Help me turn my real junk into digital junk.
October 12, 2011 5:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to go through my old belongings from age 0-18. I plan to photograph or scan some of the interesting or sentimental items before I get rid of them. Examples include: stuffed animals, concert tickets, favorite magazine covers, handwritten notes... What naming convention / folder structure would you use for the files, and if you've done anything like this, do you have any other tips?
posted by beyond_pink to Technology (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think tagging each photo would be the way to go, since some stuff will fit into multiple genres. Tags like: "1998, concert ticket, Weezer" or "1991, magazine, Time, Michael J Fox"

That way you can search through tags easily. You might want to look at the Feltron Annual Reports for some inspiration, ideas.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:03 AM on October 12, 2011

Response by poster: What would you use for tagging? I usually use Picasa to organize/tag my day-to-day photos, but I would almost like to keep these in a separate place as not to clutter up my new content.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:09 AM on October 12, 2011

The tip I have is "keep the stuff". Unless you are very organised the digital files will be lost, corrupted, whatever, and then you'll be kicking yourself for throwing out the originals. Speaking from my own first hand experience.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:11 AM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Meatbomb is right. There is no sentimental value in a scan of your favourite teddy bear.
posted by joannemullen at 6:27 AM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Ideally you could just put all the images in one directory and use a tool like Picasa to tag your heart out. The problem with this approach is that it isn't scalable: once you've passed a couple of hundred images, you will probably have performance issues. Not to mention trouble finding stuff if you would switch to another image viewer.

How about organized the files by year, i.e. when you first got hold of a certain item (18 directories is pretty manageable), and using Picasa's tag feature? If you're super ambitious you could also name the files according to some schema, e.g. year0-grandmabirthday-001.jpg ... year18-francetrip-021.jpg, with an automation tool. This way, should you switch from Picasa to another tool, your photos will still have lots of meaningful metadata in the directory and file names.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:28 AM on October 12, 2011

Another vote for the artifacts. Keep what you have room for, photograph or scan the rest. If you can get it down to a reasonably sized storage tub, you can tape it up, label it with the contents and big DO NOT DISCARD stickers and there's a MUCH higher likelihood you'll still have it when you're old.

digital files take a lot of babysitting over the years and can easily disappear *poof* Are you likely to back these up, test the backups periodically, and transfer them to a new medium every five years for the rest of your life?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:18 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd just make one big old photoset of everything and tag the hell out of each item so I could find it later by whatever textual cue might work.
posted by adamrice at 7:31 AM on October 12, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for your responses so far. To clarify, I am not throwing out everything I own and I'm definitely not interested in keeping all this stuff. While I'd like to be able to access this in the future, it is not critical to guarantee.
posted by beyond_pink at 7:35 AM on October 12, 2011

One thing to watch out for if you go the tagging route is to make sure whatever program you use actually inserts the metadata in the files themselves, not in a separate database. Preferably in a standard format that other software can read.

I'm not sure how Picasa handles this, a quick Google turns up this, which isn't too promising.

In any event, I would definitely also make the filenames as descriptive if you can, just to make it less painful if you ever need to re-catalog.
posted by thegears at 7:42 AM on October 12, 2011

Response by poster: One thing to watch out for if you go the tagging route is to make sure whatever program you use actually inserts the metadata in the files themselves, not in a separate database.

Would love recommendations for software - anyone?
posted by beyond_pink at 8:05 AM on October 12, 2011

On the Mac, iPhoto allows tagging and is pretty user-friendly. It's part of the iLife suite that comes with Macs, but it's also available for $15 on the Mac App Store.

If you're lucky enough to have a copy, Adobe Lightroom lets you tag easily and en masse, among many, many other things. But if you don't have a copy, you'll have to shell out around $300 (probably overkill in more than one way).
posted by xax at 9:15 AM on October 12, 2011

Best answer: Are you using a PC or a Mac? In Win7, in theory (and I have not done this yet myself, so I say in theory) the file properties can be modified to add tags -- without software. Right click on a file, choose Properties, choose Details, then tags. Make a list of what tags you plan to use in advance. Then you can either copy > paste or type your tags in.

Libraries can then be used to sift through your stuff. When you're in a particular Library (Documents, Pictures, etc.) you can then sort in the upper corner by tag. At least that's how it's supposed to work! Good luck.
posted by clone boulevard at 9:55 AM on October 12, 2011

If you can use a Mac for this, iPhoto makes image organization really easy. You group photos by "Event" and it can also automagically parse photo location data (assuming your camera writes that into the image files) and the "Faces" feature does a pretty good job, after a little training, of finding people in your photos and allowing you to browse that way, too. And, of course, you can tag and describe individual items.

As to the folks worried about you losing your digital content, the answer to that, in addition to a local backup (e.g. Time Machine, if you're on a Mac) is Backblaze or similar. I sleep a lot better at night knowing my photos are backed up locally and in the cloud. And, as both the Time Machine and Backblaze backups are entirely automated, there's no chance that I can screw it up by not bothering to back up manually.
posted by wheat at 8:06 PM on October 12, 2011

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