I Need Digital Feng Shui

I Need Digital Feng Shui

My digital life is, to say the least, a little disordered. I need a digital feng shui consultant to come in and organise things for me. Though ideally with a little more of the rational and a little less of the superstitious.

Like most people these days I create and consume a lot of content, and most of it is digital. I create reports, articles, blog posts, images, radio and TV clippings, gadget reviews, podcasts, presentations, websites and even hacky bits of software. I consume music, television, video, websites, eBooks, podcasts, pictures, comics, and yes, software (some of it very hacky indeed).

I am not disciplined enough to organise things as I go. I try, but things slip. Documents end up in the wrong folders. Ripped music is mis-categorised. Images get downloaded two, three or four times because I can’t find the original. Receipts sit in a drawer for three months before getting scanned.

My approach to date has been a bit like the child asked to tidy their room: everything gets stuffed into a cupboard. The only difference with me is that every time I run out of space in the cupboard, a few dollars more to Dropbox or Google gives me a bigger one.

Now, the great tower of digital junk has reached epic proportions and threatens to topple on me whenever I open the cupboard door. So it’s time to get it sorted.

But sorting it is proving painful.

At home I have started with my music collection. The best solution I have found so far is Beets, a command line tool for scanning, tagging and organising your music collection. I’m slowly importing all my MP3s* into a new, clean folder structure. The problem is that this is not an automated process. The MusicBrainz database that I am using to recognise and tag my music often doesn’t contain the CDs that I own, or the system wrongly identifies them based on the way they have previously been tagged. Once I’ve processed them all I will need to go back and fill in the blanks — probably re-ripping many CDs.

A Spotify subscription suddenly looks like a really good option.

At work the impetus has come from the launch of our new subscription tools service. For this I will be updating around 20 documents each month as we incrementally advance the each of three tools on a three-month rolling cycle. On top of this I will be producing supporting content, images and slide decks for our subscribers.

All this means an already large load of work is likely to get out of hand.

I need a system that will help to automate some of the production and uploading, ensuring each document is properly version-controlled and date-stamped for licensing purposes. Then uploaded to the relevant parts of the website. We’re into the territory of Enterprise Content Management, a type of software I’ve written about but never had to deploy for my own business before.

Of course all this will do is enforce the human control of my content. Neither my home or work systems will be smart enough to actually organise my content — automatically — in a way that makes sense to me.

This is what I want.

Right now human beings are much better than machines at this sort of abstract pattern recognition and classification. But this won’t always be the case, and that pleases me. I want an always-on, digital cleaner/feng shui consultant to organise the digital world around me to my preferences and make it easy for me to find and interact with the things I create and consume.

* I did once rip all my CDs into FLAC… then accidentally formatted the disk containing them. I’ve never managed to bring myself to re-rip them all…

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Humanity series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Humanity page.

Tom Cheesewright


Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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