As part of the radical simplicity project, which right now is mostly manifesting as total clutter reduction, I am taking the last step of the paperless project from two years ago and finally giving up – as impossible as it has been for me – physical copies of annual reports, 10Ks, and proxy statements. We are very close to things like Perceptive Pixel being commonplace with large display screens and cloud-based storage for everything, so it is time to get ahead of the curve. I always like being 2-3 years ahead so it’s time to move now.
The solution upon which I’ve settled: I am setting up a large collection of folders in a cloud-based storage platform (I haven’t finalized the details but at this point, I’m testing it with Dropbox since the actual service provider won’t matter as much until I can get the process itself sorted). One of the files will contain a folder called “Annual Reports”, which will then open to a collection of industries (e.g., Packaged Food & Beverages, Banks, Conglomerates, Oil & Natural Gas).
Each of those will open to hundreds of sub-files, all with a high resolution, custom designed icon that represents the brand. In that folder, there will be archives of annual reports going back as far as I can get my hands on throughout history, snapshots of various Value Line, S&P, Morningstar, et cetera tear sheets at various points in time, relevant publications to the business in question, and other documents that are useful to my analysis. Each file will also contain a text document where I track how I feel about the business, and my thoughts on intrinsic value, with date stamps so I can spot successes and errors in my thinking to continually improve the process of allocating capital.
The files themselves will open in Adobe Acrobat Pro, which right now is part of the Creative Suite 6 subscription I have (it’s not bad – something like $1,200 per year, but you can get the program itself for $300 to $500 as a stand-alone installation). There, I annotate them just as I would with paper, leaving highlights and notes to track my thought process over time.
When things like the Microsoft Surface Pro become standard, and we are in a world where input is effortless so that the lines between paper and screen have almost disappeared, I should have already been on this platform for several years. At that point, it won’t feel much like using a computer does now. The day someone comes out with an 11×17″ high resolution perfect self-contained tablet that can display two, side-by-side 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of paper, replicating a traditional open book, I will buy it.
I’m also improving my Excel programming skills and developing more advanced spreadsheets to pull data for my convenience. There have been some really cool advancements in that field since the last time I bothered learning how to create interactive, self-updating files. I do plan on writing a tutorial at some point for the blog, but I need at least a few days of free time so I can show the entire process.