Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th Jul 2012 22:18 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes The article I'm about to link to, by Oliver Reichenstein, is pretty terrible, but it's a good way for me to bring up something I've been meaning to talk about. First, the article: "Apple has been working on its file system and with iOS it had almost killed the concept of folders - before reintroducing them with a peculiar restriction: only one level! With Mountain Lion it brings its one folder level logic to OSX. What could be the reason for such a restrictive measure?" So, where does this crusade against directory structures (not file systems, as the article aggravatingly keeps stating) come from?
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The debate that will never end...
by galvanash on Thu 26th Jul 2012 03:45 UTC
galvanash
Member since:
2006-01-25

This isn't about file systems or hierarchical directory management. It isn't about limiting nesting to one folder. It isn't about vendor locking either. Thom, you are missing the point entirely.

The most profound thing you wrote in your article was this:

Emailing files to get them on devices? Seriously?


Yes. Seriously.

Geeks will rant and rage, but facts are facts. People use email, yes EMAIL to store files. Not dumb people, and not a few of them. LOTS of them. They do this on purpose. Microsoft found this behavior was overwhelmingly common when they researched user behavior, and Apple (as they always do) came to roughly the same conclusions doing whatever voodoo they do internally. Ask any corporate email admin - they fight with this constantly...

Why? Because they discovered, through their own personal experience, that it is the easiest and most reliable way to make sure they can find the file when they need it, regardless of what computer they are on or where they are.

Email uses completely different semantics for finding things... The primary attributes are different.

File systems are all about "where" things are. You can of course augment things with searches, metadata, whatever, but its all about location, location, location. Where is the heart of the matter, and no amount of metadata can really change that.

Email has no "where". It doesn't matter. There is only "who", "what", and "when". Email allows one to blissfully ignore where they put things... Everything in just "in their email".

So what is it about email, considering how bad all us geeks know it really is as a file storage system, that makes people use it anyway?

1. Its gloriously flat.
2. It has extremely rich metadata.
3. It is primarily organized by ownership and chronology, i.e. "who" and "when".
4. It is location independent.
5. It is platform independent.
6. It is device independent.
7. It is network accessible using a fundamental protocol that is supported by just about any device you can think of.

Cloud storage IS email. Its just email for file storage. Does it make sense to model a device independent internet storage service after a conventional file system? No. You model it after the thing that people are already using to do the same thing... Email.

ps. Yes, I know IMAP supports hierarchical folders. But the only people that use them are power users and geeks. Folders in email are, primarily, metadata that categorized things in an exclusive manner. Something may be in a folder, but the folder has a meaning attached to it. Almost no one organizes their email, because they simply don't need to...

ps.ps. Yes, I know ONE of you is going to reply declaring that I am completely wrong because you meticulously organize your email all the time... Please don't bother - I doubt I could fill a small stadium with the lot of you. Sorry, but your behavior is completely atypical.

ps.ps.ps. I'm not saying I like this trend by the way, I'm still on the fence myself. But I do see the rationale behind it - it isn't just "dumbing things down". I'm just saying you need to appreciate the argument for why they are moving file storage in this direction.

Reply Score: 13

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

galvanash,

"Geeks will rant and rage, but facts are facts. People use email, yes EMAIL to store files. Not dumb people, and not a few of them. LOTS of them. They do this on purpose."


I think you missed Thom's point entirely. He wasn't criticising email, he was criticising that users had to use email to work around limitations of the device.

Reply Parent Score: 3

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

I think you missed Thom's point entirely. He wasn't criticising email, he was criticising that users had to use email to work around limitations of the device.


I think you missed my point...

Yes, in his particular example that is what they are doing, but I'm not talking about users using email to get around device limitations - many of them do this (and have for years) as a way to get around having to remember where they put things... In fact as a way to avoid the complexities of file systems. And they like it.

iCloud (and the Document Library thing) are modeled after email because people do this - it is in fact largely emulating the way email works.

