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Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 29, 2013 20:02 UTC (Tue) by ibukanov (subscriber, #3942)
In reply to: Seigo: Plasma.next()? by aseigo
Parent article: Seigo: Plasma.next()?

> On consumer devices, picking through file hierarchies is a lot more painful due to input method limitations.

This is a bad interface limitation. Just consider an interface that presents 10 000 files as a 4 level hierarchy with average 10 items per level based on whatever heuristics/preexisting folder structure grouping. Then each file is reachable within 4 clicks or touches even on a small display. This is way faster then a keyboard search on a touchscreen. Plus such search does not work well if one is unsure about the name while grouping allows quickly see neighboring groups/folders providing valuable clues.


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Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 9:46 UTC (Wed) by aseigo (guest, #18394) [Link]

> This is a bad interface limitation.

It is driven primarily by the size of our fingers and hands. Our hands can only hold devices of a certain size (and our bags and pockets also put practical limits there). So unless we change human physiology, touch remain limited in this manner.

> Just consider an interface that presents 10 000 files
> as a 4 level hierarchy

Sounds horrific; but also (thankfully) utterly unrealistic for the common use case for tablets. So instead, lets Consider 10k files but organized by metadata, activity and tags. Most of that information is automatically generated.

This allows us to avoid the file system hierarchy, lets files appear in more that one "area" of the metadata space AND lets us get to them quickly by defining sets of tags.

In the file manager you can go to the "Tags" sidebar and select as many tags as you wish. So instead of a 4 level hierarchy, we would have an N combination tag set.

Perhaps a good example is portable (and other) music players: good ones let one quickly go through the content by artist, album, genre, name, etc. as well as custom playlists. Where are they on disk? Doesn't matter.

This brings that same concept to all files. Due to the flexibility of tags and metadata it is far more efficient. Metadata from e.g. the camera that took a picture or a location tag can be used to automatically group. Tags are easy to create and use. There's also a (zoomable!) timeline included.

So you could have one document tagged with "peer review", "PLOS" and "Neurobiology" (to pick sth rather at random). Then you can see that document, along with its peers, by selecting any combination of those tags. You might start with "peer review" and then go to "Neurobiology". you might start with "Neurobiology" and then decide you want to narrow it down to only peer reviewed papers.

Honestly, it kicks the living crap out of single entry hierarchies.

> search does not work well if one is unsure about the name

which is why search includes more than just the name. welcome to the 21st century in terms of information storage and retrieval :)

> grouping allows quickly see neighboring groups/folders

tags are groups that are more flexible than a static hierarchy.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 10:38 UTC (Wed) by micka (subscriber, #38720) [Link]

> Perhaps a good example is portable (and other) music players: good ones let one quickly go through the content by artist, album, genre, name, etc. as well as custom playlists. Where are they on disk? Doesn't matter.

Really bad example. I'm still searching for a music player that allows me to select music by filesystem location. Any ("consumer device" as you say) I can find shows you your music by artist or album or genre, and it doesn't pose me a problem (I won't use it though) as long as I can select files and whole directories from a filesystem.

Because I know where the music is on the filesystem even where I don't know the tags (because i'm the one who put the files where they are).

Even when I find one program that allow (a limited and degraded) filesystem based selection, it never allows to choose a directory and "play recursively".

Every music program will show me a pile of all the music files it can find on my device with some tags whose content is foreign to me (because I didn't tag them myself).

Actually, it's the same for ebook readers. they insist on either having each their own book directory (separate from the other app, so you won't share resources) or show you a "drawer" with all the books it can find. I'm happy to bypass this bookshelf view each time I can.

By the way, the very first program I _must_ install each time is a two panel file manager.

And tag systems relies on the existence of a complete and maintained tag database and tagged object database.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 13:07 UTC (Wed) by foom (subscriber, #14868) [Link]

No, really good example. Because for the other 99% of people, navigating their music by any of the multiple tag fields rather than a single directory hierarchy *is* an improvement.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 13:51 UTC (Wed) by micka (subscriber, #38720) [Link]

I'm sorry being a minority (in reality, I'm not 1 % by myself).
By the way, you didn't source your "99 %" frequency.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 15:48 UTC (Wed) by dan_a (subscriber, #5325) [Link]

>> Perhaps a good example is portable (and other) music players: good ones let one quickly go through the content by artist, album, genre, name, etc. as well as custom playlists. Where are they on disk? Doesn't matter.

>Really bad example. I'm still searching for a music player that allows me to select music by filesystem location. Any ("consumer device" as you say) I can find shows you your music by artist or album or genre, and it doesn't pose me a problem (I won't use it though) as long as I can select files and whole directories from a filesystem.

