[LINK] Re: Limit Email Size to Reduce Carbon Emissions?

Tom Worthington Tom.Worthington at tomw.net.au
Fri Nov 30 08:37:23 AEDT 2007

At 03:23 PM 11/10/2007, I wrote:
>... to combat the greenhouse effect, I propose the "One Gram 
>Initiative", which aims to limit the average email message to 20 
>kbytes and the average electronic document to 20 kbytes per A4 page 
>...  <http://www.tomw.net.au/blog/2007/10/one-gram-per-message-program.html>.

National Archives of Australia sent me an invitation to "Speaker's 
Corner - In Peace and War: The Japanese role in the defence and 
security of Australia to 1943 ... Dr Pam Oliver from Monash 
University ... 30 October ..." 

This looked an interesting event, but they sent the invitation in the 
form of a 3.6 Mbyte PDF attachment to an email message. The PDF file 
is only one A4 page long, making the document about 180 times larger 
than it need be.

The document contains 841 characters of text, about twice that with 
formatting. Most of the rest of the space is taken up with one high 
resolution photograph (1100 x 1997 pixels). This is a reproduction of 
a grainy monochrome photograph, which appears to have been digitized 
in color at such a high resolution that the original grains are 
visible. While that level of detail might be needed for archival 
purposes, it isn't needed in an invitation sent by email. Lowering 
the resolution of the image and storing it in monochrome, will reduce 
it from several megabytes to tens of kilobytes, while improving its appearance.

After I queried this with NAA they produced a version on the web with 
the photograph reduced to 275 x 500 pixels 
This reduces the file to 154 Kbytes. That is a big improvement on 3.6 
Mbytes, but could be reduced further by optimizing the photo and the 
fonts used in the document.

Better still would be better to omit the PDF attachment from the mail 
message, instead using similar text format to that on the web site 
and provide a link to the web site. That would reduce the invitation 
to under 20 kbytes.

Ideally the tools used to create documents and messages should 
produce appropriately formatted and sized content for the intended 
use. But this does not appear to be something marketing people are 
able or willing to do, so perhaps there is scope for more add-on 
tools. As an example one could offer optimization to the user when 
they email a document or save it to a web site.

My mail client warns me when I try to send a large message. But if 
this was to count the page equivalent of the document it could give 
better feedback. The tool could then offer to adjust the size of 
images in the document and remove unnecessary embedded fonts and formatting.

When receiving documents, an intelligent storage system could 
disassemble them and remove redundant components. As an example, it 
could identify when the same image is used in multiple documents and 
just store one copy. The system could reassemble the original 
document on request, inserting the redundant information back into 
the document. This should work well for common office document 
formats, and be particularly easy to implement for those using an XML 
format, such as ODF and OOXML (and just about as well for PDF).

Eventually, many electronic documents send to organisations will end 
up in electronic archives. In the case of commonwealth agencies, 
these documents will end up in the national archives electronic 
archive. On present trends it is likely that almost all the storage 
space of the NAA will be taken up with duplicate copies of 
promotional images, like the ones Archives is sending out. As an 
example much of the archive will be taken up storing millions of 
copies of the Commonwealth Arms, on the font of official documents 
<http://www.tomw.net.au/2003/epolicy.html#edocs>.  In the absence of 
intelligent marketing people who can produce efficient electronic 
documents, we will need intelligent software to identify and remove 
the redundant data.

Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd            ABN: 17 088 714 309
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617                      http://www.tomw.net.au/
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, ANU  

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