Question 352 of 365: What is a preview worth?

Question 352 of 365: What is a preview worth?

I am the type of person that likes getting to a movie at least thirty minutes before it is scheduled to start. I do this in order to make absolutely sure that I will not miss the coming attractions before the feature film. Previews get me more excited for watching movies than I would otherwise be having just rushed in to the theater and finding a seat at the last minute. I become giddy with anticipation for the next installment of the Harry Potter series or for the next film with Ethan Hawke or Ellen Paige. I know that most of the previews will make the films out to be better than they really are, but I don’t so much care for the two minutes that they have me careening off of the sides of buildings or explaining how apacolyptic the world has just become. There is something about the moments between the introduction of an idea and the realization of that idea that are so satisfying.

I think that is why I love the space bar so much on a mac. Whenever I select a file on my hard drive, I press the space bar and I am treated to a preview of whatever that file is. I listen to snippets of songs, take a quick glance at presentations, or just see a few images that have no title information. I get to see them before having to do anything other than pressing the biggest key on my keyboard. It is a small pleasure, but these previews save me huge amounts of time and frustration as I am trying to either be productive (or unproductive in the case of renaming movie and music files).

Previews are visual. They are ways for me to see through a wall, to know what is on the other side without having to scale it. They let me judge things quickly and organize them in my head. Previews allow me to make decisions. I don’t have to know everything to see what is important. I don’t have to waste my time with the things that don’t matter. I can see what works and what is broken.

Everything that I have collected at some point becomes obsolete, but there has never been a very good way for me to purge information, files, links and memorabilia. I usually have to set aside huge chunks of time to go through each item, whether that is a physical piece of paper or link to a website I bookmarked 5 years ago. Because I have collected it all, all of it is subject to obsolescence. And that is why I need a preview for all of it. I need to be able to look at a box and see which of the contents are actually worth keeping around. In essence, I want a space bar for my stuff. I want a coming attractions for all of the things that need sequels in my life.

A new service that I am using, Zootool, is doing this for all of my links. Since my import of all of my bookmarks (from Delicious), this tool has been generating a preview for each of my 2500 links. It has been doing the work of trying to find out what is important and what isn’t, what is broken and what works. Now, at a glance I can look at all of my links and see which ones have returned as an screenshot error. I can also see whether the categories that I had originally labeled them with still measure up. This may not be a revolution, but it is the preview that I have needed for years.

Lists are incredibly handy. They are efficient and they are purposeful. They allow me to collect and maintain the things that are important. But, they can never alert me to obsolescence or to being broken. Only through previews can I actually “see” what is going on. Only by making the things I have collected more visual am I able to organize things according to anything other than topic. I can sort them by reusability, theme, or even color.

Previews are valuable because they let us see what we saw in our collections originally. They bring back everything that we used to know about these things we once held dear. They remind us of were we are going, and what we should be excited about.

They are worth getting somewhere early just to see them.

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  1. I own hundreds of books. Really. Hundreds.
    Many of them are on a shelf in my bedroom. Many more are on shelves in my classroom. Still more, from my childhood and adolescence, are in a storage space in Illinois.
    This is all to say, I have many books.
    I’m not entirely certain why I have them still.
    A few of the best books from my youth I’ll keep around for my kids.
    Some of those that have shaped my thinking, I keep to flip through from time to time or lone to a friend who obviously “needs” to read it.
    Still, my real-world delicious services sit providing me with the spinal or cover previews of the knowledge these books contain, and I can’t think of a utilitarian reason to keep them around.
    I could donate them, give them away to those with fewer books. But that won’t cut it.
    It’s the same reason I will likely use ZooTool or some other Johnny-Come-Lately to replace delicious.
    I may not click through to a saved page or pick up a shelved book for over a year, but I like knowing I can browse at will without having to go purchase, check out, search or download.

    1. We just reorganized all of the books in our house yesterday. We pulled the
      subset of books downstairs that would be high interest, but I found myself
      making a case for nearly every book as “high interest”. I’m not sure that I
      will ever get over the possession of books. Once I have read them or
      purchased them or been given them, they are mine and there isn’t anything
      that will cause me to give them up. The ability to actually use a finite
      (but enormous) amount of words as decoration and reference is too much to
      want to hide or give away.

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