PAWDOC: Requirements and Objectives

The 2001 paper reviewing the first 20 years of use of the PAWDOC system listed 23 requirements for a Personal Electronic Filing System and provided a status for each one.  The table below reproduces that listing and also provides an updated status for PAWDOC in 2019.

Requirement 2001 Status 2019 Status Notes
Requirements dictated by The Job
1. Cope with large amounts of material, some of which becomes redundant very quickly. Fully met Fully met
Requirements dictated by the physical environment in which the system is used
2.Cope with changing terminology Not met at all Not met at all This would require specific functionality in the Index.
3. Be capable of being operated in temporary and limited office accommodation. Partially met Fully met Not fully met because the whole collection is now digitised on the laptop; and scanners are found in most offices.
4. Be easily portable. Partially met Fully met Now fully met because laptops are now small and powerful, and have more than enough storage.
Requirements to support the information sources used
5. Handle hardcopy material in a very wide range of physical sizes and formats. Partially met Fully met Hardcopy that is too large, or too difficult to scan, can now be photographed with a mobile phone at sufficiently high resolution for it to be read on screen.
6. Handle documents containing coloured text, backgrounds, diagrams and pictures.  

Not met at all

 

Fully met Now fully met because modern scanners handle colour; and they have brightness and contrast settings which can be adjusted to be able to scan most document contents.
7. Record references to material in other people’s filing systems. Fully met Fully met
8. Manage information received via email and computer conferencing systems (including Lotus Notes). Partially met Fully met Now fully met because any file formats can be handled, and getting email content into such files is not the concern of the filing system.
9. Record references to material in remote systems such as Lotus Notes databases and web sites, and access those remote systems and retrieve the relevant information. Partially met Fully met HTML references are included in Filemaker Index entries, and can be opened by selecting them and right clicking which presents an ‘Open’ menu option.
Requirements to manage information that is created by the filing system owner
10. Handle handwritten text and diagrams on paper. Partially met Fully met Now fully met because modern scanners have brightness and contrast settings which can be adjusted to be able to scan most document contents.
11. Handle electronic files Fully met Fully met
Requirements to help cope with information and communication overload
12. Support the rapid organization of information before it has been dealt with. Not met at all Not met at all This would require special functionality in the filing system.
13. Make visible what information has to be dealt with and support the scheduling of dealing with it. Not met at all Not met at all This would require special functionality in the filing system.
14. Enable information to be filed very quickly. Fully met Fully met
Requirements to support information access
15. Enable information to be retrieved simply and quickly. Fully met Fully met
Requirements to support the reuse of information
16. Enable templates, best practice and other reusable material to be identified, retrieved and reused. Partially met Fully met This is now fully met because I now believe it is best addressed by including appropriate wording in the Index Title field.
17. Enable existing material to be copied and modified, and to be stored as new material. Fully met

 

Fully met

 

Requirements to support knowledge acquisition and development
18. Identify, store and retrieve the marks highlighting key text. Not met at all Not met at all This would require special functionality in the filing system.
19. Collect together all important points and present them as a coherent set of information  

Not met at all

 

Not met at all This would require special functionality in the filing system.
20. Enable the user to relate all important points together in such a way that concepts can be developed as new material is acquired. Not met at all Not met at all This would require special functionality in the filing system.
21. Assist the user to identify knowledge developments that are occurring and to choose what areas to focus on. Not met at all Not met at all This would require special functionality in the filing system.
Technology support
22. The technology must be cheap enough for an organization not to quibble over, and for individuals to buy for themselves. Partially met  

Fully met

 

This now fully met because costs of scanners have dropped; and IT has been established that a Document Management System is not required.
23. The technology must be reliable enough not to require expensive maintenance contracts or multiple one-off repairs. Partially met

 

Fully met

 

This is now fully met because the technology required is standard and now very reliable.

Two things are clear from the comparison of the status in 2001 and 2019: the technology for a personal electronic filing system has now become commonplace and relatively cheap; and, no developments have occurred to support the particular requirements of ‘coping with information and communication overload’, and of ‘supporting knowledge acquisition and development’. I believe the latter is probably true not just for the PAWDOC system but generally – I have not heard of any work going on in these areas.

The 2001 paper also described three objectives for the work:

  • To provide practical feedback to product developers, system designers, and other (potential) users regarding the real day-to-day requirements of individuals using personal electronic filing systems.
  • To establish an office document test set.
  • My own personal need to stay organised and efficient in my day-to-day work.

Of the three, only the final one – to keep myself organised – has been fully achieved.

Regarding the first objective, I have done my best to document my experiences and make that information freely available to product developers, system designers and other users, but I have seen no evidence to suggest much interest – it seems there is not a consumer-led demand for this capability. Certainly, I have come across very few people, if any, who have been operating an all-inclusive PAWDOC-type system without any direct contact with myself.

I believe the second objective – to establish on office document test set – has simply been overtaken by events; the huge strides made in search & retrieval algorithms by internet search engines such as Google over the last 30 years has simply removed the need for such test sets.

Over the last 15 years or so, two more potential objectives – or at least potential uses – have come to mind: first, as huge changes continue to occur as a result of ever-increasing computing power, the universality of the mobile phone, and the ubiquity of the internet, it has occurred to me that the PAWDOC collection provides a unique insight to the early stages of this massive transition in business and society in general. Therefore, I continue to seek a permanent repository for the collection, in the belief that it may hold some value for future researchers.

The second additional objective concerns digital preservation. In order to ensure PAWDOC’s future accessibility, I have had to develop suitable digital preservation processes and documentation and to apply them to the very diverse range of material in the collection. In the course of this work it has occurred to me that the collection might be useful to the digital preservation community as a test bed and training tool. If I have no success in finding a permanent destination for the collection as a research tool, I may then try to find a home for it within the digital preservation community.

This entry brings to an end my own personal final review of the PAWDOC personal electronic filing system. The remaining work to be done is to assemble a set of Conclusions. However, this will be a joint effort between Peter Tolmie, an independent researcher, and myself.

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