Monday, August 08, 2005

Rumours of Classification's Death Greatly Exaggerated

In a recent article from ComputerWorld, Geoff Barrall, the CEO and founder of Trusted Data Corp., questions the future need of file systems or any type of nested file-folder structure. Essentially, his argument is based upon the benefits of new indexing technologies (ie. Google Desktop) being vastly superior - to the point of never needing to group like documents again! (source: LISNews)

To me, this sounds terribly familiar, much like the constant comparison & debate between enterprise search (and DMS systems) versus the classified & browsable collection approach. I have to admit, I have no clue as to why we should compare, or debate for that matter. That's because I'm a shades-of-grey kinda guy. :-), or perhaps a bit more wholistic in my viewpoint.

When it comes to providing access to retrievable information or content, we're almost always better off making both options available. Classification without Search is great for browsing, but not so great when we are looking for a specific resource. By the same argument, Search without Classification is horrible when you only vaguely know what you're looking for... Guess what? Not all research behaviour is based upon the same level of required specificity.

The other significant oversight here, is that a classified directory structure can have meaning beyond its file contents - the collection itself can be the target of an inquiry. Whether it's the Microsoft programmers needing to segregate system OS files, or on our home computer where we keep our vacation pictures in C:\pictures\vacation05\, the loss of document groupings (...and being forced to go back and re-tag & group them into dynamic search folders...) would not be a technological evolution.

Are we going to see the death of file systems? I hope not. And if we do, I'm thinking it might be because the 'vision' of some is a little too black and white.


Blogger K8 said...

hear! hear!
Offering search as the only way to find information will always struggle when faced with a multitude of purpose by searchers. Just as all your internal users clamouring for "a search engine like Google", but when implemented then asking for "more than Google" is a no-brainer, especially when dealing with the complexity of legal know-how. And then there's having to provide functionality to those who were educated using books and libraries as the basis of their research where the use of the book's index and/or contents page is more likely than standing and flicking through the tome looking for the relevant paragraph/page/chapter.

So anyhoo, I'd agree with your "shades-of-grey" description and offer up my favourite saying as evidence: "It depends".

Still, we need these black/white discussions to see the grey more clearly (or something!)

6:55 AM  

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