– a tool to aid blinded analysis in a lab setting

I made a tiny contribution to science this morning – a friend in neuroscience lamented that she couldn’t find any tools to automate the process of renaming a set of images for blinded analysis, so I made one.

TL;DR on what it does: you feed it a folder full of files, and it renames them all to random names while preserving their original extensions (such as .tif, .lsm, .jpeg, etc). While doing so, it creates a keyfile.csv which ties the original filename to the new, randomized filename – so that you can open up keyfile.csv in Excel, LibreOffice Calc, etc after your blind analysis is done and associate your blind results with your original data.

It’s reasonably smart and cautious – it refuses to run as root, won’t mess with dotfiles or subdirectories, won’t traverse subdirectories, won’t let you accidentally randomize the same folder twice, and spits out human-readable errors if things go wrong.

This is what it looks like in operation:

me@banshee:~$ ls -l /tmp/test
total 24
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 1.tif
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 2.tif
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 3.tif
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 4.tif
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 5
drwxrwxr-x 2 me me 4096 Oct 14 12:56 subdir

me@banshee:~$ /tmp/test
Renaming: 1.tif... 2.tif... 3.tif... 4.tif... 5...
5 files successfully blind renamed; keyfile saved to /tmp/test/keyfile.csv.

me@banshee:~$ ls -l /tmp/test
total 28
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 B4LOz.tif
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 Ek76e.tif
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 kdVFM.tif
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 131 Oct 14 14:02 keyfile.csv
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 Oklr1
drwxrwxr-x 2 me me 4096 Oct 14 12:56 subdir
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 2 Oct 14 13:44 wsy7e.tif

me@banshee:~$ cat /tmp/test/keyfile.csv
"Original Filename","Cloaked Filename"

There are no dependencies other than Perl itself, and the script is licensed GPLv3 – free for all to use, as in beer and as in speech. I hope this helps somebody (else); this task has got to come up frequently enough in all sorts of labwork that a free tool should be easy to find!

Future science workers: if this helped you and you’re feeling grateful, the EFF can always use a donation, whether large, small, or micro. =)

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Jim Salter

Mercenary sysadmin, open source advocate, and frotzer of the jim-jam.

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