David Johnson at BNet wrote today about his use of “metadata” and Windows Vista search to find his documents. They are all stored in ONE folder. Â I knew this was coming but I didn’t realize it was already here. And I’m just not ready to do it.
In the past, computer users were taught to file things in folders and sub-folders to keep everything organized, much like you would in a file cabinet. Organizational specialists told you to file things based on your first reaction to where it should go so you could easily find them again. Â Many people embrace this organizational structure but just as many file everything on their desktop (scary – I know).
Several years ago I implemented a content management system that used metadata to store and retrieve records. We struggled for a long time as to what would be assigned to each record until the vendor asked the magic question – what is the minimum information you would accept to find a document? Â Suddenly we had a context. If someone came to the counter and wanted a document, what was the bare minimum information they had to have to get what they wanted. Â Example – they couldn’t ask for “some student who was female and graduated in 1992” (this was a student records program on a campus) but they could ask for “Kathy Breitenbucher, graduated in 1992”. Â If the peson requesting had the student’s social security number that was enough, etc. Â And so began my discussions of metadata.
Shortly thereafter operating systems started talking about metadata. The idea is you create a document and then assign the metadata to it. Then, when you need the file, you just run a search and there’s your document. Â We’re all used to searching the Internet for stuff so what’s the difference? Â Well for me, it is changing everything about the way I work. Â I considered using the “find file” feature a failing of my organizational structure. I mean, if I put it somewhere, I should know where, right? Â So now I’m suppose to do away with all of that and always search. Hard to get used too.
I know David is right and this is the smart way to manage data. Â It is more efficient, leaves less room for error or misfiling and in the long run should save time. But giving up my folders? Â I’m just not there yet.