Set Management

Continuing our discussion from the other day, let’s look at another specialized, specific organization method: set management. Set management, for our purposes, refers to metadata designed to keep related nonlinear material related and findable.  Set management is a bit more difficult to nail down because it can be a bit nebulous.

Set management can be a hybrid of organization structures. For example,  hierarchical structure could dictate the shape of the broadest organization levels, but within each level the components could take on a sequential order (Dead Bunny’s playlists). Or they could be sequential at the broadest level, with a hierarchical organization within each step in the sequence. (Some curriculum is designed this way so deeper exploration of topics are possible where time and resources permit.)

I personally use set management to keep my research and writing materials organized. I use broad topical structures, and then organize material by type, or by sequence as the material calls for it. Character and setting sheets are organized by type and proximity to other characters and settings. Stories are organized by where and when they take place in the story world’s history. If I tried to implement a single organization type, I’d go insane. (I also implement this organization pattern across all the components of my digital workspace, so keeping the same tags and patterns all the way across makes my work run more smoothly.)

So, when is set management useful? If the material doesn’t fit easily into a hierarchical system because the components are at about the same organizational level, you should consider a set management pattern. If the material can be accessed in any order (making it unsuitable for a serial pattern), then you’re probably better off using a set management pattern. If the material is spread out across different platforms and storage solutions, a consistently implemented set management pattern can go a long way toward making that work.

The most important thing I want you to take away, not only from this post, but from this month, is that you need to choose an information management pattern that best serves the content being stored and that allows you to work with minimal disruption.


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