The first J.D system
15th February 2021 | #new-system
This post will describe the production of a new J.D system – in fact, the first ever J.D system.
Ten or so years ago a few friends and I produced a contemporary dance production – Graeme Murphy’s Suite Synergy. I’d quit my job working IT for a major bank, we had a really cool office in Fitzroy which we rented from a startup Tequila company, and my brain was full of ideas. (Tequila helps.)
One of the things I’ve always hated about Windows is the ugly way that people print the path to a document. You’ve seen it:
c:\mydocu~1\suite-synergy\files\ticket-prices\melbourne.doc. It’s monstrous, and I was having none of it.
Dropbox had just come along. Having a shared folder structure on a bunch of different Macs connected by nothing but a wifi network was unbelievable, but of course now you have to figure out where everyone has saved all of the stuff. With a small team, all ridiculously busy, we couldn’t afford to be disorganised.
I’ve always had an organised mind. I used to code tiny database software on my beloved ZX Spectrum+ so I could track the contents of my room. I was ten years old.
The idea itself – the structure, with the numbers – was just there in my brain. I don’t remember ever sitting and giving it any deep thought.
Many of the advantages only became apparent later: reading someone a number to tell them where a thing is, for example. Much easier just to tell someone “forty-one oh three” over the phone than trying to walk them through a file structure. (Those examples aren’t theoretical – I use them, all the time.)
The Suite Synergy system
I’ll give you the whole thing first, and go in to some detail after. Note that this doesn’t show all of the IDs in the system – that’d be massive. I’ve included some as examples, or where they show an interesting aspect of the system.
(By the way, I’m still playing with the formatting of this J.D box. I’ve added highlighting to the IDs – what do you think?)
Looking back on that ten years later, I’m actually amazed at how good the first system was.
Most interesting is my use of consistent numbers to refer to the same physical site, and the re-use of numbers within folders to create consistency once more.
All we’re doing here is standardising numbers, but if you have data that repeats like this, it’s worth doing. Similarly, we repeat IDs within a category where we can:
There’s a whole blog post to be written on this technique, it can be really powerful.
Number the things that you stick on the wall
So, now we have an alternative to the hideous Windows file path.
- Don’t use Windows. ;-)
- Rather than a long file path, just put
41.14in the footer. Now everyone knows where the file is when they need to update it1.
1. I think we changed the ticket price a hundred times. It's a really hard decision.
Funnily enough, a decade later and I could still have told you that
41 was the category for the Melbourne shows. Your brain remembers this stuff more than you think.