When I started writing README files several years ago, it was to explain the contents of my computer to my power of attorney and executor.
As I went along I found them to be a good impulse to re-organize my computer for myself. Because if I couldn’t explain my computer files to myself how could it make sense to anyone else?
Financial records, legal files, health notes and contact information are the places, in particular, where ‘real’ life and computer life bleed together. Since I don’t favor the option of printing it all back to paper, what’s on my computer is as much a part of my home and my life as anything else.
Who, besides you, knows what’s on your computer and why? As anyone who’s been married for 40+ years can tell you, no-one knows everything about you; not even your spouse.
So I started by writing to a real person but this works just as well if you pretend. Because in the end, barring a meteor strike, someone is going to be there. And something is going to happen to your computer files.
My README files follow the same 12-folder division as everything else on my computer; main folders, bookmarks, passwords, (KeePass) calendar, address books, email, blog subscriptions, 0.Inbox & ActionOutline.
Some of the 12 sections have more than one README. FINANCES, for instance, has four because it’s complicated. PERSONAL has five. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you write it down and make it accessible to the right person.
As I go around my 12-day cycle of computer work, I make a review of the README’s in each section. Things change fast.
Writing them initially is hard work because you have to think. A lot. But if you start with something, the rest will follow in time. Updating them is easier.