Monday, April 2, 2007

GMail Paper .... for some, it's no joke

I’m not sure how long this link will be available, but the gist of Gmail Paper is that you can click and print as much as you want on-line and Google will sort your print-outs and deliver them directly to you so you can have the satisfaction of maintaining a paper trail:

Everyone loves Gmail. But not everyone loves email, or the digital era. What ever happened to stamps, filing cabinets, and the mailman?

Well, you asked for it, and it’s here. We’re bringing it back.

A New Button
Now in Gmail, you can request a physical copy of any message with the click of a button, and we'll send it to you in the mail.
Simplicity Squared
Google will print all messages instantly and prepare them for delivery. Allow 2-4 business days for a parcel to arrive via post.
Total Control
A stack of Gmail Paper arrives in a box at your doorstep, and it’s yours to keep forever. You can read it, sort it, search it, touch it. Or even move it to the trash—the real trash. (Recycling is encouraged.)
Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe
Google takes privacy very seriously. But once your email is physically in your hands, it's as secure as you want to make it.

Google’s April Fool’s day joke is hardly a laughing matter for those of us responsible for an organization’s document management. Truth is, many of us are as addicted to paper as we are to e-mail, IM and our cellphones. This issue surfaced last week, when I was reviewing the status of paper records with staff at work, along with some reps from the company that provides the electronic document and record management system (EDRMS) that we will be implementing. Apparently, staff had been discussing the new system and many assumed that we would just continue to retain the paper versions in addition to the electronic copies on the EDRMS.

The fact is that many people are just not comfortable with the seemingly ephemeral quality of electronic documents which they feel could be too easily deleted or “lost”, while somehow the paper copy provides a sense of “permanence”. This, despite the fact that paper documents can easily be misfiled, lost, destroyed or altered, yet it seems the ability to hold something tangible and “real” in the hand provides a false sense of security that the electronic document cannot.

In British Columbia, the Electronic Transactions Act provides the framework for the acceptance of electronic documents in lieu of the original paper copy if:

- there exists a reliable assurance as to the integrity of the record in
electronic form, and;
- the record in electronic form is accessible by the person to whom it is provided and is capable of being retained by that person in a manner usable for subsequent reference.
- if there exists a reliable assurance as to the integrity of the record … i.e. the record has remained complete and unaltered, apart from the introduction of changes that arise in the normal course of communication, storage and display

- on provision or receipt of the record, the information, if any, that identifies the origin and destination of the record and the date and time when it was sent or received is also retained.

These standards serve to ensure the reliability and integrity of the electronic version of the document. The challenge is to build these standards into the EDRMS and to ensure that system backups are secure and redundant. Then it becomes a matter of educating employees so that they can let go of their “security blanket” and have the same level of confidence with the electronic document as they do with the paper version.

Sadly, I suspect that if Google were serious about offering the GMail Paper service, they would be flooded with customers ...

No comments: