One and Done. We are the Search Generation.

So I completely forgot I had a client meeting this afternoon and haven’t had a chance to prep. I need to get their info together and make sure I have everything I asked them to provide. Where did I put the last spreadsheet they sent me though? Is it in an Email or did I add it to Drive? Which folder is it in? Nevermind, it’s actually attached to the task I assigned myself to review their data. Close call!

I wish I could say this scenario is atypical but with as many projects as I have, it’s not all that uncommon to be frantically looking for an important piece of information. It might be easy to say it’s poor organization, but that’s just like, your opinion, man. I have actually tried different systems and have yet to find one that works well for me. Consistently sticking with one system is also a challenge. Maybe it’s because I haven’t nailed down what the organizing principle for my data should be or maybe there just isn’t one that works well across all services.

What I’ve learned is that every system comes with a price. For example, the more specific my Google Drive structure is, the easier it is to understand what’s in my folders, but the harder it is to decide where a new file should go. Should I create a new sub-folder for this? Will I even remember why I created that folder later on? I find myself paying way more attention to these kinds of decisions than I should. Even worse, I find myself being inconsistent.

This problem isn’t even isolated to files on my Google Drive. The other services I use to manage tasks, communications, contacts, etc. all have their own disparate systems of organization. I had enough trouble keeping track of one system and now there’s at least four more!

This is why I need search. Search is something I’ve come to rely on because it’s more efficient and in some ways universal. Search options may vary depending on the service, but most work the same and are a heck of a lot easier than digging through data. I would much rather type a few keywords, evaluate my results, and adjust my search as needed. If I know what I’m doing then it usually takes just one try.

Having the power to search makes the need for complex, multi-tiered file folder structures and countless tags or labels less critical. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still important, but I believe it can be scaled back significantly. Why not reduce the overhead and focus on becoming better at search? It’s a skill everyone should have on their resume.

There is one thing holding us back: the services we use don’t play well together. I need to be able to get to my client’s files easily no matter which service has them or how “poor” my system of organization is. If you could search all of your cloud services at once then it doesn’t really matter where it is, as long as you can get to it quickly. Having files aggregated and pre-filtered by client could work pretty well too, but more on that in a future post.

If Google has taught us anything, it’s that search really is the best way to tap into vast amounts of information (1.2 billion websites and counting). It’s already ingrained in younger generations that were born after the Internet came along. Have you ever seen a 4 year old use an iPad? They have the patience of.. well a 4 year old.. which means they take the shortest possible path to get to their favorite YouTube videos. What’s their strategy? Search, of course.

I think there’s something to learn from that. Don’t get me wrong, most cloud services nowadays do have search built in. I just don’t have time to jump back and forth between them if I’m not sure where my file is. Even operating systems are starting to catch on with more comprehensive search tools like Spotlight in OSX and Smart Search in Windows 8.

Our ultimate goal is to become the Google of your cloud services. We know it’s a lofty goal, but with your help and feedback, I believe we can get there. As you start customizing and using your Mashboard, let us know if search has changed the way you approach data. Is it simplifying your digital life? Is universal search helping you face down that growing mountain of content? Most importantly, are you finding information much quicker and easier than before?

Thoughts or questions? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter @mashboard, or Facebook.

Photo by incaseofsurvival / licensed under CC by 2.0


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