Garbage Internet e-Records

By John Phillips posted 10-31-2011 14:01


Despite our constant use of the Internet to create e-records by using Web sites, I am still amazed at how many ways the records creation process is subverted or undermined. In the paper world a record is a clear static representation of a transaction and good documentation of an event that has occurred. It is informative about the event, often has some authority/validation through a signature and can be stored for use in future years as credible evidence. However, it seems that there are numerous technological systems snafus these days that cause us to create minimally informative, barely credible and hardly-worth-preserving e-records.

For example, I often log into Web sites, order something online, and then try to create a record of the transaction. One can save the HTML, XML and associated files such as GIF or JPEG graphics, into a local disk directory as Complete Web Page( *.html, *.htm) or Web Page Archive, single file (*.mht) or even a text file (which is almost totally useless as a visually accurate rendition of a record). Unfortunately, this means you also may save dancing icons, popup graphics, and irrelevant distracting Internet advertising GARBAGE that has no value for documenting the intent of your transaction. Why save all of this stuff when it adds no useful content to the actual record?

Have you ever gone back later to try to read or print one of these records or even worse, send the “Internet record” files to an associate by email attachment? Good luck. First, the filename that will be suggested for your saved record may be a potential nightmare for your operating system, as they are often extremely long thus making sending the file(s) even more challenging. Second, if you are not Internet connected for whatever reason, you may get token blank objects displayed where some of the e-objects in the original Internet page were not successfully saved locally and Internet hyperlinks to the active objects are not operational. So the “record’ you think that you saved may really be an incomplete visual rendition of what you saw and thought was your record. Of course if the person you send the HTM e-record files to is using a different browser than yours, they may not see the same visual presentation of what you saw no matter what you saved. Or thought you saved.

Over time some vendors using Internet Web sites for business transactions have awaken to the needs of their customers and offer a “Printer Ready Version” of the e-transaction screen. For instance, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports and frequent flyers probably just got tired of trying to find the bar codes on the Boarding passes as everyone scrambled to get onto airplanes on time and thus gave the airlines some “feedback.” Many online product purchasers also probably got tired of trying to print an e-record to paper only to get three or four paper pages of advertising garbage encompassing a few lines of important relevant-to-the-record text and thus also provided online vendors some feedback. Does a purchase receipt really need to be framed in marketing garbage, in either electronic or paper format? So now we have Printer Friendly Version “options.”

I find it incredibly ironic that if you want to have a record of an online transaction, you are encouraged to print one for yourself. E-vendors have no intentions of taking on the task of being your records-keeper. So, even though they say they are going to send you a copy of the record by email, you had better “print” your own and retain it yourself!

Due to Internet browser compatibility issues, I usually try avoid creating HTML based records. Generating Adobe PDF files of all transactions has worked very well for me in the past. However, a recent upgrade to Adobe Acrobat 9.0 Pro Extended has created some new glitches. Occasionally, the software creates representations of the original Internet screens that are partially accurate but also contain “gibberish” text. Googling the issue has revealed an occurrence of this malfunction in Adobe software over several years. It is described as a mismatch between fonts installed on one’s computer and those fonts used by the Adobe software. Numerous workarounds are suggested. Wow. Just what I needed … a need to go back and re-print some of my e-records “as images”, to solve the problem. Of course, unless I reviewed each generated PDF file, I have no idea which files contain various amounts of gibberish.

The point is simple. We need to be very careful when we are creating “e-records” as they may not be as useful or as credible as we think. Trust but verify? Probably in this case we should not trust our e-records creation to Internet software systems and make sure we verify them - often.

#RecordsCreation #electronic records management #ElectronicRecordsManagement #DigitalFiles