Tag: <span>Informationally Overloaded</span>

I’m at a conference, having dinner with some of the attendees. I’ve met them before, know them well enough on a professional basis and talk turns to Twitter and Facebook.

Turns out the three of us are developing very similar relationships with Twitter and Facebook, namely that we now approach each service with a view on how much quality we will get from them.

Twitter is the easiest one to tackle. I have two Twitter accounts, a personal one which is useful (in a limited way) for keeping up to date with the goings-on of a mish-mash of friends and colleagues, and a professional one to which I push interesting articles but in which I don’t spend all that much time. It is becoming increasingly easy to avoid Twitter.

Why? Because it rarely offers me anything of deep quality. From time to time someone will say something I will follow up, or a link will be posted that leads to something interesting but most of the time, and this isn’t a bad thing just the nature of the beast, it is transient.

Facebook for me is slightly different, it is more focused on closer friends and family but fundamentally still has a similar transient feel. If I don’t check it for a couple of days I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything.

What we realised at dinner last night is that we all crave more from the time we use. Twitter and Facebook can suck hours from your day for scant reward. There is little nourishment there.

I mentioned that I’ve started looking to services such as LongReads and Byliner to get longer things to read, things which have substance and which, after reading, I feel like I’ve learned something or certainly spent an hour or so lost in something interesting. It’s also why I backed the Matter project on kickstarter.

Is it an age thing? As I get older, am I putting more emphasis on ‘me’ time and wanting that to be substantive and meaningful? Perhaps.

Or perhaps it’s just a kick back against the constant stream of information, the overloaded streams that flow into my computer, my phone, demanding my attention.

This blog, at one point, was called “Informationally Overloaded” and I think, these days, it’s becoming more and more true.

Personal Musings

Those of you who have been reading for a while will recognise the title of this post, as it used to be the name of this blog. Then I realised how naff it was and dropped it when the ‘one man’ stuff was borne.

The phrase itself remains particularly apt, probably more so than when I first used it and, with reference to the exponential growth of Twitter, it is coming back into prominence. Social media applications, and the use thereof, shows no sign of slowing. This is a good thing because I firmly believe that social media applications (think Facebook, Twitter and the like) can be useful to many and the basic model of all of these things is based on the premise that “the more people that use them, the more valuable they become”. Which, of course, is (sort of) in direct conflict with those of us fighting information overload.

Of course, we only have ourselves to blame, as the bulk* of the online information we digest is driven by either opt-in or by deliberately choosing to monitor or follow a particular thread of information. This point is crucial. If you feel you are being overloaded by the amount of information you are choosing to receive to parse, be it by RSS feed, email, or directly from a website, then you can choose to reduce that load.

Twitter remains a bit of a mystery mind you, every morning I gain another follower or two, sometimes based on a product name (hello Dyson Airblades) and sometimes on a completely random basis. Or at least I assume they are random because I don’t recognise the person following me, nor do I recognise their website (yes, I do check profiles in case it’s just a username I’m not familiar with) and, as of yet, there is still no easy way to find this out. I’m presuming that this is the same for everyone, and it is just the usual clamouring for ‘Friends’ that so many people seem to think a good thing to do.

Each new social media application brings with it yet another raft of gurus trying to exploit and harness the “wisdom of the crowd” for themselves in a hope of forcing a “Tipping Point” even if their idea isn’t “Made to Stick”. What they don’t get is that this is not just another marketing bandwagon to jump on, not this time. The phenomenon of social media and the way it allows people to connect can be very powerful, but the important piece thing to understand isn’t the fact that people all over the globe are connecting, but because it’s PEOPLE that are making the connections.

The opt-in model is still the most powerful part of all of this, ensuring that those people who are passionate about a product or service can seek each other out and share their thoughts and ideas. Over to Matt Haughey who suggests that companies should:

make awesome stuff that gets people excited about your products, hire people that represent the company well, and when your stuff is so awesome that friends share it with other friends

Twitter continues to be the buzzword of the moment, the numbers rise and more connections are made. I glad to say that I am benefitting from being on Twitter, something I wasn’t sure of even a few months ago. Particularly as some of my peers are now on there, posting ideas and links to articles of interest to my profession. The iPhone is a boon for such things, particularly as Twitterific and InstaPaper to keep a track of “to read” articles and blog posts (Twitterific has built-in Instapaper bookmarking capabilities).

So whilst I’m not blogging here, or on either of my other two blogs, you can find me on Twitter, or read the links I post to my Instapaper account, browse the random things I find and post to my Tumblr account, or keep an eye on the websites I bookmark using del.icio.us. You can see my photos on Flickr, and see what music I’m listening to on Last.fm.

It’s a bit scary seeing all of my online data listed out like that. What’s even worse is that I do have an RSS feed that monitors them all… talk about information overload!

* I’m aware that many social applications (or whatever we are calling them today) generate a lot of email notifications, but again, you can usually either turn them off or, you know, opt out of that application.

Tech Work

I’ve changed the name of this blog, well the banner image, from Informationally Overloaded to One Man Blogs. As no-one has mentioned this I presume no-one has noticed but there was some thinking behind this (and hey, you know me well enough by now that I have to analyse it a little, right?).

1. I know it pisses people off when I change things here, be it the title of the website or the URL that brings you here. I quite enjoy this so I try and change things once a year or so to keep you on your toes.

2. Most of the people who read this blog are web savvy enough to be overloaded with information at some point or another, so the title felt a little brash; MY information overload is more than YOUR information overload? Quite obviously it is not.

3. The simple fact is that I am not, and wasn’t really ever, overloaded with information. Yes I subscribe to hundreds of RSS feeds but I don’t feel compelled to read them all, and I’m reasonably good at keeping on top of the important things which allows me to quickly dismiss all the other stuff if needs must.

So there you have it. And no, you don’t need to update your links, although there are a few of you who STILL insist that my surname is McClean. It is not, it has one (small) c, like this: McLean. If you are one of these people, then I doubt this plea will make a difference but hey, a man can dream, right?

So there you have it.

What? Slow blog day? How very dare you!

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!).

Blogging Work

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.

Cross-posted at Informationally Overloaded, my ‘other’ blog.

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:

Work

Update: Allowing people to add a comment might help, huh. Should be working now. Apologies for being a numpty.

So, it’s not all working yet but, frankly, that jarring Christmas theme was beginning to annoy.

Whaddya think?

Ohh. You might wanna refresh the page, by the way, for there is a new coat of paint on the site.

What’s new?

Well for a start the comments are now WordPress comments. No more pop-ups. Gosh I’m SO up-to-date, aren’t I. And no, I haven’t imported all the old comments, as important as they are it’s just TOO manual labour. I might do them slowly, in small batches. But I doubt it.

Same goes for the miniblog, the old posts will remain on Blogger, and the comments on HaloScan. Frankly I’ve got better things to do with my time!

The miniblog is now controlled by WordPress too (and will take a wee while to fully populate). I see the posts are listed in the “previous posts” list above, need to sort that one out..

What else? Well a few bits and bobs, but nothing too major.

What’s still broken?

Several things. The search works but not quite how I want it. The archives might NOT work. The comments aren’t finished yet either… ohh and the links don’t seem to have come through in the blogroll.

I’ll continue to tinker with this tomorrow but for now, say hello to “Informationally Overloaded 2007” (at bloody last!).

Blogging