The issue has been raised (recently, and many times in the past) of how to organize your stuff. And by stuff, I mean files on your computer which may be documents, photographs, videos, or other files. I want to record a few thoughts on this having just done a bunch of organizing of my stuff, with special but not exclusive reference to photographs.
What I say here applies to those using a GNU/Linux like operating system, but these suggestion will work in Windows or on a Mac. If you use Windows, however, some of the tools that make my approach work will not be available to you by default but can be easily installed.
Consider photographs. If you have a bunch of digital or digitized photos on your computer, how do you organize them? Well, the first thing to know is a very important observation my dear friend and photographic agent Nancy DeVore made many years ago when she was first creating Anthro-Photo File, a commercial repository for anthropology related images mainly purchased for use in textbooks.
“Greg, Listen,” she said, peering at a giant rack holding about two thousand slides, publisher’s order in one hand, cigarette suspended Marlene Dietrich style from in the other.
“You don’t need to label every stupid slide. Right now from where I stand, literally, looking at these slides, I can’t read the labels for shit. But I can see the pictures. I don’t need to read what the slide is, do I? Not if I can see what it is.”
I’m not necessarily sure where I’m going with that, but I thought you should know that she said that.
Anyway, to organize pictures, you need a way to see them, label them, keep track of them, and so on, and there are many applications that do this such as F-Spot (a Gnome application) and Light Table or iPhoto for the Mac, and whatever dumb-ass thing Windows users are stuck with.
And I reject all of those realities and substitute my own. And for good reasons.
For one thing, most “album” software does stuff with your pictures that you did not intend, and you have to go on a hamster hunt to find out what it actually did do. Your photos may be moved to directories you did not create and can’t easily find, and if you can’t find them, you can’t a) back them up; b) do things with them that don’t use the software you just stuck yourself with; and c) simply relax knowing that you know what you need to know. It would be like taking your children to a bus stop for school but never being allowed to know where the school is. You wouldn’t do that with your children, why would you do that with your images???
Here’s what I suggest you try: Use the following tools to manage your stuff, including slides, pdf files, and other documents:
1) Use the file system on your computer as the hierarchical structures that you will need to organize things.
2) Come up with a naming scheme that allows you to know what is in a file based on its name, do rudimentary sorting, and searching for files by name part.
3) Apply the same logic of naming to directories/folders on your hard drive.
4) Pick an appropriate file management interface (explorer, nautilus, midnight commander, whatever) to manage your files and directories from the available widely used system-aware and system-friendly alternatives. Preferably, use the file management software that comes with your system. Whatever you use it must have a “view thumbnail” option. That’s the first order of how you “see” the slides. For me, I use Nautilus and Imagviewer in combination.
5) Understand what a file name is, and learn the tools to mess with them properly. For instance:
Pointers/links can be used to create directory/file systems that re-organize your stuff whiteout moving it from its original archived position. You might have the following two directory structures:
I. Your photos organized by year:
II. A subset of your photos linked to by topic:
In the first you put your original photos, in the second put links to some of those photos. The link takes up almost no room, and they can be moved around and organizes as you wish. They can even have different names. Say your photos are named like this:
you could have a link in the bunny folder like this:
which provides lots of info: It’s from your 1999 collection, it’s a bunny (because it’s in the bunny folder) and it’s a white bunny.
I think you get the point.
And, the point is this just in case you didn’t get it: If you use existing tools that are part of your operating system you will have direct first hand access to what is happening to your files. You can manipulate them the way you want and do things creatively that would otherwise be difficult using software apps designed by someone who is … well, who is not your.
I’ll give you an example. The other day I moved copies of about 150 images form my archived folders into a handful of topically related folders, so that about 20 folders held just under 10 images (on average) each. Then I wrote a script that spidered through all the new folders and converted every file into a reduced version of the original. Many of the originals are 15 megabytes in size and 4,000 pixels or more wide. The new versions aer all 1,200 pixels wide and jpeg compressed to 80%, so 15 meg files become 0.5 meg files (or whatever).
This new collection of slides forms the basis for a series of blog posts I intend to write, each folder being one ‘story’ and the slides in the folder being the illustrations for that story.
I suppose that could be done with a program like F-spot, but I have no idea how and I’m pretty sure that it actually wouldn’t be as easy as what I just did. In the last month I’ve done similar system-based manipulations of graphics for this blog’s “Caption Needed” section as well as for a class I’m teaching. My process integrates with Dropbox (for backups and mirroring to my laptop) not because some programmer somewhere decided that the album app s/he wrote would integrate with dropbox, but because, when you work mainly at the operating system level with a collection of small well designed tools (as in Linux and the Unix Philosophy) you are fully able to integrate any one tool with any other tool.
I won’t bore you with the details now, but I do roughly the same thing with my PDF files, which are numerous.
And, trust me. Everything in my life is perfectly organized so I know what I’m talking about.
Now, if I could only find my keys, I could get out of here…