Thought that it could be useful if we started a topic focusing on information classification (methods, best practices, theories, etc.). 

One of the great things about PB is the freedom that we have to just throw thoughts into the pot, stirring them a bit and allowing them to stick together or to just simmer independently as a future reference.  On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges about PB is the freedom that we have to just throw thoughts into the pot, adding and adding information that perhaps gets forgotten or never achieves the potential offered by linking (or formal organization).  The idea is that perhaps there is a middle way where one can add information without constraint, yet have an organizational method that can maximize the relational potential of PB.

While searching for a better way to organize my information I came across the Faceted Classification System which is described in Wikipedia as a..."system (that) allows the assignment of multiple classifications to an object, enabling the classifications to be ordered in multiple ways, rather than in a single, pre-determined, taxonomic order. A facet comprises "clearly defined, mutually exclusive, and collectively exhaustive aspects, properties or characteristics of a class or specific subject". [1] For example, a collection of books might be classified using an author facet, a subject facet, a date facet, etc.
Faceted classification is used in faceted search systems that enable a user to navigate information along multiple paths corresponding to different orderings of the facets. This contrasts with traditional taxonomies in which the hierarchy of categories is fixed and unchanging.

Perhaps (...assignment of multiple classifications..) may be types, super-types and tags.

I have started reading a document written by William Denton, titled "How to Make a Faceted Classification and Put It On the Web".  Denton offers "procedures and advice on all the steps involved in making a faceted classification and putting it on the web. Web people will benefit by having a rigorous seven-step process to follow for creating faceted classifications".      Don't know if this is the avenue to follow but at least it is a street to walk down a bit to see if there is something useful.  

Any thoughts?

All the best,


Interesting topic. Thanks for the article link, I'll have to look at it later.

Several things that come to mind immediately:
  • I usually don't worry about classification until I have enough "stuff" to warrant a system.
  • Prior to developing a system, I try to make some decisions ahead of time (it invariably saves me a lot of time later).
    • How do I use the information?
    • What is the first thing that comes to mind when I go about finding this information? Do I look by date, by alpha. by area, by something else? What's the primary method I would use to go about finding something specific?
    • If my first option for searching for the topic doesn't work, what would I fall back to?
    • If that doesn't work, what then?
    • Will other people be using this (can it be a strictly personal classification system, or do other people have to understand it too?)
    • Will I need to find groupings of the stuff, or is it always just individual items?
    • If I think about looking for this stuff in the future, can I think of any other useful methods of sorting it?
    • Is the main grouping I'm leaning towards scaleable?
  • After I've at least thought about some of the above questions, I'll start firming up my ideas around the best use for parents, types, and now tags.
People with separate brains for different areas and projects will have an easier time with a classification system, because the system is already targeted. In essence, only a classification system that makes sense to the purpose of the brain needs to be created, and it's probably a bit less likely to morph as time goes on.

For better or worse, I've taken the single brain approach. Because of this, I have a general classification system for the entire brain, and then within projects or certain areas I have sub-systems which I have to tie in some way to the main classification system, and also make sure the main system is not subverted. This mainly applies to types, but has started to encompass tags as my implementation of them has grown throughout my brain (especially with the new filtering capabilities). What I mean by subversion is that I don't want types standing for one thing in my main classification system, and then creating other types for a sub-classification area that will mess up reporting or searching capabilities on my main classification types.

There's really two main pieces of advice I can give from my experience on this:
  • Keep your system as simple as possible, while still allowing you to find what you need to quickly. More classification methods mean more maintenance and things to remember when creating new thoughts.
  • When creating a system, search for existing classification systems, take what you like and leave what you don't. For example, this thread where greenwood pointed to wiki categories. 
I'll be interested to read what others come up with.
Windows 7
OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
Hum, I guess I had more in me than just a post. 
There is a new classification section in the PersonalBrain Google users group.
Windows 7
OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
Thanks Shiiko for starting yet another thread on this fascinating topic.

Surprisingly, no one so far has mentioned ontology, which according to Wikipedia is the study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general, as well as of the basic categories of being and their relations. This forum already has a number of threads discussing it, of which I like mbaas' comment a lot:

And BTW, Ontology is overrated - this article has helped to cure me from that (just read how some of the "professionals" developed their categorization-schemes...)

