A blog about everything, by Jack Baty

File Management Fatigue

It’s possible that I’m losing my willingness to constantly deal with naming, organizing, managing, and backing up hundreds or thousands of files. I think what’s happening is that I’m suffering from File Management Fatigue.

How many of my daily interactions with computers involve a file dialog of some sort? Too many! Save As…”, Open…”, Move to…” and friends are a constant interruption. I have entire workflows built around managing files using Emacs.

I spent the past month organizing files using yet another system1.

My photos are in a carefully constructed hierarchy of folders. Each photo has been precisely named using one of about 35 different naming conventions I’ve switched to over the years. They are a well-organized mess, is what they are.

I guess I’m just tired of thinking about it. It’s embarrassing to think about how much time I’ve spent managing files. Or worse, how much time I’ve spent thinking about managing files.

And for what? In a couple years Spotlight or Siri or whatever will probably do all of this for me. Hey Siri, please summarize, organize, tag, and rename all of the files here based on content and context, thanks.” What do you bet that the results of that will be plenty good enough?

A side effect of this feeling has been a shift toward apps that abstract away file names. I’ve been putting stuff again into TiddlyWiki. I’ve been taking notes using Bear. I’ve been blogging with Scribbles and Pika2. I’m even journaling again with Day One. Each of those abstracts away the file names, but allow me to easily get at” the underlying files via export. There’s some comfort in that.

What will likely happen is that after a week I’ll become twitchy about not having a Reveal in Finder” option and so I’ll fall back into my comfort zone full of files. That’s OK too. I know how to deal with files. I’m just tired of doing it.

  1. If you must pick a system, Johnny Decimal is a good one.↩︎

  2. You’ll notice this post is using Blot, which means it’s a Markdown file that I had to create myself and put in the correct place using the correct name. See what I mean?↩︎

Photography as a record makes less sense as I grow old

I love looking through really old photos. Photographs, to me, are a record. They show me how things were back then”.

I’ll be 60 years old in July. It occurred to me that I’ll be dead before the photographs I take today are interesting as a record of life. Back then” isn’t going to be that far back, so what, then, are any new photographs for? This uncomfortable question has introduced a sort of nihilism into my attitude towards photography.

What about your kids and grandkids and so on? Won’t they enjoy seeing things as they were?” I don’t know, will they?

I kept 24 of my grandfather’s photo albums. No one else wanted them after he passed. Every photo is captioned with a date, place, and the names of the people in it. They are priceless, and yet, they are sitting in storage. As important and treasured as I claim that they are to me, I sometimes wonder why I keep them. Would anyone even notice if I tossed them into the bin? Would I?

My daughter has heard me preaching Print and save your precious photos!” her entire life. And yet, it wouldn’t surprise me if she tossed all of my stuff as soon as I’m gone. I hope she doesn’t, but she might. Who wants to drag all that crap around forever? It’s just a bunch of old photos.

No Thanks - iA

No Thanks

We can be both critical and appreciative of new technology without categorically accepting or rejecting it.

Most of what I see online either categorically accepts or rejects nearly everything. My wish is that each of us is able to gain a more nuanced perspective about things…and only then start writing about them.

Reading Wise again

I signed up for Readwise again. The idea is that I’d like it to be easier to save, read, annotate, and archive articles. I have fancy ways to do that already, but they’re too fancy, if you know what I mean. I’m hoping to just click something and go find it later, without the need to figure out where to put it or what to name it or where I might want to read it.

I’d like to work on a long-form article->reMarkable tablet workflow, but haven’t begun looking at that yet.

Kobo book highlights are imported automatically, for books purchased via Kobo. Any sideloaded books require a small app on my Mac.

I kind of missed the daily highlight summary emails, too.

It’s $8.99/month and I’m paying monthly because I change my mind a lot and in the end it’s often cheaper to pay monthly.

Taking a break from complicated blogs

Yesterday, I thought I’d try building a movie review bluebrint and templates for baty.net. Kirby CMS makes things like that relatively easy to implement. And I even had a giant leg up from Kev Quirk, who had shared his book review templates with me earlier. All I had to do was tweak them and integrate them into my site.

After a short time, I lost energy for it. It’s not that it was terribly difficult, but I just didn’t feel like doing it. I didn’t feel like remembering how Kirby’s controllers and collections and templates and snippets and models worked. I originally set up my original Kirby site using their starter template and after a week or so of figuring things out, I stopped messing with it and just posted stuff. I lost interest in how it worked. I would type and hit the Post button.

