File Hunters and File Gatherers

When it comes to file management, most people are either hunters or gatherers*.

Gatherers set up a nested-folder hierarchies so that everything is in it’s right place. (cue Radiohead) The good thing about gatherers is that everything is neatly-organized in logical structures that anyone can follow. The downside is that it takes a lot of work to setup and maintain that system, and if you make a mistake it might be very difficult to find your misfiled file.

Hunters, on the other hand, don’t sweat it. They add labels, tags, or other types of metadata to their files, and when they want them they search for them. This involves much less work and you don’t have to worry about misfiling. The catch is that if anyone else is looking for your data (say your loved ones if you kick the bucket unexpectedly), it might be difficult for them to find needed files if they don’t know how to search for them.

The question is, which system appeals to you more? If you’re a gatherer, you will need to spend time planning a folder hierarchy and occasionally prune and replant your folders. (Perhaps a more apt analogy might be gardener?) If you’re a hunter you don’t have to worry about any of that, but you will need to make sure your file names and metadata contain what you need to find it when you’re sleepy, drunk, or both. You may also want to leave a text file on your desktop with your label and tag names in case someone needs to find your files or you get hit by a bus and now have amnesia.

* or perhaps some kind of crazy hybrid???

The file hunter and gatherer analogy was first presented to me from the Mac Power Users podcast, check it out if you’re an Apple aficionado.

Photo credit: Flickr user bookfinch