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Seek best solutions for information collection, compilation, aggregation

Background

I'm a newer technical writer working for an industrial fabrication company. We make an awesome B2B product that sells well. I really love what I do, and I believe I've found my life's work. I also really enjoy my work environment and the people. Furthermore, even though I'm older (staring at 40), I've decided to return to university to finish a double BA in Professional Writing and Visual Communication.

My Work

I have been tasked with creating various infographics of our products, creating user manuals of the jigs used to create our products, process instructions for the welders, product assembly instructions for our project managers, and business writing such as policy memos, safety guides, etc.

The Issue

I'm currently struggling with collecting the data and information I need to create these documents, keeping it organized, and then compiling it all in one location.

I have used or am using

  • Evernote
  • Noteshelf
  • Pen & Paper
  • Audio Notes
  • Video Notes
  • Photographs

The audio and video notes are more for my reference. However, the photographs, pen & paper notes, and Noteshelf notes are critical to have compiled.

So, for those of you so inclined, let me know how you handle such an issue.

Clarification

I am not merely gathering quantitative data. It is a combination of processes, adjust-ability settings, dimensions, visual information (photographs), etc. Think large user manual.

As I told @what, I've been using the phrase "gather data" when more accurately this would be "gathering content".

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DevonThink.

Look here: http://www.organizingcreativity.com/2015/02/digital-information-infrastructure-with-devonthink/

Also google stuff like "academic writing workflow" or "science writing workflow" or a combination of "workflow" with a specific software, either for writing (Scrivener) or citations (Zotero) -- there are quite a few blog posts where scholars describe their writing workflow.

Also look for "knowledge management" + "software" or "workflow".

The classical, old-fashioned approach that always works is:

  • read, look at or otherwise mentally process each file
  • take notes of author, main arguments, keywords, short summary etc.
  • store the files in folders
  • use a database to store the information you extracted and the file location
  • you then work with the database and only retrieve the files when info in database is not sufficient to trigger your memory

This is what scholars have been doing for millennia, and it is superior to any knowledge management software, because the pre-processing that it requires (instead of just drawing files on DevonThink and letting it extract information according to its algorithms) guarantees that you have that information in your mind (instead of in some software) and can build your theory or text or whatever from that.

I tried DevonThink but soon abandoned it again, because I realized that it does not help me if my software knows my texts but I don't, and searching DevonThink doesn't always work the way I would wish, because authors don't always use the words that I'm thinking with to describe the same concepts so that their files don't turn up at my searches although they would be relevant.

Thinking and processing yourself requires an initial effoet, but is much more efficient in the end.

  • Thank you what. I will do that. I will post a further clarification shortly -- what I am referring to data is probably more accurately said as "gathering content." – Heath Flint Aug 4 '15 at 15:20
  • Unfortunately my Windows based office won't work with DevonThink. – Heath Flint Aug 4 '15 at 16:33
  • Try to do the searches I recommended, using the word "workflow", maybe with "Windows". – user5645 Aug 5 '15 at 3:43

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