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🌲 The Value of Consistent Naming Conventions

Naming conventions are a key organizational method — and I don't just mean numbers or unusual symbols like ! and }.

Eleanor Konik
Written by Eleanor Konik

I write stories & articles inspired by all eras of history & science... so I wind up putting notetaking software like Obsidian & Readwise thru their paces.

5 min read.
street signs reading "elm" and "walnut"

Naming conventions are critical to my organizational methods, not just because they help keep things in their proper order, but because they telegraph a file's content before I open it. They don't come up often, which is a shame — because in some ways they're as much a cornerstone of personal knowledge management as links, tags, folders, or metadata.

As much as I love folders (and I do love folders!) they're just one tool in my toolbox. Naming conventions are one of the ones I don't talk about as much, mostly because they don't come up in conversation very much — but maybe that means people aren't leveraging them as much as they could be.

There are a couple of different ways to leverage naming conventions for organizing files. I'm less interested in organizing for organization's sake, though. I care about maximizing the amount of information I can get at a glance. That means avoiding exclusively timestamp-based unique filename methods like advocated by some folks in the Zettelkasten community — unless the idea of naming a file makes you completely freeze up, in which case, go ahead. At least a timestamp will sort your files in order and put them together with other things you were thinking about at the time.

But I do believe that you'll be missing out on a valuable tool for sensemaking. For example:

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