Adoption & Effective Use

Folders and Metadata: One or Both?

I find the metadata / tagging discussion interesting … should people be allowed to put things in folders, or should they use metadata / tags to differentiate between things. There are pros and cons on both sides … and I won’t re-iterate those here.

But … what I will say, is that when a vendor first comes out strongly in favor of one approach (and downplays or disables the other), and then changes their mind in favor of the other, it’s a massive problem.

On the SharePoint side, here’s the progression over the past three editions of Microsoft’s main message:
– 2003, “metadata” is cool.
– 2007, “metadata” is THE way to go, and “don’t use folders” (they’re evil).
– 2010, “folders” are cool again, and it’s okay to use them. Metadata is still cool though.

The 2007 to 2010 change in message is problematic for the people inside companies who have followed Microsoft’s line and poo-poo’d folders. Ouch.

Mindmeister has just done the same thing with its online mindmapping service: gone from tags to folders.

One of the most requested features here at MindMeister: Folders. You can now organize and categorize your mind maps without having to search for them one by one, or scroll through lengthy pages just to find the map you’re after. Creating a new folder can be done with the click of a button, and the sky’s the limit as to how many folders, subfolders, or sub-subfolders, etc. that you’d like to create. Keeping clients, projects, to-do’s, and archives separate and better organized just got a whole lot easier!

What’s the problem? Tags are out / no more / dead-and-gone. It’s just folders now. As with the SharePoint example, this makes it tough for people that have a particular way of working.

Net-net: Folders are here to stay. And for vendors that go from one to the other … a hard transition isn’t the way to do it.