“I don’t do attachments”, those were reportedly the words of Ian Hobson when he was Operations manager in Ebbw Vale. Meaning that if you sent him an email, you had to state what you had to say in the main text of the email without reference to any attachments, because he would not even look at them. At the time I thought that was a rather odd thing to do, but over time I’ve come to understand his point of view (at least if not carried into extremes).
The reason why I’ve come to this understanding is Lotus Notes databases. During the British Steel and subsequent Corus days, our email system was IBM’s Lotus Notes, something that was only replaced by Microsoft’s Office365 during the Tata Steel years. The Lotus Notes also came with the option of creating “databases”, sometimes properly created and useful systems such as the Next Steps databases or Process Control’s Post-Product Support database. However, most of the time it was merely a vehicle for clunky text-based documents, and worst of all some databases consisted merely of a forest of attachments without a word of explanation of what was where.
That’s why, when I started the Strip UK Sharepoint wiki, I immediately disabled the facility for adding attachments. I wanted a wiki article to show on the first click the information most relevant to that article, explained in normal English and accessible without having to click on an attachment to access information that should have been in the main body of the article to start with.
Obviously, the time and effort spent in getting your thoughts together and putting them in writing is greater than in merely attaching a document, but in the end the usefulness of an article is enhanced immeasurably for any user who visits the site at a later stage.
I’m fairly sure there’s a general message in here, in that a little bit more effort in advance can make most systems more useful in the end. Or am I over-generalising ?