Information(ally) Overload(ed)

Note: Been meaning to post this for some weeks now but couldn’t find the right moment… I guess now is as good a time as any.

The title of this blog was, believe it or not, chosen more carefully than most of you may realise, and far more carefully than I let on. Mind you I do put some thought into this site from time to time, honest, so it may not come as that much of a surprise to some..

This blog has always been, and will remain to be, a place where I can dump my brain. A place I can spew out the various thoughts that assault my mind on a daily basis, regardless of where they come from, what prompted them, or what they contain (within my own set of self-censoring rules, obv.).

Over the past several years, more and more of my life, both social and professional, has been focussed around the internet and, by extension, I’m ‘plugged in’ more than I care to admit, even to myself. The recent state of near-death that my home PC found itself in only confirms my fears; I cannot live without a computer. It’s too ingrained, too heavily embedded in my life, not only does it store information that I would hate to lose, it’s also the focus of most of my thought processes.

Need to know a phone number? Or the location of a hotel? How about converting celsius to fahrenheit? Each question prompts the same response… fire up the PC, hit the internet. Any form of knowledge that I do not currently have is sourced there and I struggle to imagine not having such a resource so close at hand (and yes, I’m careful to verify what I read. Remember kids, not everything on the internet is true!).

Too much stuff

With that kind of mindset, it’s not long before the internet, and the wealth of potential information that it holds, drags you in and loses you in a maze of cognitive tunnels. I used to spend hours just following links, or searching for randomly connected snippets of information that seemed only to prompt further obscure links. My poor brain just couldn’t keep up and I started to wonder if maybe all this information wasn’t a good thing. Maybe I was overloading my brain?

But was I?

More and more these days I look at the title of this blog and think it could mean either one of two things:

  1. I’m overloaded with information and that’s a bad thing, I can’t keep up and this ‘new’ modern lifestyle will cause my brain to melt.
  2. OR

  3. I’m overloaded with information and that’s fine. My brain doesn’t need to store any of it, as long as the information has been registered somewhere I can always look it up at a later date, presuming it’s important enough.

And so, whilst Informationally Overloaded still describes my thought processes, it does so in an entirely different manner.

Information Types

These days, I’m quite happy to let a zillion (that’s 1 with a zillion noughts after it) thoughts smash their way across my synapses, comfortable with the fact that, if a particular nugget of information is important, regardless of what it is about, it will pass my way more than once and will be flagged appropriately by my brain.

That means that I’m developing, or perhaps enhancing, the way my brain handles new information, allowing it to instantly ignore something that doesn’t have, and isn’t likely to have, any value to me. In fact I could, almost, categorise the types of information that assault me on a daily basis by how my brain handles them:

  • Important – this piece of information has passed by several times recently. Store the information for immediate recall.
  • Useful – this piece of information has passed by no more than a couple of times, might be of use. Register some metadata on this piece of information, you may want to locate it in the future.
  • Interesting – this piece of information has little value other than as trivia.

Alas, the last category screws up my taxonomy. My brain has a habit of storing Interesting items whilst instantly discarding anything ‘marked’ Important. Ain’t it always the way…

Regardless of the specifics, the simple fact is that way I think, the way my brain processes information, has changed.

But, is this a good thing?

I think it could be as the more exposure I have to other things, to other ideas, the greater the chance of crossover and the greater the chance of cross-pollinating my thought processes (that sounds all a bit wanky I know but it’s the best way to describe it, honest). I acknowledge that that could lead to either complete and utter gibberish or, perhaps, it could expose me to something new and allow me to make a connection that hasn’t been made before (by me). Either way, it’s something I’ve started to embrace.

Some might say it’s a little like those fairground stalls where you have to pluck a floating duck as it swirls round the stall. The harder you try, the harder it gets, but if you relax, you soon realise you can let a few ducks float past you before picking out the ones with the big prizes.

Ye gads, what an awful analogy. (ye gads? … I have NO idea …)

Of course it does mean that as I now have a reasonable handle on my flow of information and I’m able to make pretty good decisions on what type of information it is, that I’ve started to trying and organise things and assign different types of information to different ‘slots’. Yes, it’s a little anal but hey, that’s my thing. Leave me alone.

A small announcement

So with that in mind, this kind of post is really something which is more closely aligned with my professional work —I create information so need to understand what else it’s competing with— will now be posted on my new blog. I’ve long harboured a desire to have another website that was dedicated to my professional life as I genuinely love the area of technology in which I work. I’ve had a couple of aborted efforts in the past, so this time I’m using what I know (blogging) and not worrying too much about the detail and content. The new blog will become what it will become. It might take off, I might ditch it in a year.

But if I don’t start it now, it’ll never happen.

Without further ado as, frankly, I’m surprised if anyone is still reading this (except Mumsy, checking for spelling errors..) I would like to present one man writes. Yes I’m sticking with the headless man branding for now.

You are all more than welcome to visit, it may be interesting to some, boring to others, and I may cross-post to both in the future (as I am today). It’s kind of exciting to be starting a new blog, even if I’m not entirely sure what it will contain, and I gives me a chance to try blogging “from scratch” again and part of me is just interested in what I’ve learned from my personal blog.

As I say, I’m not entirely sure where it will lead but it’s been a while coming.

Additional reading:

Written By

Long time blogger, Father of Jack, geek of many things, random photographer and writer of nonsense.

Doing my best to find a balance.

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I’m another computer addict, and I can feel uneasy or simply bored when Mrs C and I go away on holiday. And since Mrs C got her laptop (plus a wi-fi internet connection), she’s become greatly interested too. On holiday we often do an “easy” crossword together, but then we both wish we’d got internet access to look something up on Google or oneacross dot com.
I look forward to seeing how “onemanwrites” develops.

Ian's Mum says:

Just ask me Don says I know everything!

mum says:

You know me so well – yes I did read to the end and under ‘interesting’ and re ‘Ye gads’, can I add ‘gadzooks’ – don’t know where that comes from either.
I would also have to add a further information type – Useless – I have a mine of that.

hans says:

I wonder how many people with degenerative diseases affecting cognitive ability would be interested in your type of information hoarding and accessibility, I know we have dogear, tag etc, but that just ADDS to the mess.

IMHO you should be able to ‘transport’ the internet into your very own ‘me-net’ at the click of a button, then highlight your interesting items and save to a taxonomy which would essentially map those synapses you so deftly describe.

Oh tell me about it! It took us a month to get a decent internet connection here and I felt like I’d lost half my brain

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