wild story about how today's college students don't have a mental model for computer directory systems or the concept of files

@schlink I had this problem 10+ years ago trying to explain wikis to Librarians. (cc @platypus )

@schlink noticed that with my little brothers. sure they understand desktop shortcuts but ask them to save their document on their home directory and they are lost

@schlink How the heck is using a search program working better than using a logical directory structure? When I use Windows search it can't find what I'm looking for 90% of the time, 50% of the time if it's a locally installed program.


Someone convince me this isn't part of companies desire to alienate users from the computers they use and reinforce the idea that nobody should own anything.

There is a difference between understanding file structure hierarchy and being lazy and using a massive downloads folder like I do and not understanding that files have a specific place in the first place.

@Alonealastalovedalongthe @schlink It absolutely is! This is all because of that thumb-flicking, surveillance probe everyone's given before they even want it. Which is designed to do one thing and one thing only. There's no surprise one can't find a half-decent mobile application for file management. That is the primary device kids use, not a computer. They don't even refer to machines as computers anymore.


Thank you for the well thought out response!

I have thought a bit about this in organizing ideas and information in org mode, which isn't a file system (strictly, tho with text files it can do the work of one) but still provides an interesting basis to think about things.

@arefgee @schlink

@urusan @arefgee @schlink

I see a lot of competitors to org mode that emphasize non-hierarchical properties and while I make no disagreement that organizing information in hierarchies is a distortion of reality, I am so far unconvinced that human brains can meaningfully interact with ideas at a macro level without creating "hierarchical distortions" as intermediary tools.

@urusan @arefgee @schlink

I think your point about letting go of rigid file systems is fantastic and very nuanced and I guess what I would say is that from the lens of org mode there are many competing thinking systems that emphasize a complete lack of hierarchy and I think they are trying to think outside the box by coming up with an anti-box... its not really thinking outside the box

@urusan @arefgee @schlink

I would love someone to provide direct evidence I am wrong, but right now I conceptualize the human mind in its relation to non-hierarchical systems as a person viewing a sculpture.

Sculptures for the most part embrace the idea that there is no specific perspective (hierarchical organization) to view them from, yet the human eye cannot directly sense 3d volumes so a person must walk around the sculpture taking multiple perspectives to construct a sense of the volume.

@urusan @arefgee @schlink

My point is, I don't think the hierarchy is the problem, I think the rigidity of the hierarchy is the problem and the assumed axiom that only a single perspective/hierarchy can exist at a time is the problem.

It is an echo of how scientific models of the universe are necessary but are also inherently distortions of reality. The solution is to continually develop new scientific models and use information from each to develop a sense of reality/volume.

@urusan @arefgee @schlink

I guess I am arguing for a tag based system like you say, although I might describe it as a system that has atoms that are shared between multiple coexisting hierarchies (such that editing the atom from any one hierarchy updates the atom everywhere else). These hierarchies have no information themselves beyond a recipe for organizing the atoms into said hierarchies.


@urusan and @schlink , I don't know what you two are smoking, but it seems fucking strong! x'D

Both of you lost yourselves in your own fantasies of future file-systems. This article is not about file-systems. It's about how students and inexperienced professionals cannot comprehend computer basics, because they were not shown. In addition to being given dumbed down systems to use.
That's not going to go away with new architectures built on sci-fi fantasy.

@Alonealastalovedalongthe @urusan @schlink
As long as data is stored in files, that file will physically exist somewhere. If one cannot understand that they cannot build "any" kind of "better" system to access it.
Also, people don't tag their shit. No point fantasizing they will.

And stop spamming the feeds by posting 15 comments at a time, all set to public! Unlist your shit! Or tag it ;D

@arefgee @urusan @schlink

I am sorry, I disagree with you on multiple points and feel like you are being needlessly condescending but I am genuinely sorry I took up a bunch of your feed and didn't CW

@schlink I was surprised that article didn't have any quotes from librarians talking abouthow big a mental lift it was for students back then to try to learn how to form good search strategies.

