Web, scissors, stone
It strikes me that we continue to do a lot of stuff as though we lived in a paper-only world...
The whole scholarly communication cycle is a great example. Yes stuff surfaces on the Web - but only as PDF, a digital representation of traditional paper, and the way we cite and link between academic papers still happens as though we lived in a paper-based world by and large.
The JISC-funded Preservation of Web Resources Handbook [PDF], made available a few weeks back, is another nice example. I have no idea whether it's any good or not! At over 100 A4 pages, it's impractical to read on screen and I don't really want to print out 50-odd sheets of paper just to read it either.
As funders ourselves, Eduserv is just as guilty as the JISC of funding people to produce long reports that it is difficult to do anything with other than convert to PDF and slap up on the Web as a single file. I hate PDF! We need to get more imaginitive in the way we surface stuff. And we desperately need to get out of the mindset that more equals better.
We now regularly ask our projects to blog throughout the life of their work, with the expectation that doing so is good for engagement and results in something incremental and part of the fabric of the social Web. I'm sure the JISC do this as well. But even where we do that, we still often end up with a final deliverable that is the complete antithesis of what the Web is about - i.e. a long PDF file. See our series of snapshots of the use of Second Life in UK HE for an example (though we are currently in discussion about how we improve things going forward). Is there any reason why a handbook isn't delivered as a proper Web document (and, no, I don't mean one of those horrible automated conversions) for example?
And more generally... what about funding documents tailored for use on a mobile device like an iPhone? What about CommonCraft-style videos? What about ongoing Twitter streams? And if the format really does demand a traditional 'book' (as might well be the case here) why not optimise it for one of the print on demand services so that people can end up with a nicely bound volume rather than some scrappily printed, stapled together collection of A4 pages?
And please don't give me that crap about PDF being the best preservation format. Sheesh!