Structure vs Metadata

It’s my impression – from various reading around the internets – that of the many new features that came with Tiger, Spotlight hasn’t lived up to the hype it initially generated.

While my filing habits have slipped slightly, I still don’t use Spotlight as much as I expected I would almost a year later. Spotlight utilizes both full text search and metadata indexing. While full text search is great for the common user, the real power comes in the metadata.

The beauty of metadata is its flexibility and dynamic nature. Spotlight Comments offer users the ability to append the standard metadata set (date, file size, file type, etc, etc, etc) with their own keywords/tags/what-have-you. This is accessed from the Get Info pane of each file. (Though I prefer the quicker access provided by Quicksilver…)

Professionally, I’ve been using metadata on an enterprise level for about 6 years. So I’m not a stranger to the power it represents. But I’m an old dog, and a fairly structured old dog at that. I don’t know if I can surrender my personal computer to use this new trick… But I’m going to try. Here’s what I’m planning:

  1. Adhere to a strict tagging practice with all new files using Spotlight Comments & Labels
  2. Put all new files in a flat directory
  3. Setup Smart Folders for most regularly used files (a quick Spotlight search/Quicksilver should find the stragglers)
  4. Stick to this system for no less than a month

Ultimately it boils down to which system is more useful in the real world – structured directories, or metadata. I wonder if a properly executed metadata scheme can yield better results than the decades old folder/directory structure. Has anyone else taken to a similar ‘filing’ scheme? The old (structure) is in my veins as much as right-clicking still is. Yet I’ve seen enough of the new (metadata) to shy from writing it off without a fight.

Which do you think will win out in a home computing environment? If you’ve already run a similar experiment, please share your insights!

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