I'm not saying that hierarchical directories are not useful at all. I'm saying that they are not terribly useful when what you are building is file storage that:

1. Only serves the purpose of storing user generated data files.
2. Is meant to be directly accessible remotely by the applications generating those files.
3. There is only one root... You cannot nest file systems. By design.

What purpose do directories serve in this scenerio? They are for categorization, nothing more. And primarily it is exclusive categorization, i.e. the way most peoples minds work.

In a conventional file system, directories are indexes - they are critical for system operation. Their primary purpose is not to assist users in organizing their things - it is to reduce scope (make things easier to find to organizing them into smaller subsets so that it is not necessary to search through everything to find something). But they are user visible indexes. They create vast trees of information that the user must navigate through to get to things... We all got used to them - but lets not forget that they were not created for us. They are first and foremost a performance optimization...

Email does not work like this. It is indexed, but the indexes are not user visible. You don't get to things by remembering locations, you just search for them (by whatever metadata you choose) in a completely flat storage space. It does not attempt to subdivide the problem space, a complexity introduced to assist performance that is not really needed anymore.

Many users like this, actually prefer it. Not geeks, but your average joe computer user. Again, I'm not saying this is the "right way" to do things - but it is a perfectly valid and sane approach to file management, and it has tangible advantages.

Reply Parent Score: 3

phoudoin Member since:
2006-06-09

4. It is location independent.


It's dependent on network access, which make it an online storage.
Aka exact same pros and cons than cloud storage.

What will happened when user don't have access to network? Exactly like they did when their company network goes down: launch a locally stored game or simply take a (long) pause.

A progress, in fact. I'm convinced! :-)

Reply Parent Score: 3

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

It's dependent on network access, which make it an online storage. Aka exact same pros and cons than cloud storage.


It syncs to local copies, just like dropbox. Yes, the master store is on the internet, but you can work offline quite easily and re sync when you have access again.

Reply Parent Score: 2

phoudoin Member since:
2006-06-09

I'm just saying you need to appreciate the argument for why they are moving file storage in this direction.


Which is making money by charging you to access your own data.

Because what you describe is perfectly achievable on a local storage area, and nothing, litterally nothing forbid the same to be implemented locally. Just add a mail server and use the always working 127.0.0.1 network address, and you will have the same exact feature you describe. Or install a cheap NAS device with email server on it. Or install a cheap NAS device with OwnCloud on it.

But that's not the aim.
The aim is to push people to store data outside their own network, in order to be able to charge them for both storage *and* access cost to their own data.
The aim is that people don't own anymore their computing environment, but rent it. The sign is written everywhere, that's the aim, the new business plan.

Every cloud storage providers are after that new market, and the ones in a position to push a little bit harder users to do it earlier than latter are using their position to eventually degrade the current local storage situation. Yes, I'm pointing Apple and Microsoft's operating systems current trend here.

Reply Parent Score: 3

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Which is making money by charging you to access your own data.

Because what you describe is perfectly achievable on a local storage area, and nothing, litterally nothing forbid the same to be implemented locally. Just add a mail server and use the always working 127.0.0.1 network address, and you will have the same exact feature you describe. Or install a cheap NAS device with email server on it. Or install a cheap NAS device with OwnCloud on it.


I see. The solution to making things easier for non-tech types is making them harder and more expensive... Do you think your average american can manage what you just described without help from someone else? Do you think that even if they could they would want to? There are thousands of people who would trip over themselves to throw money at Apple or Microsoft to make managing and accessing their data easier, your ability to accomplish the same thing with duck-tape and bubble gum doesn't mean anything to those people and never will.

Besides, do you use email? Unless you own an ISP or run your own mail server you are paying someone to access your own data. And if you use free email you are STILL paying someone, just with your eyeballs instead of your wallet. Welcome to capitalism!

Reply Parent Score: 3