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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galvanash
Member since:
2006-01-25

And for the umpteenth time, tagging & meta data are not mutually exclusive to hierarchies.


I know that. I even stated so in another post. It doesn't matter though. I don't look at this problem relative to the status quo - to me it is a fundamental thing. You can't just tack on metadata and call it a day - it doesn't actually solve anything.

The problem is not that users use directories to organize files. The problem is that users organize files. It is totally pointless... It serves absolutely no real purpose. It is a distraction. It is stupid. It is nonsensical.

Yet I do it every day. So do you. Why? Because my computer is designed to make me think that I need to. Adding search didn't make me stop doing it. Computers thrust the concept of "file management" on me at every turn, you can't escape it - it is primal to modern computer interfaces. The only way to get rid of it is to expunge it, otherwise it will never truly go away.

Anyway, I'm not interested in an argument about it. I have my notions, you have yours. I said my piece - to each his own.

Reply Parent Score: 3

_txf_ Member since:
2008-03-17

Yet I do it every day. So do you. Why? Because my computer is designed to make me think that I need to. Adding search didn't make me stop doing it. Computers thrust the concept of "file management" on me at every turn, you can't escape it - it is primal to modern computer interfaces. The only way to get rid of it is to expunge it, otherwise it will never truly go away.


I'm going to extrapolate what you're saying to the real world. Basically you think that nothing should be organized a long as it tagged labelled, which basically amounts to a massive wall of documents covered in post-it notes labeling the various pages with strings showing connecting all the related documents. Those kinds of rooms are the rooms of crazy people.

All information in the world is organized in hierarchies simply because it would be too distracting to shove all information everywhere at a person.

Look at a document. We have paragraphs, headings and subheadings for a reason; they're not strictly necessary, but we use them to make things more manageable. Same thing with folders.

Edited 2012-07-26 10:50 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

I'm going to extrapolate what you're saying to the real world. Basically you think that nothing should be organized a long as it tagged labelled, which basically amounts to a massive wall of documents covered in post-it notes labeling the various pages with strings showing connecting all the related documents. Those kinds of rooms are the rooms of crazy people.

All information in the world is organized in hierarchies simply because it would be too distracting to shove all information everywhere at a person.


Ugh.. Im not opposed to hierarchies. Im just saying your computer and its applications can do a much better job of defining them than you can. LET IT.

Hierarchies are great for browsing lots of things. So use them for that - the system can define them for you (by size, by types, by arbitrary metadata, whatever). The thing that is wrong about directories (from a UI perspective) is that they are location specific taxonomy, and they are exclusive. It is an artificial limitation - it is taking power away from you and making you waste braincells.

We even have stupid workarounds, like symbolic links, complicated things that serve no real purpose other than a UI crutch. They shouldn't be necessary - the only reason that they exist is because we use hierarchies as the primary means of organized storage. We all concern ourselves with something that in reality doesn't even matter - "where is my file?". Why the hell should it matter where your file is - what matters is if you can get to it easily when you need to.

Im just saying why not let your computer keep things organized for you? That way you can, I don't know, go do real work.

Edited 2012-07-26 16:13 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

galvanash,

"The problem is not that users use directories to organize files. The problem is that users organize files. It is totally pointless... It serves absolutely no real purpose. It is a distraction. It is stupid. It is nonsensical."

Right, go tell that to your doctor, accountant, etc. Seriously do you hear yourself? As a developer I have technical reasons that I need directories, but even if that was not the case I would rather not merge all my client's data in a single hodge-podge directory with metadata only to search for them. I'm advocating a methodology that combines the best of both worlds, you're advocating a methodology that removes my choice. Why does my having a choice bother you so fundamentally?


"Yet I do it every day. So do you. Why? Because my computer is designed to make me think that I need to. Adding search didn't make me stop doing it. Computers thrust the concept of 'file management'. Your only referring to specific implementation issues that stem from evolutionary designs and legacy interfaces...The only way to get rid of it is to expunge it, otherwise it will never truly go away."

You are still complaining against existing implementation problems as a reason to eliminate the directory concept all together, that's an illogical jump. I'm saying both tagging and directories should be designed from the ground up as well integrated equals on a new platform. If that's the case, you could throw all your files into one top level directory to your heart's content. Giving me the ability to use directories doesn't harm your ability not to, but removing my ability to use directories does harm my ability to organise my files as I see fit.

In other words, your proposition is biased towards your needs, mine is inclusive of both our needs as far I as can honestly discern.

Reply Parent Score: 2

BushLin Member since:
2011-01-26

One man argues that if you're to get all aspects of an OS and it's applications to use only an e-mail like organisation of files using only meta-data then you'd need to do away with regular user access to the file system...
otherwise some applications will use the file system as the default means for file access and therefore some files won't have/need the meta-data and we stay in the situation we're in now.

Another man argues that he doesn't want to live in that world, it'd be totally impractical for doing his job. The file system needs to exist for so many functions.

Both are correct and I hope both would agree that in an ideal situation, anyone looking to implement an OS without regular user access to the file system would would implement it well enough to make it worth everyone's time (by saving it) but still make access to the file system a trivial root/administrator function for those that need it.

BTW, I have no problem finding files. Name, dates, extension, location etc. is more than enough for me but I understand why people like the e-mail concept.

Reply Parent Score: 2

hhas Member since:
2006-11-28

The problem is not that users use directories to organize files. The problem is that users organize files. It is totally pointless... It serves absolutely no real purpose. It is a distraction. It is stupid. It is nonsensical.


