Filenaming Conventions and Knowledge Sharing

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the high flown theory and rhetoric of knowledge sharing, we forget the mundane, almost mechanical ways in which we can enhance it.

At a meeting last week, I was asked if I knew of anyone who had successfully implemented filenaming conventions across their organisation. This agency was interested because they wanted to improve the consistency with which documents are named and stored for common use, thereby improving visibility, access and sharing.

Getting started with a filenaming convention

To support such goals, filenames need to be transparent, meaningful, user-friendly and consistent. This ensures that anyone who reviews a filename should immediately be able to form an accurate expectation about the content of the document.

Transparent means that the words in the filename accurately summarise the content of the document using language in common use.
Meaningful means that the words used in the filename usefully distinguish the content of this document from other documents.
User-friendly means that the filename is easy to read and understand in relation to other filenames in a list, when it is presented in an on-screen window.
Consistent means that similar principles of filenaming are used by all document creators in a department, so that users do not have to interpret different conventions for the same collection of documents.

These principles, by the way, also apply to folder-naming conventions in a traditional folder structure – although with folders, because you are describing collections of content, you are more likely to need a standard taxonomy to provide you with standardised subject-related terms.

Some time back, I wrote a list of high level guidelines for how to approach establishing a common filenaming convention: