Missing Socks

By Daniel Antion posted 09-18-2012 19:50


Sometimes I think the worst computer feature ever developed is the ability to Drag & Drop. Actually, I like the feature when I’m using it to move elements around on a canvas, but I have come to regret the industry extending this action to the movement of files. Having long been responsible for Information Services in our organization, the main reason I feel this way is related to the number of times files have been dropped into the wrong folders, folders have been moved into other folders. This last error is quickly followed by a call to my department from someone asking “why did you guys delete the (whatever) folder?” As I look ahead to a workplace where an aging keyboard-mouse trained workforce is thrust into navigating with their fingers, I can’t help but think: “this is why there’s no file system on my iPad!

Recently, we started working with a group of people who jumped into SharePoint a little bit ahead of the curve. They had a collection of documents they didn’t want to lose track of, but they weren’t quite ready to build an organized set of libraries, each with appropriate metadata. In a better-than-nothing attempt, they moved these files into “Shared Documents” the place in SharePoint where all documents go to die. The best thing about this group is the fact that they knew what they were doing was dangerous, and they enlisted our (Information Service) help to help them build a proper repository. In planning this project, I have urged them to move slowly and deliberately. While we do have options to drag and drop documents from Shared Documents to more appropriate homes, I hope to avoid making two common mistakes.

Let’s create a few general libraries and add several folders to each one” – No. Folders, and our ability to simply drag files into them seems like a much easier task than creating and setting the value of metadata columns. We have libraries that were built this way, and while it’s better than nothing, it’s not much better. Having a library organized into folders means having to search through multiple locations when looking for content. This is a bad experience in a shared folder, but considering the pathetic (by comparison) speed of navigating in a browser, the user experience sinks to near awful when you do this in SharePoint. On the other hand, having a large group of related documents that can be sorted and / or filtered on a number of attributes yields an amazing benefit to the user.

Let’s move the files into the right libraries and come back and set the metadata later” – No. Let’s create one library at a time, move a block of the appropriate files into the library and set the metadata. I know that we want to see the Shared Documents library empty, and 11-15 well named libraries on the Quick Launch bar. Unfortunately, if we don’t complete the task, i.e. set the metadata values, we haven’t achieved a benefit. You might think that at least the documents are organized, but we really aren’t that much better off. The fact that we are easily able to identify and move the documents means that they were probably named well enough to telegraph their contents (this is the case), so let’s just get the job done.

The drag and drop operation is designed for speed, and when used appropriately, it is a very productive feature. However, populating well-designed libraries is a task that requires a more thoughtful approach. Drag and drop might be useful in doing the actual relocation, but ‘getting it right’ should be a higher priority than ‘getting it done’.

#metadata #folders #Library