@schlink "What is the problem you solved in order to have the problem you have now?" is, as ever, an incredibly useful question.

@schlink Oh my gosh, I can't tell you how often I have to deal with family members somehow saving things to temporary folders (eg if they opened it from firefox), and then being surprised, dismayed, or just plain not understanding, when they rebooted their computers to find their work gone.

@schlink put them on Linux terminal emulators. They'll learn. ;-)

@schlink I'm not worried about this. A few months of living in the real world with taxes, residency permits, passports, rental applications and they'll be familiar AF with filing cabinets and organising stuff. Not enjoying it, but hey.

I know it's presenting as a new problem, but anyone who did desktop support has come across the mindset of folks who don't know about directory structure. It's why the corporate I interned at had a mandatory onboarding course that explained the corporate network and how the company drives were laid out. We had a similar thing at university when first years started.

@onepict @schlink

also the oldest of Gen Z are going to be in their 20s, with the greater part of them still being in junior or high school - and they don't as often do short term jobs in offices where they would often still encounter physical files (I don't know if kids still have drawers with their names on them or lockers in high school, as surely it would be simple to teach that directories are much the same thing?)

I think it's more of a symptom of organisations being unprepared or unwilling to train and on-board people. Don't just assume schools will teach these kids. I'd have thought with STEM universities would assume that the kids know next to nothing about lab protocol so you teach them 1st semester. It should be no different for how they interact with electronic systems


assuming that kids do still have physical storage trays/lockers it should be simple enough to remind young adults at University of their schooldays, or even relate it to the contents of sports holdall or rucksack or whatever is nowadays used for transporting items to and from school?


@onepict @schlink I definitely know that like in the early-mid aughts, a big thing to teach adult computer learners in libraries was how not to save everything to Downloads or the Desktop and I would bet that's still a default habit for many

I think it was also a thing for the electronic computer driving licence thing in the UK.

@meena @platypus @onepict @schlink
i did small biz desktop support for years. oh, the stories. i recall one person who had a detailed folder structure built inside their Outlook (ms email client) Trash. They filed things carefully. In the trash. And were mad when the trash got auto-dumped one day.

And if you hear that story and your takeaway isn't wow what a terrible SOFTWARE DESIGN CHOICE then we are not the same

@meena @platypus @onepict @schlink *stares at all the linux shit that fills the homedir with inscrutable crap*

@June @platypus @onepict @schlink "all of my work is trash, that's why i put it there!"

makes perfect sense to me

@June @schlink @platypus @onepict @meena Yeah I once accessed a friend's mailboxes for consensual reasons, threw out one mail and emptied the trashcan and they screamed noooo I had a whole elaborate setup within the trashcan.

I don't know, maybe things weren't communicated clearly but seriously how complicated long-lasting structures do you build inside your physical trashcan in your physical office?

I'm not sure how more clearly one can communicate the ephemeral nature of something that could be cleared out at any moment than by calling it trash.

@clacke @schlink @onepict @meena again, it's a terrible software design choice, not the user's fault, that they are able to build complicated structures for storage inside the trash

@platypus @onepict @schlink I have a very advanced mental model of file systems and uhhhhh that's still my default :sniff_embarass:

@schlink old people of course famously understand these concepts perfectly

@schlink I'm a software UI designer who happened to do some user studies of software nearly 20 years ago related to filesystem hierarchy... and people outside of tech didn't understand files and folders back then.

Way previously, in the late 90s, I was a sysadmin and did some on-call tech support for a government organization. People didn't understand files and folders then either.

So it's no surprise people don't understand it today.

…Searching is better now though! 👍

@garrett @schlink the biggest trick is that if you watch someone using a computer, you assume they must know what they're doing, because they're successful; but really, they have just memorized where to click. If anything moves or changes, they will not be able to continue.

@schlink I should have shown you the mess on the Eisenhower while I was still on board in the media Department on a half server rack

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