|Why files exist|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2012-06-29 22:55:43|
|"Whenever there is a conversation about the future of computing, is discussion inevitably turns to the notion of a 'File'. After all, most tablets and phones don't show the user anything that resembles a file, only Apps that contain their own content, tucked away inside their own opaque storage structure. This is wrong. Files are abstraction layers around content that are necessary for interoperability. Without the notion of a File or other similar shared content abstraction, the ability to use different applications with the same information grinds to a halt, which hampers innovation and user experience." Aside from the fact that a file manager for Android is just a click away, and aside from the fact that Android's share menu addresses many of these concerns, his point still stands: files are not an outdated, archaic concept. One of my biggest gripes with iOS is just how user-hostile the operating system it when it comes to getting stuff - whatever stuff - to and from the device.|
|Maybe we don't want applications talking to each other|
|By aaronmcohen on 2012-06-29 23:24:04|
File abstraction is an odd thing. Just because it is in a file doesn't mean that it is interoperable between applications. Frankly once it is in a file it can be accessed outside the scope of the application. You may only want an application to see portions of the data from another application. |
One interesting example is Facebook which has a mechanism from the web, IOS, and Android to allow the user to grant certain information to be shared to specified application. This mechanism gives the user more control over their data than simply having it in a XML file where any application running with your ACL can access it.
Edited 2012-06-29 23:25 UTC
|- Score: 0|
|Comment by tupp|
|By tupp on 2012-06-29 23:35:14|
> "... in every user interface study we've ever done […], [we found] it's pretty easy to learn how to use these things 'til you hit the file system and then the learning curve goes vertical. So you ask yourself, why is the file system the face of the OS? Wouldn't it be better if there was a better way to find stuff?" |
Exactly! Thus, wouldn't it be better to teach Ebonics and end public education at the sixth grade? -- much less of a learning curve!
It is difficult to understand how people can idolize someone who promotes such moronic notions. Files and directories are fundamental to computers, and hiding such a basic organizational model from the end users only makes them utterly helpless and ignorant. Such a complete reliance on software to find and organize everything on a computer really wastes more time in the long run and causes much more frustration when any problems occur.
And, really, it is needless to hide the file hierarchy system, because there is hardly any "learning curve' -- any child or elderly person can grasp the concept of files and directories within about five minutes.
In keeping with Job's notions, perhaps Apple should actually make "The Wheel": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9...
|- Score: 14|
|By henderson101 on 2012-06-29 23:45:40|
I read a lot of scanlation Manga. I get this on my iPad with no external data transfer. In the old days, I had to use iTunes etc, but now I do this: |
1) open iCab, download file.
2) select file when downloaded, rename from xxxx.zip to xxxx.cbz
3) select file and "open in"
4) select comicbooklover in menu (I have at least 5 options here)
6) open file, read, enjoy.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. How do I do this without iTunes? I use Downcast, though the Podcasts app can also do this now.
Music - iTunes match. I simply match my music collection once. Apple upgrades my shitty MP3's I got from grey sources to iTunes quality. I then select what I want on the device whenever and wherever I like.
I edit an office doc on my iPad. iCloud syncs it. I grab it from iCloud at work.
My iPad backs up to iCloud automatically.
I'm not really sure what else I'm desperately trying to get on or off my iPad. Video? Sits in iCab or Dropbox. "opens in" VLC. Errr... There isn't anything really. Movies and pictures go to camera roll, projects go to iCloud or at a push I use the iTunes file transfer. It's rare though.
Edited 2012-06-29 23:47 UTC
|- Score: 2|
|RE: Comment by tupp|
|By henderson101 on 2012-06-29 23:54:03|
|Files aren't fundamental to computers at all. Fies are a manifestation of human requirement for orderly storage of data. If you look at the physical file system on most OS, files are never stored exactly as you see them in your file manager. A computer file system doesn't give a toss that blocks of data thought of as a contiguous file in the human world, so long as it can be retrieved when required, thats all that matters.|
|- Score: 4|
|Comment by some1|
|By some1 on 2012-06-30 00:37:46|
|The problem with files is that they are too low-level. Quite often they are not the "user shareable thing", but guts of the application exposed to a daylight. Users don't care about files. They want photos, songs, videos, letters, whatever. They don't care if a video with subtitles is two files or one. And most people are not capable of organizing their files into sensible hierarchies. So while I'm a file format geek myself, I'm all for hiding files behind a higher-level abstraction, that's uniformly taggable, searchable (by metadata, not just "file name"), annotateable and viewable without a deep knowledge about the program that produced each one. Sure, standard file formats must exist and all programs should be given access to files (subject to user controllable access policies), so that it's possible to share stuff between apps; but just exposing files to the user doesn't solve the interoperability problem anyway.|
|- Score: 3|
|RE: Comment by tupp|
|By tupp on 2012-06-30 00:46:42|
Files are definitely fundamental to computers. Hence, we have file systems. |
How a file is physically stored on a disk does not change the fact that it is a file and that the computer, OS and file system sees it as a file.
