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April 15, 2009

<< Photography and Citizenship | Winner Take All >>

The File Is Its Own Name (Whoah)

(I know, I know: It’s all media, media, media, and files, files, files around here lately. Think of it as a special thematic issue, like when the NYT Mag is all about movies one weekend. Ours is just two weeks long.)

Computer files: a total aberration. I totally agree!

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Posted April 15, 2009 at 4:39 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted

Comments

There was an interesting back-and-forth about just this a few months ago: Alex Payne wrote a post called "Against Everything Buckets," about applications like Yojimbo, DevonThink, and Evernote that basically skin the filesystem for the user in just this way. John Gruber had a nice rejoinder titled "Untitled Document Syndrome." Both are worth reading.

Let me put forward a couple of ideas.

1) It's good to title things. BUT - as Alan Cooper suggests, titling/baptizing a document should be SPECIAL. It should be something you do when you want to really call attention to something, to mark it as a discrete object -- if not necessarily finished, at least self-sufficient. If naming were reserved for those "milestone" documents, it would be a lot easier to find them!

2) We need not just auto-saving but auto-versioning. This solves two problems. Sometimes you want to work on different versions or alternate drafts, or you scrap something and then realize later you did the wrong thing. Recovery of your work would be especially powerful if it weren't just for cases where you forgot to save, but as a very powerful "undo" feature. Maybe we need more memory for this, but I think we're getting there. Also, I've got files with the same titles in different spots on my hard drive, and sometimes can't remember which version is the one I want. Autoversioning would help distinguish things that need distinguishing and unify things that need to be unified.

3. We don't need filesystems. We need databases.

4. We don't need databases. We need flexible auto-tagging.

5. We don't need tags. We need full-text.

6. We don't need full-text. We need full-texture --> the ability not just to match words but ideas, cross-references, musical notes, partial images, and video. We need deep, automated, multi-interpretive literacy.

Google docs have basically convinced me that the filesystem is peripheral. Effective search does all I need.

Posted by: Dan on April 15, 2009 at 06:26 PM
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