The phrase you want is "make-work". Like recompiling a kernel to add a new driver; itself an exercise that has only recently fallen out of the category of "positive ways to spend one's life" (and even so this probably only applies to the mainstream distros).

A simpler way to put your argument might be: "I am not my computer's secretary".

The problem is, the typical computer nerd/geek is a pathological hoarder: always happy to absorb shiny new toys, but never, ever throws away what they already own, no matter how clapped out or broken down it might be.

I suspect a lot of folks here, while enthusiastic about computers, just don't know much history beyond their own direct experience, so don't appreciate just why the proto-greybeards invented the terms 'primary storage' and 'secondary storage' in the first place. Disk drives - and, by extension, files and folders and whatever other related abstractions you care to mention - are just a workaround for the historical limitations of primary (currently RAM) storage: i.e. severely restricted capacity and limited persistence. As a workaround, those early 'users' invented mechanisms for serialising live program data so it could stored away in a more capacious and durable (but too slow for live use) system, and transferred back to main memory the next time it was needed. I daresay if those old valve-based guys had invented high-speed, high-capacity holographic memory instead, such a split would never have occurred. All data would spend its entire lifetime as live objects within permanently running processes, with any cross-process data exchange conducted via IPC, and we wouldn't even be having this argument today.

Folks are now so used to the myriad kludges and abstractions layered on over 60-odd years of ad-hoc evolution, they just assume it's how things ought to be and never think to doubt or challenge those assumptions. Don't get me wrong: organising data hierarchically is a mighty fine tool for certain types of problems (e.g. it makes a lot of sense for stuff like OS and application files), but for user data it is an absolute tyranny.

Straight off the top of my head: consider backups. Backups are an evil, brain-damaged solution to a very real problem: how to ensure the safety of the user's data? There was a time, way back when, that the traditional 'copy to external media/server/whatever' strategy was unavoidable: the technology of the time was too limited to permit anything better. Yet the problem still exists today, at least a decade after that is no longer a hard limitation. Recast the problem in modern terms that better reflect users' actual needs and expectations - redundancy, replication, historical timeline, easy access from more than one hardware device - and you start to see what the real problem is: data being bound to a single point in space and time. And the only way to break that bind is by decoupling the user from the physical storage process and location.

Suddenly, all sorts of ghastly convoluted crap collapses into a far simpler and elegant conceptual model. Not that there aren't all sorts of practical problems still to be solved, but at least now you know where you want to be in the near future, not merely fighting to stay where you were 20 years ago.

(Incidentally, once user data storage and presentation is fully decoupled, you can provide any view onto that data you like, even old-skool hierarchical if that's what tickles your fancy. Ah, the joys of good abstraction. And anyone here who isn't aware that a file system is itself a thick abstraction over a bunch of other thick abstractions - half of which don't even have anything to do with actual files if you're on the likes of Unix or Plan9 - needs a healthy clout from the LART stick; and I do mean that.)

Good luck with effecting any sort of change though. There are all too many folks who'll fight to the death to maintain a nasty, ugly, crippled status-quo where they are the undisputed kings than sweep it away to stand shoulder-to-shoulder all the little folk in a brave new world. OSS/*nix folks should be taking the lead in shaping the future to everyone's best interests. Instead they bicker and whine and refuse to let go of what they already know and step into the unknown, allowing the big self-serving vendors like Apple and MS all the time they need to shape it primarily to suit themselves.

It's a bit frustrating.

Reply Parent Score: 3

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Ah... Someone who both appreciates where I'm coming from AND knows what a LART stick is. Kindred spirit ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

hhas,

Thank you for that insightful post. I agree with your ideas. I've given the same thoughts to the duality of documents on storage and documents on display. That duality isn't inherent, it was evolutionary just like you said. I think there are some platforms that tried to treat all documents as active documents and eliminate the notion of opening & saving them. It's unfortunately such projects have been relegated to obscure niche usage since I think it's a nice alternative.


"Don't get me wrong: organising data hierarchically is a mighty fine tool for certain types of problems (e.g. it makes a lot of sense for stuff like OS and application files), but for user data it is an absolute tyranny."

I still have to disagree with you here though, even once we've expelled the disk-saved/memory-loaded duality, which was invented for the computer's sake so to speak, it hasn't eliminated clutter nor the user's desire to keep certain documents organised in relative hierarchies, metadata only takes you so far and works much better in some cases than others.

People used hierarchies even before computers came on the scene because it was a natural approach for them to organise data - it's not like they were invented for the computer's own sake. They exist in all kinds of "human" contexts; my favourite computer part supplier, newegg, organises their website products in a hierarchy. That wasn't for the benefit of their web server, or their developers. No, it was for my benefit as a user. In addition to hierarchies, they also provide great metadata searching too, proving that both approaches are complementary. We should my own computer not permit me to work this way if I want to?

"Good luck with effecting any sort of change though. There are all too many folks who'll fight to the death to maintain a nasty, ugly, crippled status-quo where they are the undisputed kings than sweep it away to stand shoulder-to-shoulder all the little folk in a brave new world. OSS/*nix folks should be taking the lead in shaping the future to everyone's best interests."

I certainly hope you are not referring to me, because I agree with you. The status-quo really does impede progress sometimes. I don't feel user directories do that since they're entirely optional and don't interfere with metadata.

Reply Parent Score: 2