We’ve all had the experience of going to a website, downloading a file, and then being unable to find where it went. You comb through your downloads folder, then your desktop, then maybe a few other unlikely spots as the frustration grows. 

In most cases, the problem isn’t that the file was saved to some obscure location on your device. The problem is usually caused by file names that don’t make any sense. The file was staring you right in the face, but you looked past it because the naming convention didn’t give you accurate or meaningful information about the file itself. 

Creating logical, intentional file naming conventions may sound like a no-brainer, but almost every organization struggles with this on some level. We take file naming very seriously at Tesla Government—it’s a foundational step toward keeping your data organized.

Keeping your data organized starts with creating file names that make sense.

Dewey

Back in the 1800s, libraries were having a similar problem. There was no consistency from one library to the next when it came to organizing books, no accepted standard that everyone followed. It was the Wild West, both literally and figuratively. 

As crazy as it sounds, many libraries in that day organized books based on their height and the date the library acquired them. Can you imagine trying to find a book on a specific topic in a library like that? 

In the 1870s, Melvin Dewey, a librarian at Amherst College, published a pamphlet outlining his new system for classifying books. What we now know as the Dewey Decimal System brought order to the chaos with a quickly decodable system that has empowered people to easily find books for well over 100 years and counting.

An unorganized digital file system is a lot like those pre-Dewey libraries. It doesn’t really matter what information you have access to, if you don’t have a way to find it.

File Naming Conventions, Metadata, and Tagging

There are three key elements of file organization that we take very seriously: file naming, metadata, and tagging. Being intentional and meticulous with these elements allows clients to use our knowledge management systems to their fullest potential—especially with files that don’t have a textual component.

    • File Naming: All good filing starts with a good file naming convention. By consistently using a clear set of naming conventions, you enable everyone involved in the mission to see key information about a file at a glance. This could include information about the content of the file, the date it was created, the version of the file, and more, depending on your organization’s needs.
    • Metadata: File naming conventions are a great start, but there’s only so much info you can pack into a file name. That’s where file metadata comes in. Metadata can give you an immediate understanding of the history of the file: why it was created, who created it, who it was created for, who viewed it, who edited it, and when it was edited. Once you know what you’re looking for, metadata helps you understand what you’re looking at.
    • Tagging: This is the last piece of the puzzle, and it’s really another type of metadata. But with tagging, you’re able to add any other key classifying elements of the file that may be missing from the predetermined metadata fields. When you combine thoughtful tagging with good metadata and file naming conventions, you make it exponentially easier for users to easily search for and find what they need, when they need it.

More Than Busywork

We get it. When there’s more on your plate than you can possibly get to each day, it might seem like a waste of time to make sure you’re properly naming, tagging, and metadata-ing each file you create. 

But if that file is worth creating, isn’t it worth making it as valuable and findable as possible?

At the end of the day, the data you’re creating matters. And the best way for people to get the most out of that data is to implement good file naming conventions, good metadata conventions, and good tagging conventions.

 

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