In a comment to my ranting about the evils of PDF, Dave makes a couple of good points, one about the way people approach working on screen vs. on paper, and another about the whole issue of saving paper.
First, he recalls a very useful way to distinguish between the way people approach working on screen vs. on paper.
[Digital] natives start with an all-digital process and incorporate analog processes as necessary. An immigrant starts with an all analog process and incorporates digital processes as necessary.
As much as I dislike the whole natives vs. immigrant metaphor, I like this analogy. It really is all about a mind set that sees digital solutions before analog ones.
And then Dave challenges the whole idea of reduced paper use as having a big impact.
He’s probably right that the money saved is relatively small and that there are many other products that have a much bigger environmental impact.
But I’m still going to push it. Let’s just consider saving paper as a relatively easy gateway into getting people to make other much more important reductions.
BTW, Dave, when are you going to start your own blog? :-)
There are two sides involved in communication, the author and the audience. So it’s not just the author’s desire to do things one way or another. It should be done with some thought about how the person on the other end will be most comfortable. Digital is not always the answer, or necessarily better. It’s what communicates your message best.
PDF is mostly used not because the output is paper, but because the output is controllable. You can format a document and be sure that it’s seen EXACTLY as you intended it, whether it’s printed or on screen. For something that depends heavily on layout or graphics, it’s likely the only solution. Even highly designed web pages show up differently on every browser and screen resolution.
That said, a Word doc with no formatting attached to an email is dumb. It’s likely going to end up in the spam folder anyway, so think of the paper saved there!
Sylvia: You’re right that we must always take our audience into consideration to successfully communicate. However, I think there comes a point where you need to push people to move outside of their comfort zone in order to improve the communications process.
An example is when we decided to stop posting agendas, meeting notes, and other documents in pdf for our trainers and put all of it and more in a wiki. It’s taken two years and a declining amount of whining but we have a better communications system that is no longer primarily one way.