And file systems do "give a toss" as to whether or not a file is stored fragmented (at least those file systems that "give a toss" about speed) -- hence, we have defrag software.
|- Score: 4|
|RE: Comment by tupp|
|By Doc Pain on 2012-06-30 00:49:05|
> Files and directories are fundamental to computers, [...] |
No. They are fundamental to the user in the first place. Files are an abstraction of organization criteria (such as directories), carrying meanings such as carrying information or containing a hierarchy.
But you validly can do more with files than just see them as a means to access stored data. Files are also means to access hardware infrastructures, such as the device files in UNIX: Writing to a port takes nothing more than writing to a file. Using this abstraction method, even "mounting a network" is possible as shown in Plan 9. That way, files can be seen as an abstraction of hardware, a means of the OS to access resources and address functionalities.
The concept of files is present on nearly all kinds of computers, even though the practical implementation at file system level is quite different and usually not portable (as the content of the files, generated by programs, is often also not portable). Still this concept of files and directories, even if they have other names (e. g. datasets and libraries) can be found everywhere. Put a UNIX guy infront of a z/OS mainframe or an AS/400 interface - he will quickly see the similarities, even though there might be a "database file system" responsible for actually storing and retrieving the data. Then take a z/OS hacker and put him infront of a KDE session. Even though he sees a graphical representation, he will conclude what files and directories are. No big deal you say? Try the same with any output of our "modern" educational system. :-)
> [...] and hiding such a basic organizational model from the end users only makes them utterly helpless and ignorant.
What you describe here is a resonance effect: Today's users are hardly able to figure out the concept of files and directories, as they do not use them. They even don't use programs, let alone an operating system. They "do stuff" - and that's it. OS, programs and files are just means to get stuff done, but "the authorities" (advertising, education, commerce) tell them that it's not needed to know anything to utilize a computer to get stuff done.
Of course, those who first learn those basics are highly superior to those who rely on a pre-chewed widget wizard with magical charms that finds their stuff when they need it. You can see that in reality where "professional" secretaries "organize" the company's correspondence in files like "Letter 1.doc", "Letter1.doc", "letter 1(a).doc", " letter2.doc", "letter 3 .doc" and so on. Of course, finding information within such a mess is more complicated and more time consuming than utilizing the concept of files and directories in the first place. Those candidates also store the companies e-mail in the Inbox (which grows to over 100,000 messages locally stored, without any backup). Trust me, I've seen it. It hurts.
Files confuse the average user. Directories confuse them even more. Don't try to change (or improve) things, this also confuses them.
Di I sound impolite? I hope I don't, because it's not meant to be a harsh unjustified statement, it's just based on my individual observations. That's why I say "average users", because novice users have the chance to learn and leverage the concept of files for their benefit. But that learning has to be done at the beginning of an "IT career" (and because IT is ubiquituous, for nearly everyone's career).
As you said, files basically are a model to the user. Learning a model and not confusing it with reality takes some prequisites: the ability to see the difference between them, on many levels (language level, visual representation level): the icon is not the file, the file is not the actual content of the file. Dealing with a model requires the presence of the concept of abstraction, something representing something else. The same way this concept is used on OS level (file /dev/console represents the system console), the user can utilize the concepts to increase comfortability, productivity, speed and security when using a computer.
Depending on file systems and their features, "plain files" may even be limited. Document management systems allow "tagging" of data (not represented as files anymore - they might be files, but they can also be binary blobs within a large database file). Even though it sounds complicated, it can be implemented easily by any half-baked Linux hacker using "plain files" and a few tricks.
You are surely familiar with "enterprise" document manangement systems. They use files "in a hidden way", and claim to care for everything. As long as it works, it's a real benefit for those who cannot understand the concept of files and directories. The "fun" starts when it stops working. Maybe you end up with a 2 TB proprietary binary blob database, with no chance to get your data out of it.
> Such a complete reliance on software to find and organize everything on a computer really wastes more time in the long run and causes much more frustration when any problems occur.
