Import/Export Literacy?

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I know we probably don't need a new literacy, but today I've been contemplating the task of possibly transferring large repository of links into del.icio.us. I could hand-enter the links, but the repository does number in the thousands (in other words, I don't think so).

The better choice is to batch import them - this will be faster and more accurate, and will save me from potential Carpal tunnel issues. Alas though any import/export will require me to delve into the mechanics of file format and tags more than is normally necessary.

According to the del.icio.us blog, there is an import tool, but it only works with the Netscape bookmark file format. This would be fine, but not all lists of bookmarks are stored in your browser. If you're like me, you may lists of links in all sorts of places like a list in a Word file, a spreadsheet, your blogroll or perhaps in a database backend

That doesn't phase me, because once I get a hold of the Netscape book format, I know I will be able to massage my list and get it to work, sooner or later.

It's this magical massage process that I would include in Import/Export literacy. Throughout my career, I've been presented with some large block of data that I've had to import into a database, reformat for Quark, extract for further calculation or reformat into a human-readable report. At this point I have to pull out a set of magic wands called:

  • Export or to comma/tab delimited file
  • Concatenate (add canned text)
  • Use text functions to extract portions of the data
  • Insert special characters such as ^p for hard return

Sound complicated? I admit it's not intuitive, but it's not rocket science either. I've met plenty of literature majors who have taught me the ropes in their careers as copy writers. If you're willing to take charge and not let that software app beat you, you can learn this....just like I've been able to learn how to switch from DVD view to Cable view.

There's been a laudable trend to simplify what everyday users have to know ("plug and play"), but I sometimes wonder if we are hiding so much that we are hobbling users. Hiding extensions, folders and XML files from users doesn't always help them understand what's going on.

Even a simple process like converting a Photoshop file to a GIF file is confusing if you don't realize there is such a thing as a file type (much less a file extension). It's true that you can accomplish quite a bit without ever seeing the backend of a file, but what you can achieve WITH knowing this is so much more.

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