Skip to content

Organizing and finding files and other entities

In most of the systems in popular use, it is files all the way down. Everything on the computer is a file which is located in a folder (which is a file that contains other files) which might be in another folder. One file is at only one place in the hierarchy. That may be changing. A report about the latest Mandriva Linux distribution release says

One of the major features in this release of Mandriva is the so-called “smart desktop.” The idea behind the smart desktop is that users have so much data on their PCs that the traditional file and folder metaphor for organising data is no longer useful. In its place users need a system for searching, finding and archiving data no matter whether they are files, folders, documents, videos or emails. The smart desktop is designed to run across the entire system and allow users to group information by projects. Using the smart desktop users can add notes, tags and comments to files as well to help them navigate their information store.

This is an alternative approach to digging down through a hierarchy to find the one and only hoping you are traversing the proper branch of the tree. You can see examples of such alternatives in Windows search facility (hit the Windows menu key and start typing …) or in the find, locate, and grep utilities in Unix derived systems.

Google also illustrates an attribute rather than location storage oriented system. In its reader, the hierarchy has only one step with tags and then feeds. You can find feeds under several tags as each feed can be branded with as many tags as you find convenient.

The only problem with any approach is that it still requires the human who stashes the file on the computer to catalog it properly and define attributes that will be used at some point in the future to help find it again. The efforts to automate this, from using file extents to define its type to content searching to try to figure out key concepts, tend to have too small a signal to noise ratio to have become common. It gets worse when you expand out of your local store to a LAN and then to a WAN. That is why I’net search engines are so popular but they also illustrate just how important it is to be able to define a search else you get millions of results and have a lot of manual sifting to do to find what you want.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.