Symbolic Forest

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Blog : Posts tagged with ‘filing’

Filing System

In which we find it is a good thing I no longer work in a library

Looking at our overstuffed bookshelves the other day, I started idly thinking about more interesting ways to file our books. It’s fairly impossible to come up with an entirely useable filing system, because of the way the shelves are stacked three-deep, so I thought it might be more fun to come up with a hard-to-use but more creative system. Filing by number of syllables in title, for example.

Any project like this, it’s important to do the cataloguing. Here are the books I could spot on our shelves* with one-syllable titles:

and Inga Muscio’s Cu

Regular reader E Shrdlu of Clacton writes: But surely, this isn’t going to work? How are you going to find books you need for research? What about subtitles? What about factual books? I mean, surely, for easy access you’re going to need to have all books on the French Revolution in one place, and all the books on the history of the London & North Eastern Railway in another?

Well interrupted, E Shrdlu. I’m not sure it’s practical enough to be going on with. But all those books would definitely look good on a shelf together, I’d think.

* as I said, they’re stacked three rows deep, so statistics suggests we may well have three times as many


Or, knowing where to find things

My life is a disorganised mess, and so I’m always on the lookout for ways to sort that out. Most of them seem overly-complex, self-evidently simple, or just too much work. However, I did rather like the look of a link posted on Boing Boing recently: an article from a few years ago about the Noguchi filing system.

The basic principle of the Noguchi system is: labelled files are kept on a shelf with no dividers. Files aren’t sorted, indexed, ordered or categorised at all. Instead, when a file is returned to the shelf after use, it’s always returned to one end. Therefore, the only ordering is by date of last use,* making it very easy to spot which files you can safely dispose of, or remove into storage.

That’s all well and good for paper file storage – it sounds like a rather good idea, to me. I was wondering, though, if it’s any use for computer file storage.

At first, it seems like an obvious candidate for computer file management. All you need to do is switch all your windows to sort files by date of access. So, I tried it; and quickly found that it’s more complicated than that. Here’s a picture of my home folder, which usually stores files I haven’t been able to categorise:

Home directory

The first problem jumped out at me straight away. I haven’t looked at those top files recently at all – certainly not as recently as September. The computer may well have done – probably to update its icon cache, as they’re images – but I didn’t, and the computer can’t tell that. This would be even worse for folders of files on the office network, used by multiple people at once. Secondly – and it took me a minute or two to notice this – my computer has a bug! The files aren’t even in the correct order, according to the printed dates.

So, clearly, I can’t use the Noguchi system for organising my computer files, at least not with the tools I have available. Creating new tools is possible, but beyond my own skills. Maybe I should just make a big “metadata” file, to track where all my important working files are and how often I’m using them.

* Or by date of last desk-tidy-session, as it probably would be in my case.

Filing System

In which we discuss taxonomies

Yesterday’s post made me think about blogging slightly, because I found myself creating a new category just to put it in. I’m still not sure how I should be creating categories, so I wasn’t entirely sure if I was doing the right thing.

I know this site hasn’t been going for very long, but the list of categories seems to have an awful lot of “(1 post)” entries in it. Somehow, it doesn’t feel as though I should be creating an entire category just to put a single post in; but I’m doing it in the hope that they will fill up over time. No doubt I’m going to make some wrong choices over time, but I can always try to re-sort this later.

I’m doing it that way round because I know that if I don’t leave categorising until I have a sample supply of posts to sort, it’ll never get done. It might give me some idea of what sort of category headings I need; but I’d be too lazy to get round to doing the filing. And where tagging might fit in, I’ve got no idea at all. My own category headings make no sense at all as post tags; but if I do start to tag things I don’t want a paragraph of tags cluttering up the bottom of each post. I’d need some way to disguise them.

Anyway. I know I don’t have many readers yet; but what do you think? What’s the best way to categorise stuff, and what’s the best way to go about categorising stuff?