Any player which supports Rockbox (www.rockbox.org) will fulfill the filesystem location requirement.

Personally I prefer tags, but it'd be a strange world if everyone was alike.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 20:33 UTC (Wed) by aleXXX (subscriber, #2742) [Link]

I have to agree.
I organize my music in folders: artist, then album.
Easy to navigate.
Each time I try to use some tagging mode (doesn't matter whether rockbox or amarok or something else), it screws up.
The tags e.g. for the artist usually use different ways to spell the name, or what to do with spaces, or umlauts, so I end up with multiple folders for the same artist, just written in a slightly different way. Then having to figure out in which of these folders the album I'm looking for is located is too much.
Maybe it wouldn't be a problem if editing the metadata would be straight forward, but it isn't. Editing directory names is straight forward.

Alex

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 21:09 UTC (Wed) by raven667 (subscriber, #5198) [Link]

> Maybe it wouldn't be a problem if editing the metadata would be straight forward, but it isn't.

Is that a fundamental problem with the technological idea or a UI problem with the implementation because it seems that Plasma is about fixing the UI problems to make this straight forward.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 21:32 UTC (Wed) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

Yeah, that scheme works great. Until you run into classical works, in which the composer and performer are different people. And then there are works with multiple performers or composers...

... it does break down in the end. And when it does, you have to reclassify *everything*.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 15:48 UTC (Thu) by sorpigal (subscriber, #36106) [Link]

It's frustrating. Even with tagging it breaks down, because tagging systems tend to be naive in that they assume either a limited number of keys or a limited number of values for each key (often only one).

The related problem is syncing metadata from tagging systems with files when the move between systems. Embedding tag data in files works well but is format specific and usually quite limited (example: you're reading ID3v2 data from an MP3. Quick, what is the encoding of the textual data?)

The lowest common denominator is directories and file names, because every system has those and no agreement on key names is required.

There's probably a need for a portable file API for tagging. Something that raises the lowest denominator a bit but doesn't mandate an on disk format, indexes, complex protocols, etc..

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 22:16 UTC (Wed) by mpr22 (subscriber, #60784) [Link]

I edit the metadata of files I rip locally from CD at the time of ripping, via the check-and-edit stage of my ripping package. I trust files provided through Proper Channels by the artist or their authorized representatives to be correctly tagged, or at least to be incorrectly tagged in an adequately consistent manner.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 3:08 UTC (Thu) by mathstuf (subscriber, #69389) [Link]

> Really bad example. I'm still searching for a music player that allows me to select music by filesystem location. Any ("consumer device" as you say) I can find shows you your music by artist or album or genre, and it doesn't pose me a problem (I won't use it though) as long as I can select files and whole directories from a filesystem.

Check out Vanilla Player[1]. (It's in the F-Droid repo as well).

> Because I know where the music is on the filesystem even where I don't know the tags (because i'm the one who put the files where they are).

That's fine for you and me (I use %albumartist%/%releasedate% - %album%/%disc%[ - %disctitle]/%track%[ - %artist%] - %title%.%format%), but my mom and sister just drag'n'drop music and let the device sort things out, so filesystem browsing is approximately useless.

[1]https://github.com/adrian-bl/vanilla

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 9:49 UTC (Thu) by micka (subscriber, #38720) [Link]

That's one I never saw or tested. So I will have to check this, thanks (it could take some time, though, as I just "lost" my phone...)

By the way, it fits one requirement I didn't express, it's foss (MIT, but you have to open the source to know it, bad ; being on fdroid was a good lead, though).

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 13:19 UTC (Wed) by ibukanov (subscriber, #3942) [Link]

> In the file manager you can go to the "Tags" sidebar and select as many tags as you wish. So instead of a 4 level hierarchy, we would have an N combination tag set.

The nice thing about hierarchy is that it is stable as inserting a new subtree only affects very few nodes. So one can use motor and other unconscious forms of memory to quickly navigate to the desired item. A hierarchy where each node fits on the screen is perfect for a tablet as one can literally remember finger movements to get to the item. To the lesser extent this happens with mouse.

I do not see how tags provide such navigation stability. In order to keep all items on the screen (any scrolling kills the navigation speed) a hierarchical structure may need to have ad-hock subtrees. With tags those subtrees-as-tags would just pollute the initial tag set.

> Perhaps a good example is portable (and other) music players: good ones let one quickly go through the content by artist, album, genre, name, etc. as well as custom playlists. Where are they on disk? Doesn't matter.

