Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th Jun 2012 22:55 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes "Whenever there is a conversation about the future of computing, is discussion inevitably turns to the notion of a 'File'. After all, most tablets and phones don't show the user anything that resembles a file, only Apps that contain their own content, tucked away inside their own opaque storage structure. This is wrong. Files are abstraction layers around content that are necessary for interoperability. Without the notion of a File or other similar shared content abstraction, the ability to use different applications with the same information grinds to a halt, which hampers innovation and user experience." Aside from the fact that a file manager for Android is just a click away, and aside from the fact that Android's share menu addresses many of these concerns, his point still stands: files are not an outdated, archaic concept. One of my biggest gripes with iOS is just how user-hostile the operating system it when it comes to getting stuff - whatever stuff - to and from the device.
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Tagged data chunks on a storage device.
by poladark on Sat 30th Jun 2012 08:28 UTC
poladark
Member since:
2009-07-15

I think a problem here is that "files" is just one model of representing data on a storage device. There's nothing inherently magic about a hierarchical database of storage indexes that makes them more "true" than any other form of representation. In fact, i think the rigid adherence to the "file" concept is holding everyone back, casual and seasoned users alike.

One example already mentioned here is organizing photographs. Things you care about is when the picture was taken, where it was taken and what and who was in it. It's not really relevant what tree structure it is in.

Another example is versioning of files, similar to how it works in OpenVMS. It's something that's tremendously useful when you're editing code and it's trivial to implement (just save a new file automatically with a new version number). However, since we're so stuck on the UNIX/Windows concept of a simple hierarchical file system, there's no room for extending the current paradigm.

Rather than building layers of obfuscation on top of a hierarchical file system a file system should have a more flexible indexing system supporting tags to allow you to represent your data in whatever format is most well-suited to the work you have ahead of you. This should be done without adding another layer of complexity (no matter how popular it is to add complexity to avoid fixing the fundamental problems).

The sooner we realize that we have a problem and that it needs to be addressed - the better.

Reply Score: 1

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

poladark,


I wouldn't deny the benefit of tagging/meta data. For sure, it's definitely a useful means of working with files. However one should not assume that metadata and directory hierarchies are mutually exclusive, they are not. A lot of the file-systems-are-bad posts may be wrongly assuming that they are. There's no reason one can't have both at the same time.

A hierarchy is a natural way of organising and keeping related things together. It's why we have things like bookmark folders, email folders - these weren't invented for the computer's sake but for the direct benefit of users to be able to organise their stuff. It gives a kind of "spatial" locality to an otherwise chaotic pile containing everything. Hierarchical organisation isn't something we invented for computers either, but is something we learn to do at a very young age. When we go to school, we have subject-specific folders and notebooks, which is better than keeping everything in one big pile - meta tags or not. Directories offer a clean/logical separation of things that don't belong together, that's hard to express with tags alone.

There may come a time when school students go all digital, hopefully they'll have access to a platform that allows them to organise things in a way which is most suitable without being locked into a dogmatic paradigm.

Let's not write off hierarchies as a useful organisational tool, ok?

Note: I treat "file" as a synonymous term for "content", they mean the same thing as far as what we're talking about.

Edited 2012-06-30 09:39 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

poladark Member since:
2009-07-15

However one should not assume that metadata and directory hierarchies are mutually exclusive, they are not. A lot of the file-systems-are-bad posts may be wrongly assuming that they are. There's no reason one can't have both at the same time.

I agree. I would argue that a flexible tagging system could be used with great benefit to build other systems such as hierarchies though. We've been building tagging systems on top of hierarchies for decades now and none of the solutions have been completely satisfactory.

Also a good flexible tagging system could be used to make multiple file representation systems simultaneously in those cases where it's not a clear-cut choice what the best representation strategy is.

A hierarchy is a natural way of organising and keeping related things together.

Here I have to disagree. A lot of studies have been made on this and a natural way of keeping related things together is to put them in piles. This is why real desks often look the way they do, rather than stuff being always tucked away neatly in drawers.

I have no idea how a pure pile-based file system would work though ;)

A lot of people do have problems with tree-like file systems today. If it comes naturally, why do people evidently have a problem with it? Veteran computer users are a bit too quick to discard opinions from fresh and untainted users of computer-based products.

Directories offer a clean/logical separation of things that don't belong together, that's hard to express with tags alone.

Don't get me wrong, there are very good uses for hierarchical organizational layouts but different usage tasks have different requirements. The trick is to balance the needs of people looking to use data in different ways. Forcing everyone to use the same approach regardless of their needs is not optimal either.

There may come a time when school students go all digital, hopefully they'll have access to a platform that allows them to organise things in a way which is most suitable without being locked into a dogmatic paradigm.

Amen to that.

Let's not write off hierarchies as a useful organisational tool, ok?

Never! Let's also not write off other organizational models as inferior to the tree.

Reply Parent Score: 1