Please don't print this weeknote


I asked a question in a meeting a few days ago. "What if we just banned Civil Servants from printing anything?"

To be clear, this wasn't an entirely serious proposal. But it's how I like to frame a discussion about available option when making a decision:

  1. Can we just stop doing this thing?
  2. What if we don't change anything?
  3. Option 1...
  4. Option 2...
  5. ...

We can't ban printers. Some people like printing (who knew‽) and some people even need to print. But it helps us to understand user-needs by asking what would happen if you took away the thing you're talking about.

That turned into a productive session on what needs we could fulfil, and which ones we couldn't. Whether eliminating printing was an inevitability and, if so, on what timescales. What do users want from printing that they don't already get - and how complicated standards in the space are.

We decided not to throw out all the printers - you'll be pleased to know.

PDF Stats

The sorry state of PDF usability continues to dog me. Again, I do understand some of the desire to have a "print ready" copy. But most of the user-needs turn out to be myths:

  • Users can't edit a PDF after publishing. MYTH!
  • It's easy to do a diff between two PDFs. MYTH!
  • Blind people don't want to read what we publish. MYTH!
  • Interactive PDFs work everywhere. MYTH!
  • People love PDFs. Hmmm jury's out on that one.

Hopefully next week I can post some proper stats on how many open-format documents are uploaded each week but, sad to say, PDF still dominates.

Is this a losing battle?

Reading List

What books I've read this week. Affiliate links ahead.

Fiction

  • The Atrocity Archives: Book 1 in The Laundry Files - Charles Stross
    • I met Stross in a crypt in London several years ago. He was unknown to me as an author, so I brashly asked him what he'd written. He politely told me "quite a lot" and he suggested I start with Halting State. I've been a fan ever since.
      I picked up The Atrocity Archives because it was a quid on Amazon - and I wish I'd read it sooner. Deliciously demonic, BOFH meets Alien. Sure, the computing references are a bit dated now - but that just gives me a huge nostalgia kick. Fab.

Non-Fiction

  • How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran
    • I got halfway through reading this before I remembered that I'd read it before. According to my tweet, I read it in conjunction with a different Stross book. What unlikely bedfellows!

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