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Housekeeping Technology

Keyword hell

mass of unnecessary keywordsI have spent a lot of time these past few months organizing my personal photo site at SmugMug. I made sure all the photos I wanted uploaded were uploaded; I created new Categories and Subcategories and moved galleries around; I did a bunch of captioning and keywording that I’d put off (with still more left to go).

Then I thought I’d organize my keywords to make my photos easier to browse. I knew I had some photos with the keyword “southcarolina” while others used “south carolina”, for example; I was able to go through and bulk change all of these to match each other.

keywords-130415In the process of doing this, though, I discovered something horrible.

You see, for as long as I’ve been taking photos, I’ve been renaming all my files to use a variation on the filename template of my first digital camera, the Olympus C3030 Zoom. This means photos taken today will have filenames like P04150001.jpg. I did this so I could easily view my photos locally and sort them on SmugMug in the order of my choosing–simply sorting by date taken doesn’t always work, especially with multiple photos from the same day but different cameras, or photos copied from someone else, or scanned files.

Some time back, SmugMug implemented a change that now causes keywords to be automatically generated from filenames. And ever since then, each of my photos has been tagged with an unnecessary keyword. This has resulted in a ludicrous list of keywords; I’ve made a screen capture of about one-fourth of it.

I’m not holding this against SmugMug; it seems like automated keywords would be useful for many people, and I am able to turn the feature off (and I did as soon as I realized what was happening). Unfortunately, though, this unique set of conditions has left me with a metric ass-ton of work.

You see, there is no way to manage many keywords globally at once–deleting, renaming and the like. You can manage single keywords at once, which is how I changed “southcarolina” to “south carolina” across my entire photo site. And you can of course manage keywords by gallery, which is how I assign them and edit them in the first place. But you can’t, say, select a group of keywords and hit a delete button.

What I can do is click on the keyword, which takes me to the photo, then click on the “See photo in original gallery” link. From there I can use the Caption / Keyword tool to edit all the keywords in that gallery.

However, even from that screen there is no way to delete keywords in bulk. I can’t use wildcards to find and replace or find and remove keywords. And though SmugMug has a “Remove Numeric” keyword option, it only works with keywords that are made up of all numbers, not alphanumeric keywords. So I must scroll through the entire gallery and manually delete the unnecessary keyword from each photo.

Take a look at the keyword screenshot again and try to imagine how much work this is going to be.

Actually, I can help you with the scope. I highlighted all the keywords and pasted them into Word to get a count.

There are 9,638 keywords, each of which applies to either a single or a small handful of photos.

Nine thousand, six hundred thirty-eight.

That’s nearly ten thousand keywords, with even more photos, scattered across hundreds of galleries.

Yeah, this is going to be fun.

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