The scalability of different file-sharing methods

Ofer Bergman, Tamar Israeli, Steve Whittaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


File sharing is an integral component of modern work. Files can be shared either using Group Information Management (GIM), where collaborators exploit a common repository (e.g., the cloud), or Personal Information Management (PIM), where files are sent via email attachments, and collaborators store files individually in personal collections. Given the recent prevalence of GIM, we compare the effects on retrieval for PIM versus GIM collections. We examine the effects of various theoretically motivated factors relating to collection size, properties of the target file, and user workload. In our study, 289 participants accessed 1,557 of their own shared files in a naturalistic setting. Results indicate that factors relating to collection size, file versions, and user workload negatively affect the retrieval of GIM more than PIM files, indicating that PIM is more scalable than GIM. Testing a very different population, we confirm previous findings that failure percentages of GIM are approximately double those of PIM. We discuss possible theoretical explanations, specifically how factors that hinder retrieval exacerbate the general GIM problem of retrieving files organized by other people. Overall, PIM's greater scalability has practical implications for fast-growing organizations such as startups when choosing their sharing policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1424-1438
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank our participants and research assistants for their time and effort. This research was funded by the Israeli Science Foundation, Grant 1074/16.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Association for Information Science and Technology


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