Keeping Track of Files
As your site matures, the amount of content will grow. And grow. And grow even more. You'll have to consider how you'll archive your material and how to best organize your long-term production to maximize efficiency.
Here are a few tips on how to keep track of this ever-increasing sand pile of material.
Standardize Your Input
In computer parlance, normalizing data (see database chapter) means making sure that your data is in the same format, ready to be sorted and compared. Apply this principle to incoming files, and you'll have a good start on keeping organized. Require all your writers to use the same word processing program, such as Microsoft Word, to submit stories. Have a short style guide - even if it's just a page long - that specifies how you like to receive submissions. Have a template (a blank document everyone uses to start a story) that has pre-defined styles and possibly even a toolbar with useful buttons specific to your operation that can help your writes write uniformly.
Standardize File Naming
If you've ever received e-mails from job applicants, notice that most applicants call their resume file "Resume.doc." For them it makes sense because they have only one resume. For you it's a filing disaster in the making. Establish up front how you'd like files to be named. Something like MONTHDAY-SUBJECT-LASTNAME.EXT (0812-resume-smith.txt, for example) gives you a lot of information in one quick glance.
Discourage ironic, sardonic or offensive file names. They may be cute or funny, but it's quite possible that the file name will end up online somehow, and that can be very embarrassing for your site.
Folder it Away
Keeping files in folders is a good idea once you've got more than just a few. Naming folders by category is often better than naming folders by date, simply because the date a file is modified is already attached. However, with an intense or very cyclical production schedule it may be preferable to keep all files pertaining to the next edition in one folder for easier referencing now and archiving later.
If you're gathering your files using a web content management system of some sort, there are a few other issues to be aware of.
Versioning is KeySooner or later, someone is going to delete or trim a story incorrectly and you'll need to "roll back" or revert to the original copy. Only the bigger CMS systems offer roll back capacity. If you aren't ready to spring for one of these systems, here are a few tips to help you in the meantime:
- Make an "original" of a writer's file and work off a copy.
- A file attached to an e-mail is usually a semi-permanent record - though some email applications will let you edit the attachment directly, others will automatically put you to work on a copy. Be sure you know which way your email application works before you start editing.
- A copy of a file sent to a Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail account is an excellent archive. The upside is that they're very likely to be accessible any time you need them. On the downside, they're not necessarily more secure than your local computer.
Why Not Wiki?
Another good system for editing and versioning data is a Wiki. While many have been put to use on public sites, there's no reason you couldn't use a Wiki for internal content development, too. A Wiki is easy to use, quick to set up, and a great way to encourage collaboration among peers. The software keeps a record of every previous version and who made changes; comparing and editing are remarkably fast and easy with a wiki.
As mentioned earlier, Google Docs is an excellent way to store and work on documents. Depending on your level of comfort with storing information off your computer and on the internet, Google Docs is a cheap way to establish real-time web-based collaboration needed for some projects.