Alphabetical order is obsolete

I love the alphabet and the fact that it has an order. There’s no reason for the order of the letters, but there you go.

With computers, though, alphabetical order is almost always a bad idea, even chronological order doesn’t work perfectly.

Example: When I look through my spam folder, I shouldn’t see the notes in chrono order or alphabetical by sender (with AAAA’ going first…). No, I should see the notes in order of least likely to be spam to most likely. Right? (book tip: Everything is Miscellaneous).

Example: When I do a search in Google images, I want them sorted by relevance and then, within that, by size. Bigger is better.

Bookstores really don’t have much choice. They need to alphabetize the books so you’ll know that you’ll find me in the Gs, near Malcolm Gladwell. But Amazon has no business using the alphabet, because almost any other ordering technique makes more sense.

Going to alpha by default is lazy and ineffective and expensive.

Why does my Sonos make me start browsing my music collection with Abba? (Phew, I don’t have any Abba, but you get the idea). Wouldn’t it make more sense to show me, "music you haven’t heard lately that’s similar to music you’ve been listening to" first?

Your address book is in alphabetical order, right? Why? If you want to look someone up, type the name in. Alpha is least useful way to browse 4,000 names in an address book. I want them sorted by recency of contact, or in tickler-file order.

If I knew that lists of blogs in blog readers would be in alpha, I would have changed my name.

Your data files, your product catalog… none of it should be in alphabetical order.

The one exception is the name of ski slopes. Ski slopes should go from A to Z, left to right, as you look at the mountain. If someone says, "I’ll meet you at the top of Montego Bay," you know where that is without looking at a map. And, by the way, the difficulty of each slope could be coded into the name. Cities could be easiest, animals could be blues, and the most difficult slopes could be named after disgraced politicians….

Don’t get me started.