Flat Structures vs. hierarchy via XtraNormal – Text to Video

I’ve had the text of a script produced for some weeks (or months) about flat structures versus folder hierarchies. I’ve been wanting to put it up as a video, but haven’t had the time to produce it. Then, recently, a colleague Paul Wigfield told me about a text-to-video service he’d come across called Xtranormal. I was interested in the idea and wanted to give it a try. The text for my video came to hand and I pasted it in.

Xtranormal is very easy to use. You just drag the icons onto the script to change camera angle, place pauses, change expressions of your chosen character, or make the character move. I also decided on an English Male voice. A 3D movie is the end product.

The rendering can take a little while, and you need to register to save and publish your final video. That done and you’re supplied with a URL and embed code. Also, put in your YouTube account details to enable a one click upload to YouTube. (My first video is just processing in YouTube right now.)

The text of my script:

Flat structure vs folders

Tying in with my tagging video, I’ll now present the argument for adopting a flat structure approach as opposed to nested folders within uSpace. To illustrate this, I’ll be drawing on examples from Clay Shirkey and Michael Wesch.

Clay is an author of and speaker on social and economic effects of internet technologies.

Michael is a lecturer in anthropology investigating the impact of new media on culture and society. He lectures about YouTube and has made several influential videos available from there. He was announced US professor of the year 2008 last November, and has been nicknamed The Explainer.

When considering how to store and categorize information many people immediately think of using a structure of folders to compartmentalize the information. However, information specialists are concluding that there are better ways of doing this, and that we’re locked into old, outdated ways that are a poor fit for the electronic world of today. If we just consider for a few seconds some of the terminology we are using; we have “files” that we put into “folders” on our “desktop“, these hark back to how we dealt with paper.

Perhaps the simplest way of demonstrating this point is by considering your own bookmarks or favorites in a web browser. You bookmark stuff until your list gets too long, then you start categorizing into folders, but does this thing go in this folder or that folder, it can’t be both. Now you have a tidy set of folders. You start bookmarking new stuff and end up with a list of links that aren’t in folders again. Eventually you think I’ll put these in my folders. But what do those folders mean, and where does this thing go? Inevitably things get stuffed into inappropriate folders never to be found or used again. Information locked away. Then along came social bookmarking and freed us from this inappropriate system of saving our links; but that’s a different story for a different video.

So how we should categorize information on the web is by using a radical break from traditional approaches, rather than an extension of them.

People are beginning to realise that tagging offers a better way than pre-categorizing information into folders, as tagging metaphorically allows the information to be located in multiple places, which using folders does not. It’s only recently, in the passed 2 or 3 years, that this has started to become clear. This is the way Google Mail and Google Docs allow you to categorize things so they effectively ‘reside in multiple places’ at the same time.

Because of the explosion of available information on the web it’s more difficult to locate the information of interest to you, and for others to access the information you provide. You don’t want to restrict access to your information, you want to open access out. I’m still not sure enough people are currently getting this concept, even though Google Search has shown us that we don’t need categories or hierarchies; after all most research now starts with a search. So by predefining that information sits in one place, a pre-created folder, and using a categorization system that may not be appropriate for our potential information consumers we’re actually restricting access. Indeed, by leaving that information “out in the open”, giving it keywords by tagging it, and letting other people tag it, you allow more access to that information. This is what people who are handling lots of digital information are concluding. And this is the way that many web2.0 services are designed to operate. Also adopting this approach means that the consumer can group and categorize information in a way that makes sense to them, by using tag groups for example. They can pull out streams of information tagged in a specific way, so if they were interested in “supernovae” for example they could have anything with related tags delivered straight to them as soon as it is published.

So a flat structure with appropriate tagging is a more organic way of organizing information that presents the content consumer with more control to access and manage that information.


One thought on “Flat Structures vs. hierarchy via XtraNormal – Text to Video

  1. Thank you for sharing. Every few weeks I find myself quoting from this script to explain why folder “management” without tagging is an exercise in futility.

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