This just demonstrates how tags nicely work with content consumption where somebody else already created all the necessary information and where there are several well-defined commonly recognizable categories to split the collection. For big collection of images the story is not so good even if one just wants to see them.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 17:35 UTC (Wed) by aseigo (guest, #18394) [Link]

> A hierarchy where each node fits on the screen is perfect for a tablet as
> one can literally remember finger movements to get to the item.

and utterly fails when the collection grows.

the vast majority of people absolutely suck at hierarchical navigation, just as the vast majority of people absolutely suck at remembering numbers longer than a handful of digits.

> I do not see how tags provide such navigation stability.

by removing the need to navigate a non-spatial data set spatially.

how often do people lose their keys?
how often do they forget what their keys look like, or which keys are on their keyring?

> For big collection of images the story is not so good even if one just
> wants to see them.

the movements to tag a big collection of images into the same organizational array as represented by a bunch of folders is approximately equivalent (can be slightly better, can be slightly worse, can be the same; depends on the exact structure).

the problem most people have with tags (me included, btw) is that the mechanisms provided to tag things have SUCKED (as in: too labor intensive, not part of the primary workflow so always extra work rather than "for free" during usage) only to have really weak tools built around the semantic data sets such as "a tag cloud" or "if you show this sidebar and then change the view appropriately, you can reduce the current display by a given tag." which means the input effort totally outweighs the output benefit.

i have, actually, used Plasma Active to tag large sets of photos such as ones i took on a vacation last year. the one thing i really wanted available was a "show me pictures i haven't tagged yet" (something like a negative tag filter) .. it's on my todo in any case :) we have a full "importing large photo sets" type workflow already designed out, it's a matter of getting to the implementation (which will happen eventually; we're moving at a good pace as can be seen over the short lifespan of Active so far :)

keeping in mind that tags are but one aspect of the semantic data we provide access to (time, usage patterns and in-file metadata also are utilized; free text searching, timelines, etc are also provided built into the workflow everywhere) and that the UI limits the input effort and maximizes the output benefit, with a worst case usually being "equal to a hierarchical system" .. it works rather well.

now, one use case i find it is still not good enough for is when you start with a disk full of metadata free pictures that have few if any relationships with each other (iow: migrating to the system from a historically data poor system). we have some thoughts on how to ease such transitions (including mining the existing folder hierarchy if it exists) and will be improving that aspect of things. of course, we first needed a working metadata centric system to migrate too ;) and for touch devices right now, the common use case does not currently include "migrating all the content from my laptop with a 15 year old file structure on it" (which would be my case :) but rather tends to be a "starting from a blank device, adding content to it incrementally during use"

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 18:06 UTC (Wed) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630) [Link]

the vast majority of people absolutely suck at hierarchical navigation

You make all these sweeping statements, but you don't provide evidence to back them up. Could you provide some evidence?

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 21:25 UTC (Wed) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

I think at least THAT statement is a quite well known fact. People like you and me are at least reasonably good at managing hierarchy's (I'm personally actually to unorganized for it - I create 'temp' folders everywhere in which I just dump 'temporary' files which I keep there for years. But I get the concept just fine).

But go an look at the desktop of the office workers doing your tax papers. They dump most of their files in a single folder... Lots of people do it and I think Mac OS X, with Spotlight, has already shown that search is far more usable than folders for the 'average' person. Now imagine taking that dumb full-text indexing and augmenting it with smart meta-data extracting (including the ability to grab tags from the web etc), linking files to usage paterns etc etc - and you can hopefully imagine how much easier it gets to find what you're looking for with very little effort.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 21:29 UTC (Wed) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

Wow, you're really reaching. Are you really disagreeing with the statement you quoted?

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 21:45 UTC (Wed) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630) [Link]

I agree that most people don't use hierarchy to organize files and folders. But I disagree that most people are bad at navigating an existing hierarchy.

At my work, we've organized all our documents in Subversion and even the non-technical people have no problem keeping things in a nicely-organized hierarchy: agreements, leads, quotes, etc.

Once you show people a hierarchy and show how easy it is to use, they just get it in my experience.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 19:26 UTC (Wed) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630) [Link]

by removing the need to navigate a non-spatial data set spatially.

This is a very bad thing. Muscle memory is unlike any other kind of human memory in that it almost never fades. If you learn to play the piano, don't play for 20 years, and then go back to it, your muscle memory will be almost 100% intact. I talk from experience here...

Furthermore, memory experts (I mean those who participate in memory contests) specifically make spatial associations with the objects the need to remember because humans have a very good spatial memory and can remember far more spatial relationships than the standard "5 to 9" items in short-term memory. And unlike you, I even have a reference.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 21:27 UTC (Wed) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

I don't get the whole 'muscle memory' argument on computers, tbh. I use my data over different devices, laptop, mobile phone and desktop and hopefully in the future a tablet. Muscle memory will be utterly useless. Even on the same device it makes only sense for often accessed things - which I usually access by typing "alt-F2 - WORD" anyway, or via the 'recent files/locations' section in my filemanager...

