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Champions Of Order

Software Engineers assume that your data can be ordered logically. This assumption is built in to the file system. They assume that it's an easy task, but that it's best left to the user. Better than imposing an order that doesn't make sense for some users.

But the software engineers are wrong and here's why:

Case Study: Plain Text Library

This is the simplest of all systems to represent digitally. All the items are in the same format, each is a distinct entity. So, you start ordering your items by Author into a heirarchy. The index itself is also an item, but not like the other items, so you decide to put it at the top of the heirarchy.

It is simple and unambiguous. But, like all libraries, there will come a day when you want to extend it a bit. You might want to add a scientific paper, a scientific journal, a DVD box-set or an untitled and anonymous poem. You might want to seperate fiction from non-fiction or keep a commentary together with it's source. At every step, you must decide how to incorporate these new elements and whatever decision you make must be applied unerringly in the future.

From the start, the heirarchy must be robust enough to handle any future additions. The end result - it never works. It's hard enough for libraries with full-time staff, training and documented processes to keep things in order. The average computer user has no chance of making a logical heirarchy that will make sense now or into the future.

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