Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Jumpstart Tip #5 - Name Files Carefully When Sharing Online

Mary Phelan, Waterbury CT

We all likely recall the story of Hansel and Gretel who left breadcrumbs to mark their trail. Well, in this age of Google and other search engines (yes, there are a few others), we can learn a thing or two from that childhood story.

You see, on the Internet, keywords are the name of the game. Search engines 'crawl' web pages searching for words and phrases, scoring various elements of the page for their relevancy based on those terms. Then one day, a user comes along with a query and - Presto - the search engine responds with precisely what they are looking for. BUT, where does all that content come from to begin with?

If you have a blog or family website or are submitting photos, articles, or other documents online to be viewed and shared by others - be sure you are leaving a careful trail of breadcrumbs back to your door. Here's what I mean.

Digital photos and scanners are wonderful tools and now very low cost, therefore enabling just about anyone with a computer to convert photos and documents into a digital image (this is referred to as 'digitization'). You may have already done this. Perhaps you've scanned entire batches of your family photos for safe keeping, preservation, and sharing. Now I want to ask - how did you name those files? The scanner may offer to name them for you and will result in files named scan001.jpg, scan002.jpg, scan003.jpg - that's a problem. When was the last time you searched the web hoping to find someone with the surname scan001? In fact, I just did a quick Google search while writing this tip and found more than 10,000 images named 'scan001.jpg' so that's not going to help much.

You should go back and rename your files. If just one person, then I suggest leading with surname then lastname. Example using my grandfather's name, call the file lynch_patrick_1945.jpg or lynch_patrick_connecticut.jpg or something similar. Use either an underscore (_) or a dash (-) to separate words so that search engines will be able to index the file and ultimately connect future searchers back to you and your photo.

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