Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Natural Order of Things

There's too much information in the world. Somebody once said "The Internet has all the information in the universe, but not in alphabetical order" or something like that. I'm too lazy to Google it now.

But alphabetical order is a good way to deal with massive amounts of information. If the information can be described by a sequence of words, ranging from most to least significant, then simply alphabetizing will group the similar items together. This is really the idea behind sorting by last name first. In a sense, the last name defines the category, and the first name describes the individual within the category.

Unfortunately, other things don't work out so easily. For example, in the U.S., we tend to write dates as month/day/year (or mm/dd/yyyy, as geeks like to put it). Of course, sorting alphabetically on dates gives us all the things that related to April, regardless of the year, followed by all the things related to August, etc.

In general, in English, we put adjectives before the noun ... the big, red car ... the shiny, new iPod, etc. We may want to rethink that. Imagine giving names to image files, and then trying to sort them to be able to find types of images ... people-family-wife.jpg ... travel-europe-france-paris.jpg, etc. When you sort them, all the people-family-... images will be together, and all the travel-europe-france ones, etc.

Well, time to get off this computer stupid and get a life real.

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