Monday, October 15, 2007

Paper Burns, But Doesn't Crash

Mallary Jean Tenore wrote an article for Poynter about how she prefers paper, despite her reliance on the internetted world. My first thought was, "eh, it's going to just talk about paper, and nothing about the use of the paper," but she does, addressing that paper has its values and yet periodicals aren't using in an appropriate way for today's networked life. Tangibility, the thing I believe is the reason paper will stay around forever, isn't being used well when newspapers focus on the ephemeral aspect of their news. News that's here and then gone is something the internet does well; take a look at what paper does well and emphasize that. The newsing might have to change, but the medium will not.

I'll note that her 'pros' for paper, Tailorability and Manipulability, are two reasons I ignored a process my managerial predecessor at work hoped I'd continue. Employees used to write down their daily work on sheets, and when a sheet was full they'd turn it in to the manager, who's keeping track of productivity. The previous manager was working on an internet-based system, where users would log-in, enter their start-times and end-times, and fill in the amount of work they did.

From evaluating the previous paper-sheets, I knew the online version would only cause problems: tasks can't always be identified by a start time, an end time, and the production numbers. Things like 'checking for errors' and 'sorting things in numerical order' don't fit into the standard -- and what about unused time like a broken-down machine? To properly evaluate productivity, those odd notes were more useful than the regular statistics -- and most of the time I can get that data off the server anyway. Rather than going 'high-tech' to get rid of the annoyance of paper forms, I redesigned the paper forms to something more useful -- more room for comments, limited each sheet to one week at a time so that it's easy to find a particular date, and giving training on how to use the sheet. If I want to compare productivity, I can lay out all the sheets on my desk, lining up the days of the week, and see how the work lines up. This sort of stuff isn't done easily with a computer program.

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Blogger Mallary said...

Glad you read the article and felt compelled enough to blog about it. Paper is pretty powerful when you stop and think about it.

Happy blogging,

11:23 PM  

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