Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Calling All OS Designers: Redesign "Save As..."

It's time to redux "Save As..." Keyword tagging is everywhere and there is a resurgence in metadata collection, now that benefits are being realized. Indeed applications have included metadata forms for generations but no one ever uses them because they have always been hidden from our awareness and critical task paths. In other words, you have to go out of your way to collect metadata. But this doesn't need to be the case. We learned while working a very complex information organization problem for the FCS Lead Systems Integrator that it is entirely practical to insert minimal steps into the task of bookmarking in order to create a much richer and more easily shared collection. It wasn't a matter of automated versus manual tagging since senior subject matter experts were already using browser-based, hierarchical bookmarking techniques to keep track what they were finding while conducting their research online. (More on that later.) Instead, it was a matter of suggesting that, "Hey, since you are already actively browsing and bookmarking, would you mind if we pop up a window and collect a few key words?" The cost was the number of keystrokes and/or clicks to enter key words plus one to submit a pre-populated tag form.

And so this is what I am suggesting: We should add this kind of metadata collection to the "Save As..." task. Of course it can be opted out, but Save As... is the semantic equivalent of browser-based, hierarchical bookmarking. I won't argue the pros and cons of keyword tagging versus hierarchical cataloging. I know from experience that both have value and that one is much more versatile than the other. I would just ask, how many times do you find yourself saving files with names like:


Maybe it's just me and since I can really only speak for myself, I will: I damn sure would enter a few key words during the Save As... process if only I had the means. It needs to be universal, too, or as close as we can get given the hodge-podge of technology on our machines.