Thanks for the article on faceted classifications, a good introduction to the struggle of trying to create one's own multi-category classification scheme on a Web site or in a relational database, something at which PB naturally excels. zenrain has a good set of suggestions going here and in his Google group.

The problems facing us is that we expect categorization classifications to firm up and become absolute as we move from the specific to the general. However, this is anything  but true, which explains why ontology is first a philosophy and second a science. The specific is the only thing that is concrete and as it becomes more abstract by progressing towards the general, the skyscraper rises ever higher on a foundation of quicksand.

Anyone who firmly believes that classifications are immutable will have no difficulty in being sold the proposition that the earth is flat.

Where does this leave us as users of PB? I like to think PB will help us do three things:
  • Help us find the objects we have stored in it;
  • Help us discover new, unrealized associations between objects we have stored in it at different times and under different categories;
  • Help us define the gaps in our collection.
zenrain's last two comments are the most cogent. Allow PersonalBrain to chart the road map you use to experience your universe, and don't waste time reinventing the wheel.

PB on Windows XP, J-1.6.0_17
I was reading Shelley Hayduk's article from March 3, 2009, "Getting Things Done with PersonalBrain". I like the "Tracking Projects" section and am thinking of reorganizing my Brain in this manner.

I'm in Public Affairs, so I have many projects to keep track of. We have weekly Public Affairs meetings, and at each meeting we discuss a variety of different projects - most projects go on for several years. Currently, I have a parent thought for Weekly PA Meetings, and a child thought for each meeting. I also have a parent thought for Projects, and a child thought for each one.

How would you suggest I associate a particular meeting note with a particular project? One Public Affairs Meeting thought may need to be associated with many projects, and when I'm on the phone with a project client, I'd like to quickly access the last few public affairs meetings associated with that project.

Also, those meeting notes might be associated with tasks. Should I pull the tasks out and make child thoughts in each project, and tag them for a DO section? Currently I have all my DO's on the Google Calendar Tasks list.

Thanks for any suggestions!
I guess it comes down to how you rank meetings and projects. Here are some suggestions:

If you tend to think more about which projects were discussed at a particular meeting, you could make a particular project a child of all meetings at which it was discussed.

If you tend to think more about at which meetings a particular project was discussed, then make meetings children of that project.

If both are equally important to you, create jump links between meetings and projects, so that a meeting will have jump links to the projects which were discussed and a project will have jump links to meetings at which it was mentioned. Give meeting-project links a special color (link type) to distinguish them from more remote associations also represented by jump links, or color meetings red and projects blue.

As for tasks, tasks are not the same as calendar events, unless these events are deadlines. Tags (and thought types) are good for assigning priorities to tasks. Why not make calendar events children of tasks? Hope this helps.
Alan Rhodes
My workflow for this is as follows:
I have date thoughts, with 2010 as the parent and then a thought for each week for child thoughts.*
I also have a Meetings thought, with child thoughts for each meeting type. For example, I have a weekly product meeting, and a weekly team meeting. Those are two thoughts under the Meetings parent.

When I have a meeting, I create a child thought of the appropriate meeting. When I first create the thought I type "YYYY-MM-DD, ". This creates the meeting child with the date and automatically adds the meeting name. I have the date at the beginning for sorting purposes. I also give it a Thought Type of meeting.
I then link the appropriate week thought as a parent of that new meeting thought.
So far so good.

The next bit requires the 6.x beta.
If the meeting was purely for a project, I add the meeting as a child thought of the project (or if there are a lot of meetings for that project I'd have a Project, Meetings child and add the meeting as a child of that thought).
This works well if the meeting is for that project only. However, if the meeting is for another purpose, but contains information for that project I copy the section of the meeting notes that pertain to that project into the notes for that project.
I then add a hyperlink to the meeting thought in the notes as a reference. I've gotten in the habit of doing this by right clicking the meeting thought, choosing Copy Thought URL, going to the project notes, highlighting the text I want to use as the link and then hitting Ctrl + K. This brings me the link dialog, and I paste in the thought URL. It's quick and easy.

And that's my workflow. Hopefully that helps, or gives you some ideas for your own.

* If interested, there's a Perl script documented here for automatically creating date thoughts.

Windows 7
OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
I can see applications throughout my workflow for ideas in both of these posts. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Most kind of you. 

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