True, but the average user has been taught to think: "The computer will do it." Maybe you can remember the times when DOS had file names in the 8.3 manner, and other operating systems (much older, see mainframe era) also had restrictions in what you could put into a file name. At this time, people were able to organize their stuff even within that very limited environment. Some of them even knew their files "by name".
But today, dealing with "bare metal abilities" is highly discouraged (by "the authorities") and more and more made impossible by the software manufacturers. The more advanced, yet simplified the interfaces for interacting become, the more the file concept steps into the background, even though it might still be present at the bottom level, hidden and locked.
> And, really, it is needless to hide the file hierarchy system, because there is hardly any "learning curve' -- any child or elderly person can grasp the concept of files and directories within about five minutes.
That might have been correct 20 years ago, but sadly, this is not the truth anymore. While "unspoiled" young people actually have the chance to learn this, the majority seems to be learning-resistent and memory-freed.
Moving within this concept requires a kind of "language", to name files and directories. There's typically a grammar based on the file system way of doing things, and vocabulary to be supplied by the user (the actual file names and directory organisation to be created). Expecting the "point & grunt" generations to learn that language is something hard to consider. And if those knowledge is not present, the whole concept of files cannot be adopted as a tool to do something (because it is "only" that - it can be a powerful tool if applied properly, and a pain in the ass if not). Educated decisions are often helpful, again something that is hard to consider for the discussed audience.
I want to say: There's nothing wrong with files per se. They are intended to be used by a certain audience with specific needs and present knowledge. But they aren't for everyone. Those who cannot use them will have to deal with whatever kind of "desktop search" (extend it to remote services, social networks and the cloud) to find what they're searching for.
In order to gain market share (which is the main purpose of innovation, as it seems), you need to hide all "unneccessary" elements. If you don't do it, your product will be regarded "too complicated", because it deals with files and directories and transitions their use to the user, instead of "protecting" him from all that "annoying" stuff.
> In keeping with Job's notions, perhaps Apple should actually make "The Wheel": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9...
We're exactly heading into that direction, just be patient! :-)
|- Score: 6|
|RE: Comment by some1|
|By tupp on 2012-06-30 00:57:54|
> Users don't care about files. |
Children do not care to learn reading, writing and arithmetic, but we teach them anyway, so that they are not helpless and utterly ignorant. It takes less than five minutes to teach someone the meaning and hierarchy of files, directories.
> They want photos, songs, videos, letters, whatever.
Yes. They want their files.
> And most people are not capable of organizing their files into sensible hierarchies.
That is because they didn't take five minutes to learn about files and directories.
> ... exposing files to the user doesn't solve the interoperability problem anyway.
Someone who is exposed to files would probably know the location of an incompatible file and might be able to find a solution for converting that file and making it useful.
|- Score: 5|
|RE: Comment by tupp|
|By tupp on 2012-06-30 01:03:02|
> That might have been correct 20 years ago, but sadly, this is not the truth anymore. While "unspoiled" young people actually have the chance to learn this, the majority seems to be learning-resistent and memory-freed. |
I'll bet you USD$1000 that I can pick any normal youth from 10-17 and teach them within 20 minutes where to find a file in a directory hierarchy.
Edited 2012-06-30 01:03 UTC
|- Score: 3|
|RE: Comment by tupp|
|By tupp on 2012-06-30 01:17:37|
> No. They are fundamental to the user in the first place. Files are an abstraction of organization criteria (such as directories), carrying meanings such as carrying information or containing a hierarchy. |
Of course, files are fundamental to computers. The file system sees the "abstraction" and uses it -- that is very, very basic to almost every operating system.
The OS uses those files, too.
> Today's users are hardly able to figure out the concept of files and directories, as they do not use them.
Of course, today's users use files -- they are often just "hidden" from them (for their own protection).
> They even don't use programs, let alone an operating system. They "do stuff" - and that's it.
Of course, they use programs -- they are just too utterly ignorant to realize that they do.
The preponderance of people who don't realize that they are using files and programs is the precise problem about which I am arguing! These are such basic simple and fundamental concepts that anyone could learn in five minutes, and then they would not be so helpless.
Outfits such as Apple, Microsoft and Gnome encourage such helplessness.
> True, but the average user has been taught to think: "The computer will do it."
Yes! And that's WRONG! It only takes a few minutes to learn the basics, but it helps SO much.
Edited 2012-06-30 01:24 UTC
|- Score: 5|