On Archiving While Exhausted, or Free-Flowing Thoughts on File Names

I have a knack for making things harder than they need be.

I’m going through photo files on my computer. I’m not using any particular program, proprietary or otherwise, to organize the mess. Just a series of folders. I used to use the iPhoto that came with my computer, but I hated feeling like I had little control over the organization of imported files. So, I decided to come up with my own scheme during an insomnia-induced photo file viewing session. Goodness, it’s hard. 

This is the chronological naming convention for series and subseries folder levels:




As far as the actual photos? They need names. Names that make sense. DSCN432523454w.jpg does not make sense. It doesn’t tell me what the file contains, just that it was the umpteen-thousandsanth (or whatever) photo to be taken with that camera. Such designations give people the heebie-jeebies when receiving digital files via email. I want my aunts to know by sight that the attachment I sent is a pic of the kids, not a virus of some sort. So, in keeping with the convention I’m using for the folders, files will be YYYY_MM_[Event/Person/Thing].jpg.

I…. guess…. Maybe….

I hate clumping the date information together (YYYYMMDD wha?) and am aiming to avoid extraordinarily long file names, but the underscores are a necessity. I can live with the length. 

Born-digital photos have been arranged chronologically by year, eventually they’ll be subdivided by month, if possible; otherwise they’ll go into the poorly named “Random” folder. It’ll be a while before I actually get around to attaching any meaningful metadata to the photos themselves. But if I distribute copies of the files, not all programs might be able to read the metadata, so I should just put the pertinent information in the file name…. 

And far as the actual photos go, there’s…. just…. so much crap.

It’s a bit anxiety inducing. Mentally, I’m pacing; occasionally glancing at my reflection in some imagined mirror while my inner monologue mumbles incoherently. Sweat figuratively beads on my forehead and fists clench as I look at the columns and columns of unassigned, poorly named, information-less files. Forgotten data mocks me, “Heh. I bet you wish you didn’t spend all that time surfing the old Television Without Pity boards now, huh?”


All those pictures of the first kid’s milestones. All those folders of pictures of the first kid’s milestones… Notice how I didn’t mention the “kids’ milestones,” as in achievements met by both children. Simply put, the second kid gets the short end of the stick. Too busy chasing after the toddler and changing/feeding/rocking the infant to take pictures of her. And then I’m too busy chasing, holding, rocking, putting to sleep, making dinner, surfing TWoP’s message boards at 3am while she nurses to catch up on shows I’m unable to watch because I’m too busy chasing, holding, rocking, putting to sleep…. Six years later I’m staring at a few thousand files named with various versions of DSCNblahblablah.jpg or 2010_34342432.jpg …

The lack of full names on some of these files I’ve gotten from relatives… wow. I come from what was at one time a rather large Italian-American family. There are quite a few Jimmys, Louies, Joeys, Johns, and Marys. And they all have the same surname. “Loubirthday1”, “LouieBDay 50”, “Lous 50th” — Same person or different people? Can’t tell by the title. And one Lou was legally a Luigi but no one ever called him that because America!!! English names only. Professionally, I’d use the legal name. Personally, I’d just use Grandpa — but who’s Grandpa is it? The person with that moniker differs according to who is looking at the photo.

It is currently 2:32 am and, off the top of my head, I haven’t a scant clue as to what I’m doing. This is not an undertaking for the exhausted.

The hardest part isn’t the naming or arranging, though. It’s the parsing through the photos I’ve received or downloaded or copied from various people and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Pictures friends emailed me of our joint trick-or-treat outings, stuff from my father-in-law’s camera that time he left his memory card at my apartment, and seemingly every photograph my aunt took in the past ten years lovingly burned onto a handful of DVDs that I transferred over to my Mac a few iPhoto updates ago. 


Why do we need thirty-three photos of a not particularly attractive dog playing with a sock? Five? That’s okay. But thirty? And if you’re going on a cruise, why not take pictures of the ship or the islands you’ve visited? 128 photos of the same two people mugging for the camera in nondescript restaurants and hallways is nothing to waste DropBox on. And why did I download this stuff? AAAAAH!!!!

If I was working in an actual archive? DELETE. Does not fit the collection scope. DELETE. Excess copies. DELETE. 

But my personal photo file on my home computer? A jillion copies of random shit taken by family members that don’t show anything pertaining to the family. KEEP IT AND LET IT SIT THERE FOREVER. 

I have no clue what half of this stuff is and — why the fuck do I have pics of my aunt’s cleavage? For the love of frig…..


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