefit

     ----------------------   =  Participation rate

     Communal effort

Repositories, blogs, wikis all have miserably low participation rates because companies fail to appreciate the dynamics of this equation.  Synthesizing knowledge into a bottom-line format that others will find useful is really hard, if it was easy we’d do it for ourselves more often. 

Plugging starbucks cards or gamification techniques into numerator above is not going to move the needle.  It’s certainly not going to generate the rich knowledge from smart people we seek.

Corporations are not going to effectively capture and manage employee knowledge until employees can effectively capture and manage their own knowledge. 

What do you think?

Should we be storing knowledge in our head? Or, would that be stupid.

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I don’t think our brains don’t hold knowledge very well.  They are clearly amazing at reading and understanding information, doing all sorts of things that put our most powerful computers to shame.  But reliably storing it so we can re-access later?  Mine feels on-par with a spaghetti strainer.  

We have all personally proven this fact from years of cramming for college exams.  The brain operates on a use-it-or-lose-it basis: either apply knowledge immediately or repeatedly drill it into your head, otherwise it’s gone. The human forehead should feature a sticker proclaiming:

"WARNING: KNOWLEDGE IS KNOWN TO FADE FROM THE HUMAN BRAIN AT AN ALARMING RATE.  STORE IT THERE AT YOUR OWN RISK."

We’ve all experienced or witnessed the following in our business lives:

  • Answers to questions that are fuzzy
  • Points not backed up with facts
  • Smart people appearing inept, disorganized
  • Time wasted re-researching and re-reading

If someone rifled through all the books we’ve read over the years and started firing questions, I know I would not fare well.  Even if they stuck to things I highlighted or noted as “super important.” 

Here at Pandexio, we like to have fun with this one.  We have people crack open their file manager, then we point at files and ask questions like “what did you learn out of this one?”  They don’t remember a darn thing.

We learned the solution long ago, probably in elementary school: actively read, take notes, create summaries and outlines.  So why don’t we do it?  Because the options suck:

Option 1: paper

  • Print, highlight and add sticky notes
  • Consolidate to index cards, synthesize on a yellow pad

While it works, it's offline, inaccessible, non-linked, non-shareable, non-green and non-mobile.

Option 2: computer

  • A few of the options we have heard:
  • Copy and paste into a Word document
  • Email to self with the source document as an attachment and notes in the email body
  • Same as email to self only using Evernote (or using hyperlinks in one large Evernote note)

These are all hacks, workarounds.  The knowledge gets disconnected from the content and there are too many apps and steps involved in the process.  None of these systems were design for capturing and organizing knowledge as one reads and learns.

Our challenge

Our ability to read and understand knowledge vastly exceeds our ability to store and re-access it.  That gap is widening.  As the information load rises, we must absorb new knowledge faster than ever.  If we are to be organized, competent and credible, it is imperative that we figure out ways of capturing our knowledge in our computers that is convenient, connected and integrated into our workflow.

What do you think?

Is there a better system?