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Welcome to the study! We're grateful that you are interested in helping us with our research efforts. Here is some information surrounding the study, what we wish to get out of it, how we will handle the data we collect and the results. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the researchers via the contact information below. Portions of this legal document that are not relevant to this particular study will have strikethrough text.

about the study — read this!

We need you to use like you would otherwise, to capture your thoughts, notes, ideas — whatever seems appropriate. By signing up for the study, you give us permission to look at your notes and your usage of at the end of the ten days.

Questions? Read the following for full details of the study and e-mail us listit at csail dot mit dot edu; or go straight to sign up.

the legal bits

You are asked to participate in a research study conducted by Michael Bernstein (Ph.D Candidate), Vineet Sinha (Ph.D. Candidate), and David Karger, Ph.D., from the EECS Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). The results from this research will contribute toward continuing Ph.D. thesis work. You were selected as a possible participant in this study because you work with a variety of personal information and have evolved a set of practices surrounding this information. You should read the information below, and ask questions about anything you do not understand, before deciding whether or not to participate.

purpose of the study

This study is designed to evaluate the utility of a novel personal information management tool as it is used in everyday practice. Knowledge gained from this study will be used to support or rebuke claims of its abilities.

participation and withdrawal

Your participation in this study is completely voluntary and you are free to choose whether to be in it or not. If you choose to be in this study, you may subsequently withdraw from it at any time without penalty or consequences of any kind. The investigator may withdraw you from this research if circumstances arise which warrant doing so.

If the investigator determines that you are not fulfilling the requirements of the study, he/she may decide to terminate the study.


If you volunteer to participate in this study, we would ask you to do the following things:


We will be installing a personal information management system on your main computer. The researcher will demonstrate its use and teach you how to use its main features. Time: 0 hours.


You will then be asked to use the system over a determined period of time (multiple days) to manage your personal information. During that period, you may be asked to keep a diary noting any thoughts that you have regarding the system, and the researcher may schedule periodic interviews with you to further discuss your reactions and opinions. For example, this may involve taking note of instances where you experience a breakdown in current tools or when you perform a certain action (e.g., send an email to yourself as a reminder). This procedure may also involve use of automated application logging software written by the researchers to accurately capture use patterns. You may be asked to ensure to use the system at least a specified amount of time per day. We may be experimentally manipulating the tool we give you and the tasks we ask of you. Your assignment to a particular study condition will be done completely at random. Time: predefined number of days agreed to by the participant, with a predefined minimum use time per day.

final interview

At the culmination of the period of usage, the researcher will hold a final interview with you and distribute a survey to capture final thoughts. Time: 1 hour. Total length of time: 1.5hrs + required usage over extended period

potential risks

The researcher will not share any personal information that he/she encounters during the interviews, in reviewing the diary, or in processing the application log data, and all notes surrounding your data will be coded by participant number rather than name.

As with any computer program, there is a potential risk that the system may glitch and lose some of the information you have recorded into it. This is extremely unlikely to occur.

potential benefits

There will be no direct benefit to the subject for participating in this research aside from compensation. It is plausible that the tool we assign you to use may improve upon your current practices and you may decide to continue its use.

The research benefit to society will focus on improving information management work for computer users. If successful, the research will make it easier to manage the large amount of personal information (emails, todos, memories, files) on the computer.

payment for participation

The subjects will receive payment in the amount of $1 dollar per probe e-mail answered in the form of a gift certificate upon completion of the study. If the subject should decide to withdraw or the researcher ends the study early, this amount will be prorated by the percentage of the full investigation period that was completed. In addition, if the participant wins the prize for the top user of the software, he or she will receive a $50 prize (first place) or a $25 prize (two second places).


Any information that is obtained in connection with this study and that can be identified with you will remain confidential and will be disclosed only with your permission or as required by law.

The software being used may log your usage patterns in order to either improve its interface, contribute to later research statistics, or both. This data will be kept on your hard drive and later transferred to the researcher�s computer for analysis � it will not be shared outside the research group.

Portions of this study may be audio- or videotaped for later reference by the investigators. The subject has a right to review or edit the tapes. Only the investigators for this research will have access for the tapes, and the tapes will be destroyed at the conclusion of the research or upon graduation of the head investigator from the Institute (whichever is sooner). As above, the investigators may publish images or clips from the tapes, with express permission.

Participants will be given a private numeric identifier for their records and data. All data will be identified solely by participant number, so only the head investigator and the participant will have the ability to link data to names. The researcher will retain the number-name correspondences in a secure location separate from the tapes and data. Again, the tapes will be destroyed at the conclusion of the research or upon graduation of the head investigator from the Institute (whichever is sooner). Data will be similarly stored by participant number. All retained information will be only reported in scientific journals in the form of accumulated statistics and/or the media above.

If other uses of data are contemplated, the researchers will obtain specific consent at that time by contacting the participant.

emergency care and compensation for injury

In the unlikely event of physical injury resulting from participation in this research you may receive medical treatment from the M.I.T. Medical Department, including emergency treatment and follow-up care as needed. Your insurance carrier may be billed for the cost of such treatment. M.I.T. does not provide any other form of compensation for injury. Moreover, in either providing or making such medical care available it does not imply the injury is the fault of the investigator. Further information may be obtained by calling the MIT Insurance and Legal Affairs Office at 1-617-253 2822.

rights of research subjects

You are not waiving any legal claims, rights or remedies because of your participation in this research study. If you feel you have been treated unfairly, or you have questions regarding your rights as a research subject, you may contact the Chairman of the Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects, M.I.T., Room E25-143B, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, phone 1-617-253 6787.


The researchers may be contacted at

If you're ready to get started: (Back to the sign-up page)