My company has a public network that is open to all employees and is used to store shared information. The number of folders is quite large and — in an effort to make the search for a particular folder easier — a few people have started adding exclamation points to the front of their file names. This causes their file to float to the top of an alphabetized list, making it show up front and center when you navigate to the top node of the file hierarchy. Now, is this clever or rude?
Screen real estate is pretty important when it comes to web pages and mobile devices — I’ve heard many stories about departments or individuals who fought to have their information appear “above the fold” on a corporate site — but should this approach apply to an internal file network?
One could argue that only critical files should take pole position: emergency procedures or frequently accessed company data. But what happens when Jim from Marketing is just too lazy to scroll through everyone else’s stuff and vaults his file to first place? Is it OK for Suzie in Finance to then add two exclamation points to the name of her file? Does Bob the CEO get to use three exclamation points? Where does it all end?
The whole idea behind a system as venerable as alphabetical order is the we all know how to use it. By circumventing this system, are these people trampling on the rights of others just to gain an — albeit minor — advantage? Is this a trivial act of disobedience or is this more along the lines of cutting in line at the supermarket or parking in a handicapped space?
(In an interesting experiment, I added 27 exclamation points and a few ampersands to my file name … it was deleted.)
Lists have always been a great way of organizing your thoughts but in this era of ever-shrinking attention spans they can also make an effective communication tool. Here are the top reasons why I think lists work so well:
- Lists force writers to organize their thoughts.
- The basic structure of a list is simple and easy to understand.
- Lists eliminate fluff.
- Lists help break up content into manageable chunks that are easy to scan.
- The average four-year-old can count to 10 … which means that the current U.S. market for top 10 lists is estimated at 285,706,894 people.
A counterpoint (i.e. lists suck):
- January 2, 2013 – Umberto Eco says that we like lists because we don’t want to die: http://m.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/umberto-eco-on-why-we-love-lists/266728/.
- June 18, 2013 – Derek Thompson discusses the “tyranny ” of lists on the Atlantic: “It’s well understood that lists and rankings can be fixed. But … research makes a bigger claim: That fixed rankings can dupe us into liking things that we wouldn’t have liked if they hadn’t been ranked more highly. The placebo effect of most-popular lists suggests that better-reviewed meals might actually taste better; more-downloaded songs might actually sound better; articles with more Facebook likes might actually feel more delightful to read. When we outsource our navigation of the world to other peoples’ opinions, we lose, in a small way, our ability to individually evaluate the quality of our experience.” (Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/the-tyranny-of-most-popular-lists/276847/.)
- December 12, 2014 – An overview of 30 years of Top 10 lists on David Letterman (link: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2014/12/letterman_top_ten_a_statistical_analysis_of_30_years_of_top_ten_lists_from.single.html
- January 1, 2018 – Lists as a bulwark against the chaos of 2017: “[Lists] have also, in their way, made arguments—for stability, for schedules, for the general assumption that some things must transcend the caprices of individual people. Those lists have, with all their sweeping assessments of movies and TV shows and albums and books and people—with all their cheeky declarations about the proper way to arrange those declarations in the first place—reclaimed some of the order that 2017 has so effectively destabilized.” (link: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/12/the-quiet-radicalism-of-the-year-end-list/549293/