Friday, July 2, 2010

Some professional pet peeves

1. Why do people email huge files?

Someone has sent me a 16 MB email message. My email and all internet activity have been very slow, probably because of Hurricane Alex. While Outlook tries to belch out this 16MB message (its been trying for almost 24 hours), other email has evidently been blocked.

Instead of emailing huge files, please post them on your server and send me the URL, so I can download them at a convenient time without messing up my email. You don't have server space? Well, where do you post your publications? If you have a university or museum affiliation, then you have access to server space. Use it. Set up a website, and include a targeted directory where you place big files for people to get.

If the above seems too much (not sure why, since it is pretty easy), then use a commercial service like "You Send-It" where you can upload files and send invitations to selected people, who then are sent a password to access the file. But please don't email huge files!

2. Why do people omit the date from their CV?

Do you ever update your CV? Well, then you need to provide a date at the top. Here are 2 cases where the lack of such a date has had negative effects. (1) An opportunity came up for some funds for a student who was out of contact doing fieldwork. The relevant faculty found they had 2 different versions of the CV, and it was not clear which was current and correct. They had to make a quick decision, and they may have used the wrong copy of the CV. I don't know what happened, or whether this made a difference. But having the date on the CV would minimally have saved the faculty some aggravation.

(2) Someone asked me for a quick informal evaluation of an archaeologist (a faculty member at another university). I looked at their CV from their departmental website, and concluded that this person did not publish much and was not very active professionally. My impression was that the CV was a year out of date. Well, it turns out (I later saw a current CV) that the CV was three or four years out of date. The person had put the likely (future) publication dates for in papers in press, which made the CV seem later than it actually was. The current CV revealed that this person had been extraordinarily active in the past 3 years, any my opinion of their productivity increased greatly.

So, unless you have a weak CV and want to fool people into thinking that its weakness comes from the document being out date rather than from your failure to produce things, you should put the date on your CV. And by the way, please update your websites. Out-of-date departmental websites are all too common at most universities, and this can have a number of negative effects on their usefulness, both intellectually and in terms of publicity and professional opinion.

3.Why do people waste so much paper with their manuscripts?  (journal editors take note)

If you send me a paper to read, please use margins no larger than 1 inch (left and right), and please use less than 1 inch margin, top and bottom. Please use single spacing, with 1/2 line spacing between paragraphs. You can single-space the bibliography, even use a smaller font. When people send me bloated Word files, I reformat them like this to save paper (which means I can't refer to page numbers in my comments, which is a pain). More compact manuscripts are good for the environment, they are good for my wallet, and my stapler will work on the document. But when I get pdfs, I can' reformat them. I resent getting a 100 page document to review from a journal for what can be formatted as a 60 page single-spaced document (which is still too damn long for most papers, in my opinion). But don't skimp on space with small font. My eyes have trouble with 10 point font; use 12 point.

-Cranky in Toluca


Jason Ur said...

I'm probably guilty of #1 and #3, apologies. At the risk of provoking an already-cranky person, I'd suggest reading digital manuscripts on-screen. Leaving aside the obvious environmental benefits, the commenting and editing tools in Word and Acrobat are easy to use and allow infinite comments regardless of the size of the margins. I can't imagine writing a co-authored paper without these tools.

Anonymous said...

Cannot agree more on #1 and #2.

Alternate take on #3: why do some of us cannot help printing to read something that is born digital? Are we so much constrained to paper?

Adrian Myers said...

Re: peeve #1

Many people (especially in wealthy countries) now have the combo of cheap fast internet and Gmail, which together can easily handle a 16MB attachment. They quickly (and I am guilty of this sometimes) forget that not everyone has this!

So, unless you KNOW that your recipient can handle the large attachment, I agree with Michael. The best (simple, fast, free, no obnoxious ads) FTP [File Transfer Protocol] I know of is at

Thanks for the post and cheers!

Michael E. Smith said...

Jason and Steko- Yes, reading text online has a number of advantages, but I'm not a big fan yet. Maybe its a generational thing, or maybe my own work habits are fossilized. I divide my scholarly work into "working at my desk/computer" and "reading things in my comfortable chair". I stare at the computer too much time already, and to switch my reading time to the computer is just not something I want to do. If I spill my coffee on a manuscript, so what, but if I spill it on the keyboard, then what?