Half Life: Information vs Updates vs Usefulness

Ever looked for a file, or piece of content, and only after you think you have found what you are looking for, you realise it’s out of date?

Every item of content has a half life. Sooner or later it’s relevance and value will decline. Maybe a little at first, but eventually its not going to be as useful as it once might have been.

How do you manage the half life of such documents? There isn’t a geigermeter for documents (none that I’ve ever seen anyway). Content management systems sometimes offer some form of scale in the form of a timestamp so you can tell when the content was last updated. This is fine to make a rough attempt at gauging how relevant the content might be, but if that content is buried inside a proprietary file, it might not be as useful as you think. Consider a strategy document – probably relevant for a longer period than a set of application release notes. Look at either from the outside and you can’t call much between them except from the name.

Is there a method for measuring or describing the half-life of digital information to illustrate how usefulness declines over time without updates and revisions? How might this transform the management of information management systems?