Data Organization

One of the things that bothers me about the standard computer desktop paradigm is that objects (files and such) only appear in one place. This fits in very well with the idea of a physical desktop — a paper document only exists in one place. If it needs to be in two places at once, a photocopy will do.

I often want to organize my files into categories. For example: I take a screenshot of a game that I am playing. Where do I store the file? My current convention is to follow my hierarchical folder structure down until the file fits: The screenshot is an image, so it goes in my “/images” directory. It is a screenshot, so it also goes in theĀ  screenshots directory (“/images/screenshots”). It is from game ABC, so it also goes in the ABC directory (“/images/screenshots/ABC”). This is fairly straightforward so far. However, how do I categorize it now? It’s a really cool screenshot of my character (I have a “/images/screenshots/ABC/character_shots” directory) but it also has a good capture of the in-game weather (I also have a “/images/screenshots/ABC/weather” directory). There’s no real clear answer to this if we stick with the standard paradigm.

What I really want to do is tag or categorize this file. My quick initial pass at tagging results in these tags:

  • image
  • screenshot
  • game screenshot
  • ABC
  • character
  • weather
  • rain

This becomes even more important when I want to look for files. The standard file hierarchy I have set up now won’t help me much if I’m looking for all game weather screenshots.

I know there are image galleries that will provide some of this functionality, and I’m sure that there are file systems or explorer applications that will do the same for all types of files. (And I read that Vista was supposed to include something like this with the new file system, but this was cut, which was a shame. That was one of the major things I was looking forward to with Vista) Even so, the vast majority of users are still using the old paradigm, or even some other paradigm that doesn’t really fit — I’m sure you all know people who save their Word documents to whatever default location Word chooses.

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