Personal knowledge management: making sense of information

In a previous post, I described one part of my personal knowledge management system: my favorite search tools. In this post, I’ll share my tools for organizing  and making sense of information.

Tools that do more than organize

There are many bookmarking tools out there and to avoid merely collecting links without evaluating them, some of the multipurpose bookmarking tools I use include:

  • Diigo: A bookmarking, organizing, annotating, and sharing tool, Diigo is my go-to-first tool when I’m collecting information.
  • Notefish: Notefish allows you to create Web pages of information based on your bookmarked selections. You can organize this information into sections on your page. You also can comment on or annotate  the selections you’ve identified. I use Notefish when I’m doing more focused searches and want to create a  note page of references that I’m likely to return to when I write about a subject.
  • Mashtabs: This virtual bulletin board allows you to bookmark and collect multimedia resources and annotate your collection. You can embed widgets in a Mashtabs bulletin board, e.g., to add polls and other interactive functions. Mashtabs allows you to collaborate with others to develop search collections.


The leap from organizing to executing can be aided by brainstorming. Although paper’s often good enough, two e-tools which provide me with virtual sticky notes include edistorm and Wallwisher. For quick brainstorming, I reach for edistorm first. If I want to connect my ideas to assets I currently have, then I reach for Wallwisher.


Spicynodes is my current favorite tool because it allows me to show relationships between ideas and to connect those ideas to multimedia: images, video, and links to other Web pages. (Other mindmapping tools available are reviewed in this great article by Sean Aune of Mashable.)

Getting ready to create

Before creating an elearning course or a presentation, I look for tools that allow me to package and do more extensive annotating of my resources. Two tools I use are:

  • Livebinders:  The Livebinders tool allows you to collect resources in a virtual binder. You can add text to blank pages of your binder and create tabs and subtabs including various resources. A Livebinders I created of problem-based learning resources can be found here.
  • Zoho notebooks: Zoho notebook allows you to collect multimedia resources in a virtual notebook. You can readily add notes and images to blank pages, while collecting web resources and multimedia resources on the same or separate pages. It’s extremely easy to create page layouts in Zoho that include multimedia elements so it’s my current favorite tool for storyboarding.

Back to the beginning

A personal learning network of people is the most important tool in my arsenal for honing my personal knowledge management system.  I think it’s important to connect to people who are outside my immediate professional niche as well as within it to keep my thinking fresh. I use both Twitter and Miio and my Diigo groups to scan for interesting links and information on a variety of topics. This blog is the tool that allows me to reflect on the uses of these links and gives me an extra incentive to kick the tires on some of the new tools I’ve come across.

So what are your favorite personal knowledge management tools?


6 responses to “Personal knowledge management: making sense of information

  1. Some interesting tools you have tried here…

    My company offers a tool for Windows called PpcSoft iKnow which is specially designed for personal knowledge management (so no surprise that it is my favorite PKM tool 🙂 )

    Both Diigo and Notefish seems like easy-to-use tools, but I wonder if you have any experience using them with hundreds (or thousands) of notes ?

    It seems that 99% of all the tools out there crumbles once you start to use them “seriously” ? I’ve tried a *lot* of different tools over the years, but they all seem to be designed for simple use – once you reach a certain level of use, they become unusable.

    This was the motivation behind PpcSoft iKnow – creating a personal knowledge management tool that actually worked just as well with 50,000 notes as with 50. Unsurprisingly, we couldn’t do this with a web based tool, so we had to create a Windows desktop application (which makes it less “portable”).

    But what is your experience ? Do these tools work for large amounts of information ? Are you still able to find what you’re looking for even among hundreds/thousands of notes ?

    (properly testing these tools requires a *lot* of information and effort, so if I can “pick your brain” instead of testing it myself I’m very grateful 🙂 )

  2. Your product sounds interesting. How do you compare it with Evernote? (Or is that the wrong comparison?)

  3. Hi Dianne,

    yes, it is somewhat comparable to Evernote and Onenote as they are all basically designed to capture personal notes.

    Short summary; Evernote focus on being available on any platform (more or less), OneNote focus on organizing your information (“books, folders, subfolders, pages etc”) while iKnow focus more on linking and connecting the notes (inspired by Wikipedia) to find related information easily.

    Linking the notes is the most important part as that makes your knowledge base *more* useful as it grows by creating more connections, instead of less useful due to information overload.

    A little more details in these blog posts:

    If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail 🙂

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