Yammer 104: Yammer as GTD General Reference File

In this post I wrote about how a blog can be the ultimate personal electronic “general reference” filing system that is consistent with David Allen’s Getting Things Done, or GTD, approach to life organization.

I still think a blog can be useful for general reference. I often use the SMUG blog in that way. I vaguely remember that I’ve written about something here, and use the search box at right to find the information, often including links to relevant external Web sites.

But that post was written in the pre-Twitter, pre-Yammer era. I think these micro-blogging tools can be even better for this general reference function than a full-blown blog is.

If you haven’t experienced GTD, read these posts to learn about it. The basic idea is that you need to get information out of your head and into a a reliable external system so you can access it when you need it. And a key element is general reference: information that you don’t need to act upon right then, but that may be helpful for the future.

Many people who use GTD have a general reference e-mail folder, where they store messages that aren’t actionable. That’s great to a point.

But if you do that, you’re the only one who has access to that folder, and you don’t have access to the same kinds of information from your co-workers’ general reference e-mail folders. And if the information is really worthwhile, it’s likely several of you have stored it for reference. That’s duplicative and wasteful.

To some extent, Twitter could be used in the same way I’m suggesting for Yammer. But I think Yammer is particularly well-suited as a way for companies (and eventually groups within companies) to create a common, searchable knowledge base.

It’s all made possible through tags. Once you’ve joined Yammer, it’s simple to create new posts (and they aren’t limited to 140 characters, as Twitter is.) But the interface doesn’t encourage rambling. Yammers are likely to be relatively concise.

When you happen upon some information you want to be able to remember, all you need to do is update Yammer with an appropriately tagged post that also carries the information you wish to recall.

Tagging is simple: you just put a # in front of the key word. So one-word tags might be #SMUG, #blogs, #travel or anything else that is meaningful for you, or that you think you or others might use as search terms to find the information.

But you don’t need to limit yourself to a single word, or a single tag. To create multi-word tags you just use hyphens to connect the words, so you could tag a post like this:

#Lee-Aase writes a great #blog called #SMUG that gives lots of helpful tips about #social-media and lets you get practical experience using the tools. It’s at http://social-media-university-global.org/ #university #global #new-media #youtube #podcasting #how-to #tutorials

Then, when you or anyone in your company wants to find that information, just search on any of the tagged words or phrases.

You could use the same method to create a list of #cancer-blogs. Or #business-columnists. Or #fax-numbers.

But the best part is you aren’t doing it alone; your co-workers can add to the list as they come across helpful information. So I could Yammer something like this:

Had a nice visit last week with #helen-chickering, a #medical-reporter for #NBC-News-Channel, last week in North Carolina. She is particularly interested in topic A, topic B and topic C. Her contact info is: …

And my colleagues could do the same about their interactions. Then we all benefit from what we each individually Yammer.

Some other potential yammers:

#blogs #social-media-team #patterson-marc Here is a post someone did about what makes Mayo Clinic different http://takingnote.tcf.org/2008/10/what-makes-the.html

#media-relations Who is the best reporter at the #new-york-times to approach about a #cancer story?

#media-relations #blogs The #Wall-Street-Journal Health Blog is at http://blogs.wsj.com/health/

As users Yammer back and forth on the site and via e-mail, Yammer then becomes a rich repository of information. And people can just read the e-mail message and then delete if they don’t wish to respond, knowing they can search Yammer to find the information if they need to retrieve it later.

So with Yammer, or a service like it, each user can in essence builds a handy general reference file system without significant additional effort. But by building individual systems in the same place, everyone benefits from everyone else’s contributions.

And if you set it up right, it can be as easy as the e-mail you’re already using.

More on setting it up right in Yammer 105.

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Author: Lee Aase

Married father of six and grandfather of seven, and the Chancellor of SMUG - Social Media University, Global. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

11 thoughts on “Yammer 104: Yammer as GTD General Reference File”

  1. Great idea, especially the collaboration part. I’m wondering why tagging is preferred over a full text search. Seems to me you are relying on your coworkers decision on what to tag. Some may pick great tags, others may not, especially if they are busy.

    In the GTD I use, full text searching is available, so you can quickly locate any task or project containing the search text. With hundreds of tasks, search capability is an essential feature of any GTD application.

    I’ve written several posts about my experiences with GTD on my blog at http://johnkendrick.wordpress.com/how-to-gtd/ John

  2. Thanks for your comment, John. Full text search is one thing I love about using a blog for GTD reference. If I can remember any obscure word from a post, I can find things quickly. With Yammer you can only search by tags (at least currently), so that’s why tagging matters. But it’s really easy to create a new tag by inserting a # for #single or #multi-word-tags.

    I’ll check out your posts this weekend.

  3. You can search for any text by simply entering the text into the search bar, in the upper right, and clicking the search icon. Also, make sure that you are not selecting any of the auto suggestions, which are tags and members. The results should then be broken down into messages, members, and tags.

    You will find that with this tool the archive of information that is built up over time becomes extremely valuable. Essentially, your network is creating a shared knowledge base as topics are discussed, questions are answered, etc.

  4. Sorry, that just doesn’t work. I chose a word that appears in the most current page of our Yammers, searched based on it and there were no auto-suggestions that matched (hence none were selected.) I got zero results.

    Searching by tags always works. It would be ideal if we didn’t have to tag and could do full-text search, but I have tried several time and get no results.

  5. There appeared to be a bug that was affecting the full text search. The engineers believe they have just fixed it. Please try again and let us know if there is still an issue.

    Also, we apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate you helping us out.

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