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 21:42 UTC (Wed) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630) [Link]

I don't get the whole 'muscle memory' argument on computers, tbh

Really? I still use the same key bindings for my window manager (maximize, minimize, bring-to-front, etc.) that I first learned on SunOS in 1990. :) I found the swap of Ctrl and CapsLock on IBM PC keyboards circa 1992 horribly jarring.

And even on my recently-acquired mobile device, I am learning where things are and where to swipe or tap to do various things.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 3:14 UTC (Thu) by raven667 (subscriber, #5198) [Link]

That likely puts you in rare company. I've learned and re-learned the basic UI paradigms at least half a dozen times in that period, DOS, Win3x, Win9x, SunOS OpenLook, Linux, FVWM, KDE1, BeOS, KDE2-3, Blackbox/Openbox, GNOME 1, GNOME 2, Win2k/XP, MacOS X 10.4-10.6 and 10.7-10.8, Unity, GNOME 3, iOS, most of which I've used for a main desktop for some period of time. I've learned to not bother with highly custom workflows and lots of key binding memorization because it dosen't translate when things change, to stick with with the universal workflows and the main theme that each system is designed to support. Every system has a design theme (except maybe for Windows for which design by committee would probably be an improvement) that generally makes sense and becomes easier to use once you discover it.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 12:20 UTC (Thu) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630) [Link]

Ah. My approach is simply not to use systems that can't be made to work the way I like. I don't use Windows or Apple products. And though I have switched window managers and desktop environments a few times, all of the ones I've used could be made to work the way I liked.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 21:55 UTC (Thu) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

now you are talking about something entirely different - physical location of keys. Yes, i rely on that too and hate switching keyboards. But it is not related to a file-hierarchy vs metadata discussion...

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Feb 1, 2013 12:20 UTC (Fri) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630) [Link]

I was responding to this: ...by removing the need to navigate a non-spatial data set spatially...

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 9:23 UTC (Thu) by ibukanov (subscriber, #3942) [Link]

> and utterly fails when the collection grows.

This is not true. As long as number of items per node is small adding a new subtree affects only few nodes so relearning is quick.

> the vast majority of people absolutely suck at hierarchical navigation,

Yes, I have seen those desktops with over 100 files. But I also observed that people navigate them relatively efficiently because they know where the items is on the desktop using the position on the screen and the icon as rather effective visual hint. They often do not want to introduce folders because common GUI do not permit change the folder icon with minimal efforts. And they hate big time when something changes the order of the icons.

But when the number of files growths, folders and even sub-folders do appear. They are very add-hock and sometimes named so the folder would appear on a particular place on the screen that person uses as a navigational clue.

The tag systems that I have seen completely loose that visual hint about item being at a particular place. For example, a tag system cannot express the hint "to the left of the picture of a dog".

As others already pointed out, tags are brilliant for searching and accessing rarely used files or files from other users, but for navigating big personal working sets one often wants a stable ad-hock structure that has nothing to do with file content but rather reflects personal habits and clues of working with files.

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 30, 2013 14:42 UTC (Wed) by zlynx (subscriber, #2285) [Link]

It surely does matter where files are!

Windows Media Player always got this wrong for me. I've got media files that are local, on USB, and on the network. In tag views I get three identical looking file entries. But I only want the local files!

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 3:38 UTC (Thu) by mathstuf (subscriber, #69389) [Link]

> So instead, lets Consider 10k files but organized by metadata, activity and tags. Most of that information is automatically generated.

I usually navigate my music in players by tags, but the problem is something that puts 100 songs under the "Greatest Hits" album because it's a fairly common album name and then don't allow narrowing down by artist from there (because "Artist" is a "coarser" search than "Album", nevermind the fact that artists might collaborate on an album…).

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 17:53 UTC (Thu) by mpr22 (subscriber, #60784) [Link]

Amarok, at least, lets you permute artist and album either way round. (Of course, neither ordering deals gracefully with things like Fields of the Nephilim and Evanescence both releasing albums called Fallen.)

What I really want - and what none of the music player programs I've actually met seem to provide - is to sort "The Cure" under 'C' instead of 'T', while still presenting the name as "The Cure".

Seigo: Plasma.next()?

Posted Jan 31, 2013 17:56 UTC (Thu) by mathstuf (subscriber, #69389) [Link]

Like this[1]? (From Vanilla Player).

[1]http://imgur.com/wA8drjC


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