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Trip down Digital Asset Management Memory Lane

Earlier this week, Eye of GNOME dev Frederico Mena Quintero blogged about EOG and image management. I think EOG is great and all, but the best part of the post was that he reminded me of the now-defunct CompuPic, a pro-level (sort of) photo management app that for a brief period of time a few years ago was available for Linux.

It’s gone now, of course. But it was fun while it lasted. Ironically, the worst part was parenthetically attached to the same paragraph, in which he matter-of-factly said that these days everyone agrees that F-Spot is the bee’s knees of image management. Well, that’s just not true.

F-Spot is barely more useful than the back of a sticky note when it comes to managing your images. Image management for grown-ups is about the image metadata, and the only metadata that F-Spot thinks about are tags. Yikes.

Tags are a Web2.0 fad (hopefully soon to die in obscurity!) that have the unique distinction of growing less and less useful the more you use them. They don’t scale, they have zero context, and they’re all nonhierarchically equivalent.

Could you manage your digital music collection solely by creation date and tags? Not hardly.

I’ve worked as a photographer in two different contexts: in-house and freelance. Pros manage their photos with metadata-aware, smart tools like Extensis Portfolio and ACDSee. If you think that home users don’t have the same needs as pros, look forward one year. A year from now you’ll have twice as many images to keep track of as you have today. Pros’ problems are the same as home users’ problems, just a few years (or even months) ahead.

The frustrating thing is that there aren’t any Linux apps that intelligently manage photos. For a while there was imgSeek, but development of it seems to have stopped. What I’d really like to know is how hard-core Blender users do their digital asset management — it’s much the same as photos; different metadata in part of course. What do the troopers behind Elephant’s Dream and Peach use to keep track of the countless 3-D blends?

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