The Mashup App on iTunes

Subscribe to RSS Feed
Blog Archive
« Just The Important Parts: Documents vs. Snippets | Main | Remembering Your Data: File Names and Tags vs. Descriptions »

Grouping Your Data: Folders vs. Categories

The Mashup App allows users to group data into one or more categories. 

In a previous blog post, we talked about the computer desktop metaphor and mentioned some of the shortcomings of file and folder names. We described how file and folder names as well as tags are not very helpful in reminding us of the details of the data stored in the file. We also looked at how The Mashup App allows the user to provide a meaningful and memorable description of their data.

In this blog post, we will look at the shortcomings of desktop folders.
In the desktop metaphor, folders were designed to group related files together and thereby exclude unrelated files much like a real-world folder does. But because file and folder names were not very informative, the concept of nested folders was needed to further isolate files into more manageable groups. Nowadays, most users use a limited set of folders and shun deeply nested folders for many reasons. One reason is that it is hard for many users to manage the multiple windows in which the folders popup into. Another reason is that open windows many not be restored to their previous state after their computer is restated. Several researchers have documented that many people have behavioral issues with organization (that is, they are messy) and that the brain was not designed to process deep hierarchies. The brain excels at grouping related items together better than it does at creating hierarchies of abstract and concrete items.


Another significant shortcoming of the desktop metaphor of files and folders is that a file can only be placed into a single folder. To minimize this problem, file and folder shortcuts and links can be used but the fact is that most computer users do not use these features.

And lastly, there is no way to document the reason why certain files were grouped together in a folder. If a desktop user has a small number of files and folders, then it is easy to remember the purpose of the folder. And if the purpose of a folder was forgotten, then the computer user can simply open the folder and read the file names or perhaps open each file and try to deduce the reason for grouping those specific files. 

All of these impediments are dramatically compounded when many users share the same computer files and with the passage of time.


The Mashup App solves these problems by allowing you to describe or categorize your data. At a basic level it is fine to think of a category as a container of data just like a folder is a container for files with the added benefit that data can be placed into multiple categories. But if you instead treat a category as a "categorization" of one or more pieces of data, then you are able to create knowledge from your individual data items. How so? Well, we need to take a step back and ponder on the nature of data, information, and knowledge as many philosophers and big thinkers have done. Most of us instinctively consider data to be just random stuff and information to be something more worthwhile but not necessarily crucial to any one person specifically. Knowledge, most people would agree, is the highest level of information importance and has specific meaning to a person... something that a person would seek, try to comprehend, and memorize to make it their own. Knowledge is the information that you want to remember.

Since we can save the data which is important to us in our personal database-- in other words, we can save important information-- but how do we make that information into knowledge? What's missing from the data? Our thoughts and rationale are missing. Instead of locking away your connection to the data, you should provide a context to the data and a commentary about it. The context of a piece of data is related data that provides a complete picture. You add, and thereby mashup, the related data to create a context. The commentary explains why data is significant to you. In The Mashup App, your commentary is called the data's categorization... or just category for short.

In this example, a user has grouped several pieces of related data. This data was accumulated over several years and documents their knowledge about the subject:

 You can aggregated-- or mashup-- different types of data into a descriptive category. Here a web article, video clip, PDF, and image were grouped together because it was important for the user to relate them.

By describing your data you are ensuring that you do not forget it. With The Mashup App you can preserve your memories and share your knowledge about the items in your life.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend