16 February 2012

Cyberspace February 2012 Cyberspace February 2012

Save the trees
Sick of photocopying trolleys of paper for subpoenas to produce? The Supreme Court has issued Practice Note No. SC Gen 18, which commenced on 3 January 2012. It notes that under the UCPR it is possible to produce scanned copies rather than photocopies, as well as copies of electronic documents on disc. Since scanning is physically a similar task to photocopying there should be some savings available.

However, scanned files (the Court suggests PDFs, but the format must be acceptable to the issuing party) need to be named. These might be automatically named by the scanner, but these names are usually fairly arbitrary. The alternative is to check and rename them, which also takes time. At least with photocopies you put them through the machine and you’re done with them.

When producing the documents you can provide them on DVD, CD or a USB device, or even email them to the registry with a scanned copy of the subpoena. This might be very useful where timeframes are short.

The Court also suggests that it is sufficient to produce emails as PDFs. Unfortunately this inherently removes a lot of the meta data from the emails, and it doesn’t satisfactorily deal with attachments. You probably want to specify to the producer that emails should be produced in native form, such as a Microsoft pst file or a Lotus Notes database. Where emails are in other forms, such as Gmail or Hotmail there exist export functions to achieve a similar result.

Documents that are printed to PDF are generally able to be searched by full text tools or using the Find function in your PDF reader. However, documents scanned to PDF require further work before this is possible, and the accuracy of the conversion depends on the quality of the scan. Still, it’s usually better than a pile of paper.

To gain access to the produced material you must provide to the registry blank optical media or a USB device. A one terabyte 2.5” external hard disc can be purchased for $120 these days, and that will hold at least a million of documents. If the volume of informaiton is limited then the registry may simply email you the produced documents.

No internal emails
Atos (http://atos.net) is an IT service company with 74,000 employees and revenues of €8.6B. It recently announced that “Atos' aim is to eradicate all emails between Atos employees by using improved communication applications as well as new collaboration and social media tools.” No more internal emails.

I’m old enough to have received paper memos and distribution group memos that you read, initialled, and passed on. You didn’t receive a lot of them, and when you did they were usually worthwhile. Internal email, of course, is now a different proposition, although it still has great value.

Atos says that “The focus of Atos is to adopt innovative social business solutions in the workplace to bridge the “social business” gap. Built on collaborative technology these solutions provide a more personal, more immediate and importantly more cost effective means to manage and share information ... and enables the Smart Organization... it is encouraging the use of tools such as Office Communicator and has set up social community platforms to share and keep track of ideas on subjects from innovation and Lean Management through to sales. Initial feedback is that these types of tools reduce email by between 10 and 20% immediately.”

This has generated a lot of conversation in the informaiton community, and while I don’t think it’s appropriate to remove email altogether, I have to agree with the Gartner statement: “Email doesn’t erode productivity and encroaches work into our personal lives, bureaucracy does.”