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Naming Conventions

posted Feb 17, 2009, 11:45 PM by Eddie Woo   [ updated Feb 18, 2009, 2:41 AM ]
Note: Despite the fact that this post is enormously relevant to the IPT course and the development of the school intranet, it's essentially a rant born out of frustration. So read on at your own peril. 8-)

"Convention" is a pretty old-fashioned word that means standard, agreed-upon or common form. It's how you describe things that are pretty much the same everywhere - for instance, street names all over the world are made up of a number (e.g. 17), a name (e.g. Felton, Baker), and a type of street (e.g. road, street, avenue, crescent). Naming conventions are very useful when you have a large number of otherwise very similar entities that need to be described in a (relatively) unique way.

It's a very, very good practice to have helpful naming conventions, and to use them consistently. Whether it's the MP3s on your computer, the exercise books in your school bag, or the saved games for your favourite RPG, it's sensible and good for your sanity to decide on a consistent way of naming your files so that you can instantly tell what they are just by glancing at them. Compared to naming your songs "awesome.mp3", "great_song.mp3" and "this_rawks.mp3", something like "closer_michaelpaynter.mp3" is definitely a better option.

The reason why this is on my mind is because I spent the better part of this afternoon uploading materials onto the intranet that suffered from a bad naming convention. As best as I could tell, there really was no naming convention. For my IPT class: think of it as a table of records, except every record had completely different fields. (I realise technically that means they couldn't inhabit the same table. Just humour me for now.) I probably spent about two-thirds of my time working out which documents were which, then renaming them to something more useful before uploading them for the general public. It was infuriating! 

So don't do it. Please. Put some time and thought into what you're going to name your directories and files - especially if there are (a) a lot of them and (b) a lot of people who are going to look through them. It will save many headaches in the future!