A while back, a friend of mine had the idea to put all his DVDs into a database so he could keep track of them, let his friends know what he had to borrow, and keep track of who had borrowed what. A noble idea, the project eventually collapsed under its own weight.

In the meantime, it had sparked an idea of my own that was a bit more grandiose, and therefore collapsed under its own weight even faster. In my case, it was also the realization of some problems that I’ve never been able to reconcile.

My project was a database of magazine articles. Between the three of us here (at that point), we have a fairly good library of reference materials. And it’d be nice to spread the wealth around. Locating a particular book is not too hard. But, I also have magazines with articles on various interesting subjects. How (even for my own purposes) do I find what I want in those?

As a good example, I have a good number of National Geographics. When Smudge or Baron want reference to, say, cheetahs, it’s nearly impossible to find the right one, even when we know we all read an issue featuring them relatively recently.

So, the original idea was to record each article, with the magazine and issue number, and for sorting purposes, a general category (history, astronomy, nature…) and a short specific description of the subject matter, equivalent to what you see on the spine of a Nat Geo.

Not a bad idea, as far as it went, but too limited to be a great search tool. Part of the idea was to make it easy to fill in the data and thereby make it possible that the project could be competed. But some articles defied an easy description, and some things that a person might want to find, may not just live in obvious subjects. If National Geographic does an article on the African savanna, and there’s there’s some really good photos of elephants in it, when Baron wants photo reference, he won’t see the article it if he looks for elephants in the database.

I suppose a list of keywords might be better. In a way, what I want to do is create a card catalog for magazine articles.

Actually, what I really want is a magical way for someone to find information on a subject if the household’s combined library has anything on it (yes, that includes the books). @_@ There’s a lot of stuff in there, and I’d like it to be more visible.

So, I’m pondering the subject again, and wondering if anyone has any bright ideas.