But Kirby is so flexible it’s nearly impossible to resist trying to build something with it. I don’t feel like building something with it right now, so I’m writing this on my Blot.im blog instead. Although Blot does have a templating system and can do some clever things, for some reason I’m only rarely tempted to change or add anything.

I’m having similar feelings about daily.baty.net, which is built using Tinderbox. It’s powerful, flexible, and I break stuff in there kind of regularly. Not in the mood.

So here we are, typing a simple Markdown file in a Dropbox folder using Obsidian and letting Blot deal with the rest this morning. Tomorrow I may use Emacs instead. Or maybe BBEdit. Point is, it feels uncomplicated and that’s what I’m looking for right now.

Test from Obsidian

Since I’m already typing in Obsidian this morning, I figured I would test my Blot workflow in the new vault. If you’re reading this, it worked.

Yeah, I’m still trying to wrest some of my writing free of Emacs’ gravitational pull, but it’s not easy. And I’m not convinced I even want to.

Blot subscription

My Blot.im subscription just renewed for another year. I haven’t been using Blot much recently, while I continue to try consolidating my stuff under one blog at baty.net. I renewed because I still like using Blot and who knows where I’ll want to post stuff next week :).

Using Cleandesk for Emacs

This is handy: GitHub - rtrppl/cleandesk: rapid renaming and sorting for dired

It’s an Emacs package which adds some convenience functions to dired-mode that help keep one’s ~/Desktop folder clean.

Here’s my config (mostly just copy/pasted from the README):

(load "~/.config/emacs/lisp/cleandesk/cleandesk.el") ;
(setq date-string "%Y%m%d-")
(global-set-key (kbd "M-s-u") 'cleandesk-open-inbox)
(with-eval-after-load 'dired
  (define-key dired-mode-map (kbd "J") 'cleandesk-jump-to-folder)
  (define-key dired-mode-map (kbd "M") 'cleandesk-move-files)
  (define-key dired-mode-map (kbd "z") 'cleandesk-prepend-date)
  (define-key dired-mode-map (kbd "r") 'cleandesk-rename))

I do M-x cleandesk-open-inbox to get a dired buffer of my ~/Desktop folder. Then I rename and/or prepend a YYYYMMDD to files I’m going to keep (“r” or z”). Then I move them to a target folder using M-x cleandesk-move-files (or M”). Target folders are pre-defined and I can use fd with completion, so they’re super fast to get to. This is the part that normally slows me down.

Maybe now I’ll keep my ~/Desktop cleaner. OK, probably not, but at least I have a better way to tidy things up.

Blotting with Obsidian

I’ve gone pretty much all-in with Obsidian this week. I don’t remember how it started. It’s like a blacked out sometime on Tuesday and woke up this morning finding all of my files, notes, and stuff” in one giant Obsidian vault.

While I was here, I thought I’d look into using Obsidian to manage the markdown files comprising baty.blog.

My Blot blog uses Dropbox for sync, but my main Obsidian vault is in ~/Documents/FileCabinet. Turns out that Obsidian can handle symlinks1, so I created a link in my vault to the actual Blot folder in Dropbox.

So far it feels fine, even though I’m somewhat allergic to symlinks (and abstractions in general). It’s worth a shot, though. If something gets wonky I’ll back out of it.

To make posting easier, I created a Templater template for new posts. It looks like this:

let title = "New"
let dateprefix = tp.file.creation_date("YYYY-MM-DD");
let date = tp.file.creation_date("YYYY-MM-DDTHH:mm:ssZ");
title = await tp.system.prompt('Title: ');  
let slugged = tp.user.slugify(title);
await tp.file.rename(`${dateprefix}-${slugged}`);
title: <%* tR += `${title}` %> 
date:  <% date %>
draft: Yes

# <%* tR += `${title}` %>

<% tp.file.cursor(1) %>

The template prompts for a title, slugifies it, and renames the file using YYYY-MM-DD-slug.md. I have this template applied automatically for any new note created in Blot’s posts” folder. The Templater plugin is really useful.

I’m composing this post using Obsidian2, so if you’re reading this, it worked.

  1. With some Caveats↩︎

  2. Sorry Emacs :(.↩︎

Gruber and consent

Another bit from Gruber today.

But Jobs was right too: people are smart, and they can — and should be allowed to — make their own decisions. And many people are more comfortable with sharing data than others. The privacy zealots leading this crusade in the EU do not think people are smart, and do not think they should trusted to make these decisions for themselves.

I wouldn’t say I’m a zealot, but I think John mis-characterizes people here. It’s not that people aren’t smart, it’s that they don’t care. If we can’t get them to care about doing things that might be harmful to themselves or others, maybe the government should step in and care for them. The argument should perhaps be about how harmful consensual tracking actually is.