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Save Everything! is a new approach to document management being evaluated at the California Research Center (CRC - part of Ricoh Innovations Inc).  Researchers have learned that most document management solutions have failed (or at least haven't met expectations) because they require too much effort on the part of users, with little benefit.  In one study, they point out that only 15% of saved documents were ever accessed again, and yet, documents that weren't saved contained information that was eventually needed.  Basically, the document management systems weren't effective because users didn't have enough incentive to be disciplined in their effort.

Criteria for a Successful Document Management System

The Save Everything! approach determined a set of criteria necessary for a successful document management system:

The Infinite Memory Multifunction Machine

To meet these criteria, the researchers developed a system called an Infinite Memory Multifunction Machine (IM3).  The IM3 is actually a modification to printers, copiers, and fax machines that saves every document processed by the machines.  Captured documents are sent to a doc server, where the document is saved in a few formats:
  • 4 dpi image (for thumbnail)
  • 8 dpi image (more detailed thumbnail)
  • 72 dpi image (for browser viewing or printing)
  • ASCII Text (after undergoing OCR)
  • Postscript (for pages saved from the printer)
Once saved on the doc server, the ASCII text formatted doc is crawled by an indexer for easy searching.  The indexer also does some keyword analysis so that the document can be more easily categorized for easy retrieval.

Document Retrieval

Retrieving documents from this type of system is difficult because users don't have filenames or paths to work with.  The research team created a web site that offered users the following options for document retrieval:
  • Chronological by user (most recent docs by individual)
  • Calendar View by user (what day did I print that e-mail?)
  • Site search

Once the user finds the appropriate document via the web site, he can perform actions such as reprint, e-mail, publish on the web, or apply security.

Security

Document collection can be designated as either open or closed (requiring a password).  This appears to be a user configurable setting.  The setting can be applied on individual documents once they've been saved through the web site.  For example, if by default, all of my document collection is closed, but I copy a document that I want to share with my team, I can remove the password restriction on that document.  Users also have the option of applying PGP encryption to each document through the web interface.

Postmortem
From the article that I read, this stuff sounds pretty cool.  At least I know that document management is one of my biggest challenges (and this is only 8 years into a career - what happens to the docs I create over the next 25 years?).  It appears that Ricoh has a product that implements at least some of this, called the eCabinet, although it looks to be for small companies or workgroups (tough sell for a company of 70,000).  For more info on the eCabinet, you can look up their web site at http://www.rsv.ricoh.com


Resources:

"Toward Zero-Effort Personal Document Management", Computer: Innovative Technology for Computer Professionals, March 2001, (pp. 30-35) Hull, Jonathan J.,  Hart, Peter E.

California Research Center web site, http://www.crc.ricoh.com

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