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At 09:41 AM 11/26/02 -0800, Adam Korman wrote:

>With electronic files, it's absolute anarchy. Everyone is empowered to
>create their own filing cabinets and choose any labeling and hierarchical
>scheme they want -- and usually no one's in charge of enforcing a
>hierarchy that will be understood across the organization.

Adam, I think this is true when discussing the world of "personal
computers" which as a web developer I spend a great deal of time contending
with the real world ramifications of. Coming from a mainframe environment
though we didn't use to have computers, we had terminals instead and
everything came off the behemoth. At least it was highly standardized.

>Worse, when companies do try to enforce a hierarchy and labeling scheme on
>their servers, what eventually happens is that people don't use the
>imposed hierarchy as intended. Instead, they create their own personal
>hierarchy, either somewhere deeply nested in the official hierarchy for
>use by themselves (or small working group) OR on their local drive (then
>email files as needed). This is utter chaos with ghettos of information.

Except when there is an effective methodology for enforcing the convention,
i.e. a DBMS with applications built around it and adequate training and
support for staff to be able to do their jobs w/o having to resort to
alternatives like reinventing the wheel.

BTW, it took me years to figure out that reinventing the wheel is the
hallmark of technology, so not necessarily a bad thing. After all, people
will get creative when they feel a need for something and a lack of the
means to acquire it. If IT did their job then non-IT folks wouldn't have to
kludge ways of doing theirs. Whoops, I'm an IT guy. :) How embarrasking.

>What's the alternative? A robust system of attribute-based retrieval.
>iTunes and iPhoto are good examples of how this can work at the
>single-user level. Users don't have to worry about how files are organized
>or named on the hard drive. Instead, there's a big soup of
>files that you can easily slice and dice in various ways to find what
>you're looking for. Just imagine this on a larger scale.

Isn't this exactly what dmoz and google et al are providing?

I think that there will always be uses for information outside the realm of
what is readily available, or I'll be permanently unemployed. Think about
it; if all the data for something is pigeon holed with screens for finding
whatever your heart desires within /whatever/ search constraints -- then
when the organization's in a jam they'll call in the specialists who know
how to look behind the apps and find things out from a different
perspective. Maybe there's a beauty and intelligence also at work in all
the chaos since regular folks have now been given the organizational power
of computers that in many ways outpower the mainframes I worked on in the
'80's and early '90's.

With better tools augmenting what's already available I think things can
get better. Guess that summary doesn't add any new information to the mix
though.

Marty

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