Classification is more flexible than folder organization

Digital archive and tags

There used to be a time I meticulously kept a contact list, but nowadays when I need to reach someone I spoke with before, the information is at my fingertips. I stopped maintaining my contact list a long time. Now I just search.
This was never a conscious decision but it kind of happened. I do keep meticulous digital records of everything, but I no longer organize them as meticulously as I did in the past.
I scan receipts with my phone and put them in a folder on my Dropbox. Documents either live in Google Docs or on Dropbox in a generic folder. Contact information lives in my email and calendar.
Search has really changed the game for surfacing content which we used to find using an organization like folders and lists.
My dream would be that I can just dump everything into the cloud and not even figure out where to put something – not even a generic folder. The problem is that you do need be to surface a document which means you’ve to think a little about classification. Today this means a top level or secondary level folder and the filename. But those are proxies for what I really want and that’s something like tagging. I love to be able to just classify anything based on a few tags and no longer think about filenames and folders.
Tagging has been tried before by Google in both their Gmail – they still call it tags but they operate like folders – and Docs products. They tracked back from that because people found it confusing.
Maybe now the time has come to revisit that again. People’s behavior changes over time and they were really early. I can imagine it could be an overlay to the current folder structure where people have a choice and are not forced to use it.
If you let go of structural organization and rely on search, tags make so much more sense than anything else. Here’s to hoping.

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