Readings' list

Bondarenko, O. and Janssen, R. 2005. Documents at Hand: Learning from Paper to Improve Digital Technologies. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Portland, Oregon, USA, April 02 - 07, 2005). CHI '05. ACM Press, New York, NY, 121-130.


Two years ethnographic study of personal document management. Focus: how documents are manage and stored. In particular they investigated how users manage paper docs to see how to improve digital management.

Research Questions:

  1. Are there common needs in document management across personal strategies and job types?
  2. How well are these needs supported by paper and by digital tools?
  3. What can designers learn from paper to improve digital tools?

The focus of the study was narrowed along the following lines:


Contextual inquiry technique was used. As a subset of this, semi-structured interviews were used.

They used artifact walkthrough to reconstruct artifact workflow.

They used critical incident collection technique to identify problems.

To analyze quantitatively the data they used affinity diagram technique.


Personal differences

Most users adopted a mixed approach between pilers and filers.

Computer with its hierarchical approach support better filers, while paper support both approaches and all the possibilities in between.

Activities differences

Instead of classifying in base to job content they classify in base to activities: research activity and administrative activities. 

-research: unstructured a Document contain info.

-administrative: prestructrured. Documents are part of a workflow.

Most people perform a mix of the two.

Document management system perform help with prestructrured activities, while research activities do not have any type of support.


Document and task management

Document management is strongly related to task management.

Visual spatial appearance of papers on a desk implicitly contain context information about a task. This is useful when users has to resume activities after interruptions: the context helps to remind them what their are doing.

From here two requirements: 

  1. documents should be embedded with context information
  2. they should be easily accessible for regrouping as the task goes on.


A lot of people has duplicate of documents: file system email and paper. Paper is the easiest way to have all together. Some people print all docs and email relative to a task. With paper is easier to regroup docs or to have context clues.

Paper better support visual spatial context clues.


Being a communication center, email is a mirror of one's activities because almost any activity an information worker has to perform is based on communication and coordination and coordination that goes through email.

For most people emails in their inbox served as a reminding.
Some people keep emails with attachment because they don't know how to classify attachments.
A message to which a document is attached serves as a context.

File folder structure

We need to add a context such as name of file and name of folder.
Regrouping is difficult because that means changing context.
An issue is also depth of file folder structure and the visibility of the files inside.

Implication for the design of DMS's


  1. context
  2. easy regrouping along with task flow

Design implications:

  1. A DMS should keep place documents into their task-related context.
  2. A DMS should support combining documents from various sources
  3. A DMS should provide an easy way of (re)grouping documents
  4. A DMS should allow flexible and ad hoc restructuring within a group of documents
  5. A DMS should be based on a system that is already in use
  6. The use of a DMS should require a little cognitive effort as possible

They propose email client as the starting point for a new approach od digital document management support.