22 May 2017

Just another day - senseless submittals

A couple of days ago, I received four emails from the same manufacturer's rep, containing a total of twenty-two images of new finish colors. Combined file size: Twenty-two meg.

This isn’t unusual. Almost daily, reps send us emails with huge attachments. I understand the desire to make the email attract attention, but only a little effort will accomplish that goal. A few carefully selected images should do the trick.

As for catalogues and other large documents, there is no reason to send them. A link to the file will suffice, assuming the files are online - and if they're not, why not?

Worse than large emails are USB drives. These follow the tradition established many years ago, when manufacturers apparently believed that giving architects everything was a great idea. When the only available medium was hardcopy, this made sense; there was no other way to get information.

Unfortunately, this tradition was continued even after the Internet was in common use. Manufacturers had a hard time grasping the idea that if they put their information online, it would be accessible to everyone, everywhere, anytime (assuming the user had Internet access!). They continued to send floppies and, eventually, USB drives. I'm not sure what the intent was; surely, no one has the space or will take the time to save all that information on their computers. The only upside to USB drives is that they're easy to recycle, but eventually, a bowl full of them becomes more trouble than it's worth. "Hmm... which one was it? I wonder what's on this one..."

Beyond that, in this time of weekly stories about computer attacks, you have to ask yourself if you really want to plug that USB drive into your computer. The company I work for has forbidden the use of USB drives other than those we purchase directly.

So what does make sense?

A well-written email will suffice for nearly any communication. It should include a subject line that briefly describes the intent, a summary of the information being sent, small (both visually and in file size) images that help explain the message, links to the specific online information that is related to the message (not to everything on the website), and contact information for the sender.

Two things corporate people love to include in contact information are lots of images and a disclaimer. Both waste space and are universally ignored by email recipients. We don't need to read about your mission statement, the location of all your offices, or your many awards; we don't need links so we can comment directly to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Google+; and we don't care who the company officers are. I know this will hurt your marketing people, but we see no value in the large corporate images that do nothing but take up space.

Disclaimers would be tolerable if they made sense, but when they are attached to every email they mean nothing. Unless it's true that you don't want me to share the information you sent with the rest of the team. Did you intend to send it to each of them individually? It seems to me that you would want us to forward information about your products to everyone we know! Disclaimers are especially entertaining at the end of a joke or a casual lunch invitation.

That brings up another problem: Blind copies. I like to help reps; they're my go-to guys and I can't do my job without them. So when I get an email addressed to me, with no indication of it being sent to others, I often forward it to others who might be interested. Too often, I get the same email forwarded to me from others who received the same message. If a message goes to more than one person in a firm, use copy, not blind copy.

Memory is cheap, but it isn't infinite. Many offices limit email storage for employees, and some automatically disable email accounts that exceed the limit. There are times when a large file is necessary, but again, if it's online there is no reason to send it. Don't just assume that it's o.k. to send multiple megabytes.

When using images in email, everyone should know that, in a sense, all pictures are created equal. Due to the quirks of displaying images, the same picture with a file size of 100 kb can be indistinguishable from one of several megabytes. The larger file will fill inboxes and slow things down with no benefit.

The same applies to in-house email and files, as well. It's so easy to just send files to other people in the office, but it takes just seconds to send a link to a file on a shared server.

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