I’m not exactly what you’d call a “neat” person. My office seems to exist in a perpetual state of low-grade clutter, much to the chagrin (I’m sure) of my parents. Luckily my girlfriend and I are largely compatible on that front. But every once in a while, I’ll get the urge to clean an organize. Now, picking up the apartment, or even my office, requires effort, both temporal and physical. Organizing my digital life, however, is much more sedentary and intellectually stimulating.
It’s an odd dichotomy: the surface of my desk can be cluttered to the point that I can barely see the fake wood veneer of its surface, while my computer desktop is pristine, populated by only the most essential shortcuts and information widgets. You may wonder if I have my priorities straight, but I think I do. The virtual world, where I spend the majority of my time while at the desk, is easy to navigate and well-ordered.
This tidiness is reflected (I like to think) in my data structuring as well. For instance: while in grad school, I had a separate folder for each class, housed in a folder for each semester. Within each class folder were other folders for essays, drawings, pictures, et cetera. What you may call anal-retentive, I call basic good practice.
Why do I bring this up? Well, over the past few days I’ve been in one of my organizing moods, and have decided to tackle the goal of organizing and tagging my growing ebook collection. Largely without realizing it, I’ve managed to amass quite a digital library. Most of these acquisitions have been through various bundles (Humble, Story, and Vodo, for example), while a few have been through the fortuitous packaging of bonus CDs with library books (like the Honor Harrington series) or other sources (Cory Doctorow releases a lot of his writings for free, to say nothing of Project Gutenberg).
I’ve been using Calibre, a free/open source program, to organize my collection. It’s a pretty neat program. While most times I can just import the ebook file and be done with it, I often have to add tags that make sense to me, and sometimes have to reformat the publication metadata (author, title, etc.) manually. When properly set up, it allows me to sort between fiction and nonfiction, view series in chronological order, and even sync them to my Nexus 7 tablet for reading on the go.
Of course, all this data wizardry isn’t without its consequences.
While I didn’t spend the entire day at my computer, the afternoon has left me feeling a bit fried and out of it. One can only spend so much time in the digital realm before the physical one starts to fit oddly. I’ll step away in a bit, attempt to re-integrate myself into meatspace before my girlfriend gets home. But right now I’m having fun cleaning up my ephemeral, virtual goods.
Maybe sometime soon I’ll do the same for my browser bookmarks. I could lose entire days!