Searchable. Transferable. Archiveable. These are the three attributes that are indispensable in an information storage system.
- Searchable: The ability to do automated searches for phrases within texts. <-Increasingly this includes the ability to search for similar pictures as well).
- Transferable: Able to transfer between formats (e.g. from .docx to PDF, etc.)
- Archivable: To be able to archive something entails having a stable reference to that item, and usually means having a digest of that item to aid in search-ability.
The STAR system attempts to identify best practices and provide an objective scoring system on which to rate various forms of storage.
§1 Searchable, Transferable, and Archivable
1. Present a narrative for the problems that gave rise to the STAR idea,
2. Prepare a mockup scoring system with a limited amount of data to start thinking about the attributes of the information that I worked with.
3. Present an essay based on the mockup that explores the various attributes of files and the appropriateness of the three terms "Searcheable, Transferable, Archivable."
STAR was born out of my frustration with college textbooks in their various forms.
- Most of my professors assigned physical textbooks, on which I was unable to perform computer-aided searches unless their contents were also available in a publicly available repository such as Google Books, which happened rarely. Some professors assigned electronic textbooks (either ones of their own devising, or from distributors such as McGraw Hill), but those that I worked with had horrible search support. They also worked on the basis of timed-subscriptions which made them un-archivable from a consumer viewpoint.
- HTML sources such as Wikipedia were searchable and transferable, but their archivability was hampered by the lack of a standardized versioning system, in an environment where data changes constantly.
In 2013, I added "Redundant" to this list, with the rise of Dropbox and other services, the thought that your information resides in any single place became worrying. However, the weak point of these systems is still archivability: full, human-readable journaling is even more important in collaborative environments where people have 'delete' access.
| Searcheable|| Transferable|| Archivable|| Redundant|
| Physical Textbooks||X|
| ?|| √|| X|
| Electronic Textbooks|| X|| X|| X|| Maybe|
| HTML Sources (such as Wikipedia)|| √|| √|| √ With caveats: no standard versioning system for archiving data that changes on a daily basis. || It Depends. |
| Google Books|| √|| X|| √ X - As long as you had an internet connection with an appropriate IP address, everything was archived for you. || Yes (See why) |
§2 Egregious Bacronyms.
2.1 STAR for Textbooks: Searchable, Transformable, Annotatable, and Readable
- Searchable: The ability to do automated searches for phrases within texts is a larger topic than I can do justice to at the moment.
- Transformable: Able to cut, copy, paste; apply emphasis (bold, italic, etc.), and otherwise manipulate the text to aid in readability and recall.
- Annotatable: Ability to add comments, diagrams, extra titles, hyperlink, and otherwise add information to the document in ways that go beyond transforming above.
- Readable: There's a STAR critera for readability all ready for you: see below.
2.2 STAR for Readability: Signposted, Titled, Arranged (Organized), and Relational (Linked)
- Signposting is not just about phrases: It is about appropriate structural cues which include titling, emphasis, highlighting, font, and layout to aid fast scanning of a document for content.
- Titled: Proper use of titling allows fast scanning and allows the reader to get to exactly the place they need to be to obtain the information they want.
- A brilliant example of titling can be found in the imperative language that can be found in the Handbook of Principles of Organizational Behavior (check out the table of contents).
- Wikipedia articles also frequently contain great examples of this.
- Organization means logical flows and discrete elements, with a minimum number of elements that loop back on themselves (unless the work is primarily aesthetic rather than informational).
- Relational: Hyperlinking is the single most powerful tool that has arisen from the information age. With it, one can link to the specific definition that they want to get across, a disambiguation page, a movie; almost anything. They have an unmatched ability to bring context to a situation, when used in accordance to a logical and intuitive set of guidelines.