Thursday, November 3, 2011

folders inside of folders inside of folders

I have a Masters degree in Library and Information Science so I'm (or perhaps because I'm) the kind of person who likes to think about how things are organized.

In my workplace I am daily faced with organization systems that, at least for me, do not work at all. I have control over my immediate work space, but I do not have control over how everything is organized in community use on the shared drive on our server.

Folders inside of folders inside of folders...which in a cold, logical way, makes perfect sense. Categories of sub-categories of sub-categories. Logic. Cold hard logic. The problem is that many people's brains don't work logically. They work in the way that makes most sense in relation to a) the information that they need the most b) what they need it for c) the frequency with which they use it.

When the information is there for everyone to access, it makes sense to adopt a system that is "logical", but that does not make it useful to all users, perhaps only to more of them...or none of them, I'm not sure at the moment.

Yesterday I needed a piece of information that was unfortunately buried under about four layers of other information. Because I did not know and had now way of knowing how to unlock those layers (because I NEVER use them and had no need to have memorized them) I had to ask a coworker about it. I will not reproduce that coworkers response, but I will translate its subtext for you: "Are you fucking kidding me? What's WRONG with you, are you lazy? I can't even believe that I have to answer this morally corrupt question for you so I'm just not going to answer it, I'm going to glare at you and hope you go away and magically become able to find this information on your own"

It sure felt great. made no difference in my ability to find the information that I needed, because the information was stored behind layers of other information that my job does not require me to know. My job, like my degree, is one of ultimate generalism. I don't need to memorize great quantities of information (though it's helpful) but I DO need to know where to find information when I need it. When the system of organization makes information destinations clear only to certain classes of employee, you have a problem.

To the credit of the organization that I work for, there has been some attempt at standardizing the language that we use to describe certain that I can guess my way along at times...but then the specialty language kicks in and suddenly I'm required not just to be able to find anything,  but to be able to find it in multiple languages, literally.

On top of that little organization issue and its inherent challenges...I cannot function in a system of folders inside of folders inside of folders. I suspect it's the "ADHD means out of sight out of mind" issue. Because my e-filing system was created before I arrived here, and is sometimes used by other people, I can't move it around because that will take it even further out of synch with the rest of our allegedly organized e-filing system, which would create for someone else the same problem that I have with other people's files.

I have a hard time finding things when I need them. I have to think carefully about where the next tidbit I'm looking for might be. I can find you every thing you need to know in every scientific journal I can get my hands on, but half the time I can't find my own lists in my own folders...

But wait: When I worked in law offices it was very simple because all information pertaining to a particular case was simply filed under that file name and then categorized as needed within that file...folders inside of folders...but they were tangible folders, not e-folders.

That's it...there must be a conspiracy by environmentalists to make my ADHD brain explode by convincing America to move to digital storage formats.


And they're distracting us with talk of global warming!!! GIVE ME BACK MY PAPER FILES YOU GREEN NAZIS!

Depending on the storage format, your ability to "browse" information like we used to browse the shelves of libraries can be seriously hampered. The ability to browse requires either really intense and clever electronic indexing/tagging/etc or someone spending a lot of time scanning things into a computer. We (and by we I mean electronic data storage age humans) are spending all of our time trying to recreate the best features of tangible browsing in the name of saving space and paper.

I don't think I like it.

Yes that's right...I spend most of my time on a computer and social networking and blahblahblah...but sometimes I just want to flip a page instead of mentally backengineering a freaking database to figure out what "language" works best for unlocking electronic secrets that it contains.

Quit making my brain explode, America! Give me books (and trashy celebrity magazines) or give me death!


  1. I had a huge office full of paper memorized . . . but once we digitized it, I was lost. Ten years later, I'm all about Evernote, DropBox, Spotlight on Mac's, and so on. OCR, no tagging -- just, find it for me, software! I know that doesn't work for shared systems. And I don't have anything helpful to say, except, time & technology will eventually solve this ;-)

  2. I think this will remain a problem until we have installed microchips in our bodies that just "know" things. Of course...that will bring us a whole new batch of problems!

    Sidenote: did the criminally insane* invent Microsoft Outlook? What an information organizing nightmare (that won't cooperate with any smart phone that's work a poop).

    *I am not one to disparage those with mental health issues (hi, have ya met me? have ya met my blog? have ya read my posts about medication?) so please know that when I say "criminally insane" I'm actually picturing a super-hero-nemesis style villain with a knack for intentionally writing perplexing and nearly useless software for the fun of making work harder than it needs to be...