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« Grouping Your Data: Folders vs. Categories | Main | Saving your Data: Files vs. Database »
Saturday
Jun252011

Remembering Your Data: File Names and Tags vs. Descriptions

The Mashup App allows users to provide meaningful descriptions of their data using full sentences which is a tremendous improvement over the simple file and folder names we use on our desktop computers and the often ambiguous tags used on web sites.
 
In a previous blog post, we talked about the history of the computer desktop metaphor and mentioned some of the shortcomings of file and folders.

In the desktop metaphor, names are used more for managing and identifying files and folders rather than as an aid in remembering data contents. In the early days of computers, file names were limited to 8 letters and could only use the English language. 8 letters is a little more than 1 word. And using just 1 word to describe all of the information contained in a file is absurd. This was a barely manageable solution even when we only had a small number of files and folders.

Recently, computers have allowed the length of file names to be expanded and also support international languages. Unfortunately, even though we can use multiple words in a file name, the desktop window displaying file names usually truncates long names. So even if your computer allows you to use long file names or even a description, the nature of the desktop metaphor works against you.


On the web, most sites do not display a file's name and will allow the author to use keywords called tags to describe the content of an image, video, or other content. While tags can better describe data rather than a file name, tags also suffer from the same problem that file names do: ambiguity and a lack of context.
 
Here is an example of a 3 page web article from the URL:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/19/programming_open_data/

and the printer friendly version is at this URL

The tags used to describe, group, and search for the article are mostly irrelevant because they are not descriptive and are ambiguous as are most web tags:


The editor's title is better than the set of tags but due to space requirements and the need to catch the eye of the reader, is a bit sensational:

 

The article itself is top-notch writing and a user of The Mashup App decided to save it to his personal database. Once saved, the user edited the article and deleted 3 irrelevant ads and then annotated the most important content using The Mashup App editing tools. The user decided to preserve the original web article title as the title of the saved data item but provided a more memorable description:



The annotations will remind the user and with whom she shares her data of the most important segments (in her opinion, of course): 



 




 
In summary, The Mashup App innovates beyond the desktop metaphor of file and folder names and allows you to provide a meaningful and memorable description for your data. Whether you want to use a one word description or prefer to use several paragraphs in multiple languages, The Mashup App has been designed to support your needs.

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