Let’s get personal: the little nudge that improves document retrieval in the Cloud

Ofer Bergman, Steve Whittaker, Yaron Frishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: State-of-the-art cloud applications are problematic for collaborative document management; their current design does not encourage active personal folder categorization. Cloud applications such as Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive store documents automatically, so at no point are users directed to categorize them by placing them in folders. To encourage active categorization and promote effective retrieval of cloud documents, the authors designed an add-on “nudge” called Personal Organizer which prompts Google Drive users to categorize by storing cloud documents in personal folders. The add-on prompt is triggered when users attempt to close uncategorized or unnamed documents. The purpose of this paper is to test whether using the Personal Organizer add-on leads participants to actively store their documents in folders that they personally created, and whether this promotes more successful and efficient retrieval. Design/methodology/approach: To test the add-on, the authors conducted a pretest-manipulation-post-test intervention study with 34 participants lasting over three months. In both tests, participants were asked to retrieve personal documents taken from their own “Recents” list to improve ecological validity. Findings: Using our add-on doubled the percentage of documents that were actively stored in folders. Additionally, using personally created folders substantially improved retrieval success while decreasing retrieval time. Originality/value: Implementing our findings can improve document storage and retrieval for millions of users of collaborative cloud storage. The authors discuss broader theoretical implications concerning the role of active organization for retrieval in collaborative repositories, as well as design implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-396
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 19 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank our participants. This study was supported by the Google Faculty Research Award 2014_R2_79.1.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Cloud-based repositories
  • Documents
  • Folders
  • Group information management
  • Nudging
  • Personal information management


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