April 17, 2005 | Category:

Order, Part 1: CD Collections

What is it about the need to put things in a particular way? What is it that drives us to achieve order? In this series, I probably won’t attempt to answer these questions but I’ll look at some examples and ask some more questions.

First up, how do you order your CD collection? If you look at a given set of CDs in someones house they have order. This has a very obvious purpose: lookup. If CDs aren’t in a fairly predictable order, finding something becomes tricky.

Originally, I had a single rack for my CDs. Alphabetically ordered by artist, sub-ordered by release. The standard method. Easy look-up, and can listen to an artist progressively. This was fine until multiple racks were necessary to accomodate my growing collection. At a rack change, should one start with a new letter or overflow? Also, adding new CDS got to be a problem. Everything after the position had to be moved down somewhat. If we assume an even spread of artists over letters, that’s half of your collection moving every time. Not fun.

The first and most naive solution is to place new CDS into a separate pile and then periodically insert them all. This takes less time over all, but is a royal pain in the arse and is the sort of thing that is procrastinated over endlessly.

Another solution is to introduce buffering space after each letter. This means that only CDs in the section in question need to be moved. This has two problems. Firstly, slack space. No-one likes having empty slots everywhere. Secondly, it still needs a periodic move around. Not perfect, but getting better.

For some reason, I then started separating by genre. One rack had CDs from a particular (and very broad genre) while a different rack would contain another. This did make finding CDs much quicker.

For a good while now, they’ve been arranged by association. The racks form an essentially 2D space (depth doesn’t really matter), and CDS are placed into the racking such that bands are grouped with bands that are somehow connected. These connections are loose. Some sound similar, others supported each other, some just seem right. This works remarkably well for me. Knowing where the single band used to form the origin are, I can place my hand onto the racks within 2 CDs of the one I was looking for (which itself is easily within eye range). It also makes mood based browsing exceptionally easy, just pick an area and move. CD insertion also seems to work fairly well as bands tend to release albums every 2 years and the local space around them changes fairly well.

Problems? Periodic changes are needed (less frequently I find, because finding new music tends to branch outward) and are a pain. Also, some people who approached particular bands from different routes from me find it difficult to pick anything out.

Obsessive? Perhaps. Just helps to have an order that works for me. Anyone got any better ideas?