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Digital Clutter: How Does Machine Learning Make Things Easier?

Today, in an effort to avoid physical clutter and piles of paper, we tend to scan in old documents, do everything by email, and store everything in the cloud.  But, we are setting ourselves up for a different kind of problem.  With a stack of paper, you could easily see immediately what each file is and discard those that are no longer important.  With digital files, you often don’t even take note of how much data is piling up—files, photographs, apps—until it is too late.

The Dangers of Digital Clutter

Lack of organization:  With digital clutter, there is no physical pile of papers to signal a time to go through them, so computer files and apps tend to pile up, forcing users to spend hours upon hours sifting through folders and files to find what they’re looking for.  According to a McKinsey report in 2012, workers spend on average 1.8 hours every day searching for information and it has only gotten worse in the last 6 years.

Security breaches:  Not knowing which apps or documents have personal information on them can open users up to hacking or possible misuse of sensitive information.  As the Facebook information breach shows, users are open to having their personal data analyzed and used at all times, without even knowing it. 

System slowdowns:  Having a lot of memory eaten up by unwanted files can cause a slowdown on your system, making opening and closing of files, web pages, and processes take much longer.

How Workflow Solutions and Machine Learning Can Help

Keeping You on Track and Eliminating Unnecessary Files:  Some workflow systems, including our product suite, allow for helpful reminders to bring users back to a file that needs attention, plus eliminates unnecessary files by having all team members working off one version of a document.  That reduces the number of versions on each team member’s computer and, thus, eliminates unwanted documents.

Organize and categorize photos: Google’s Cloud Vision API is among those tools using machine learning to analyze photos, categorize them, and organize them, making finding images easier both for work or for personal use. 

Erase Personal Data on Apps:  While users may want to retain personal information on their phones and computers, there are services, such as CompleteWipe that can go through and systematically delete all personal information.

Automatically File and Delete Unwanted Emails:  Though there doesn’t appear to be a system yet that deletes unwanted files after they become useless, there are plenty of systems that help reduce unwanted apps and emails.   For emails, ActiveInbox, helps turn each email into an action item with a due date and then puts each in a folder.  Though it requires a more active way of addressing email, it does pay off in time saved.

As we build up more and more digital clutter, the use of machine learning tools can quickly and easily help us manage this tsunami of data that will only continue to grow and overwhelm us.    

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