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Bit Literacy – Naming Files, Revisited

I recently finished reading Mark Hurst’s new book, Bit Literacy, and I definitely recommend it. It’s a quick read, but it’s one of those books you should revisit time and again. Seth Godin of The Dip fame (also highly recommended) calls this “…The Elements of Style for the digital age,” and that may be true, but it would need to be regularly updated to retain that label. The digital world is moving way too quickly to expect this printing to remain fresh.

Although I agree with most of Mark’s points and suggestions, I do differ with him on a few topics, one being a couple of details about his method for naming files. Although I don’t want to go into too much detail about his recommendations (he deserves the book sale), I do want to discuss my methodology a bit here.

One of the naming conventions he recommends includes placing the date into the file name of date-sensitive files, in the format mmyy, and he explains that it’s useful for sorting files by date, but that year isn’t important because projects usually don’t last more than a year (project files are also grouped together based on naming convention). I think he missed an important point here. A large percentage of projects I’ve ever worked on have crossed a year boundary. It’s only 2 (or 4) extra characters, and it would guarantee that the files remain sorted by date no matter when the project started.

I prefer using the century also, because I have relevant projects that started last century, but that’s not so important. I am adopting the rest of his recommendation, so a typical file for me may be mf-20070822-minutes.txt. Actually, as I mention in my article on live music MP3 files, I find reading the date easier using hyphens between the date parts (mf-2007-08-22-minutes.txt), but as Mark says, it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re consistent.

Bit Literacy: highly recommended.


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