“I grew up when you had to have a file; you had to save it; you had to know where it was saved. There was no search function,” says Saavik Ford, a professor of astronomy at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. But among her students, “There’s not a conception that there’s a place where files live. They just search for it and bring it up.” She added, “They have a laundry basket full of laundry, and they have a robot who will fetch them every piece of clothing they want on demand.” […]
To a point, the new mindset may reflect a natural — and expected — technological progression. Plavchan recalls having similar disconnects with his own professors. “When I was a student, I’m sure there was a professor that said, ‘Oh my god, I don’t understand how this person doesn’t know how to solder a chip on a motherboard,’” he says. “This kind of generational issue has always been around.” And though directory structures exist on every computer (as well as in environments like Google Drive), today’s iterations of macOS and Windows do an excellent job of hiding them. (Your Steam games all live in a folder called “steamapps” — when was the last time you clicked on that?) Today’s virtual world is largely a searchable one; people in many modern professions have little need to interact with nested hierarchies.
“Search, don’t sort,” Google says, but increasingly I’m wondering whether I ought to spend more time sorting and less time searching. I’m always looking for ways to introduce constructive friction into my working practices — see this post for an example — and maybe going Old Skool with some kind of rational filing system would be more helpful than either (a) searching or (b) using the inconsistent and ad hoc system of folders I now have. If I designed a new system Hazel would help me implement it.