File Systems, Revit & Folder Hell
January 20, 2016 2 Comments
It seems everyone is looking for a way to manage their Revit content. It’s just the latest reminder that File Folders suck. I doubt I’m the first person to so emphatically call it out 🙂 Stated more eloquently, the Windows File System doesn’t do a very good job of helping to organize content or make it easy to find.
According to Wikipedia…
In computing, a file system (or filesystem) is used to control how data is stored and retrieved. Without a file system, information placed in a storage area would be one large body of data with no way to tell where one piece of information stops and the next begins. By separating the data into individual pieces, and giving each piece a name, the information is easily separated and identified. Taking its name from the way paper-based information systems are named, each group of data is called a “file“. The structure and logic rules used to manage the groups of information and their names is called a “file system”.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few months. As many of you know, ArchVision has been working on a content management solution we call AVAIL. It takes me a while for things to gel and be able to clearly articulate things but it finally dawned on me that what we’ve been trying to conquer are the inherent limitations of file systems. Anybody working on a “content management” solution is taking some approach to overcoming the limitations of those file systems. Despite a lot of energy expelled to solve this problem, we’ve remained in Folder Hell for the better part of 40 plus years!
Many providers of content management solutions take on both storage and retrieval. Their solutions require you to stuff your content into a new database, move it around your network into some new abstracted file folder system or as of late, ask you to store it “in the cloud”. The team at ArchVision is taking a different approach.
I’ll claim that the Windows File System is a dandy storage solution, it just sucks when you have to find something! And you weren’t crazy when you put files where you put them. It just seems that way when you come back months later looking for them. You wouldn’t have put them where you put them if it didn’t make sense at the time. Have solice. You haven’t lost your mind, the context changed. In a previous blog post “Local vs Cloud – A Limited Argument” I suggested that separating the tasks of storage from retrieval was one way of beginning to isolate the real problem. With AVAIL we’ve done just that. AVAIL “virtualizes” the files on your network freeing you to retrieve files without regard to how or where they are stored. Once those files have been “freed” you then become freed to think about organizing and accessing them in new ways.
I mentioned in another post (Context Matters) that after interviewing dozens of customers we kept hearing a common practice of digging back into old project files to get content. The content you’re looking for is more likely to be referenced and permanently wired in your brain in the context of that project than it is with some abstract “standards” library system. That’s the challenge with retrieving content. There’s always some spark or memory that is prominent in your mind when you begin thinking about or looking for a file. When you’re forced to map what you’re thinking into that standards library it’s enough to make your head hurt. Context does matter and a good content management solution should recognize that.
AVAIL lets you present content in any number of different contexts. The files stay in one place on your network but can be presented in any number of ways designed to match the context be it some well known standard, a project name or number, or some other logical grouping(s) that make sense to you and your team.
I’m not sure there’s ever going to be a perfect solution. It is complicated. AVAIL is a big swing at the problem. Register for updates here – AVAIL.