The Friday Fillip: Files


Those four letters cover a surprising lot of ground. Even so, when you look in the OED at the base, or original, meanings of the nouns spelled that way , it’s not entirely easy to see which root sense evolved into the word that gets used a million times a day in law work. (No, you lay readers of Slaw. It’s not the “pick-pocket” meaning. Lawyer jokes file me the wrong way and are only told by files…) It’s the “thread” sense, of course: things you want to keep and order are strung along a thread — a file. Whence it’s been abstracted to essentially any container of documents, even a digital one now.

Speaking of which… I offer you today a massive digital container of such digital containers, one that will, I’m certain, point you away from work files as a good fillip should. FindFiles is a search engine that does just that: it indexes files (528 million of them) of all MIME types, whether they’re just hanging out there in directories or whether they’re compacted within archives, such as .zip or .gzip. This means that you can search for image, audio, video, feed, app, text, or epub files — but not standard HTML web pages. And you can do it with or without using file extensions.

The technique is that you search first and then refine; there’s no “advanced search” function. Thus a search for [lady gaga] produces 32,000 results; and at the top of the results page there are buttons offering to filter them by “text, document, audio, video, image, software, archive, geo-3d, mobile, misc”. (The geo-3d subcategory for [lady gaga] turns out to be empty. Cruel disappointment. Nevermind: the “misc” category produces 302 feeds and 1 md5 file, a skin for a Tumblr blog.)

Like its big sib, the web, this… file of internet objects offers a nearly endless supply of delights: the Scots Guards playing “dixieland” music, a video of driving through Bangkok on one of those three-wheelers, a photo of two proud-looking penguins, a PDF brochure on human rights in Ontario put out by a company that sells legal expense insurance… and on and on.

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