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Information Overload Predicted Problem of the Year for 2008 146

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the nagging-inboxes dept.
Wired is reporting that information overload is being predicted by some analysts as the problem of the year for 2008. "'It's too much information. It's too many interruptions. It's too much lost time,' Basex chief analyst Jonathan Spira declared. 'It's always too much of a good thing.' Information overload isn't exactly new, but Spira said the problem has grown as technology increases societal expectations for instantaneous response. And more information available, he said, also means more time wasted looking for the right information, whether in an old e-mail or through a search engine."
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Information Overload Predicted Problem of the Year for 2008

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  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @05:49PM (#21824608) Homepage
    Information Overload Predicted Problem of the Year for 2008

    Correction: Information Overlord Predicted Problem of the Year for 2008.
    • I for one welcome or new information over-whatevers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Correction: Information Overlord Predicted Problem of the Year for 2008.

      Correction to the correction: Information Overlord Overload Predicted Problem of the Year for 2008.

      I've been saying for years that we need to stop spawning more overlords, but would you people listen? Of course not.
    • I've told you all this like 5 times already! Don't you pay any attention?
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @05:49PM (#21824610) Homepage
    I mean really. My email is overflowing, but a search finds stuff right away.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ILuvRamen (1026668)
      I think they're talking about how we're not gonna be able to handle sitting on our butts eating ramen and reading 6 e-mails instead of 3. I know I get pretty frazzled when that happens cuz then it's just anohter 3 minutes between me and Oblivion (the game) Seriously, if we're not infomation overloaded already with the insane amount of advertising everywhere plus the level of technology currently available then we're not going to be. If you don't want stock updates stalking you on your mobile phone, don't
      • Man, I hate to be this cynical, but yes. For many people, it is that hard. People spend almost all their time doing things they don't want to do, for no reason at all. If someone tells them to look something up on wikipedia or read 6 e-mails or get stock updates on their mobile phones, they'll do it, then complain about their information overload.
    • by vertinox (846076)
      Yes it is instant but does it find the right one. Now I've noticed (IMO) Google has gotten better lately, but often if you are searching certain topics it is very painful to find one that is really what you were looking for.

      And back to the original topic of email... If you had hundreds or even thousands of emails back and forth between the same people over again with the same subject or similar subjects over the course of a year, it makes it hard to search for one in particular since searching by subject or
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @08:09PM (#21825620) Journal
      Search finds the right stuff, if you remember the exact wording. Now look through 1 year old emails, looking for one where you only vaguely remember even the topic. Like, "I think the boss told me to do it that way."

      Let's see, a search for the program name... nope. He must have thought it's obvious what project I'm on. Let's detour through Bugzilla and look up the bug number. Some time later, ah-ha, I have the bug number. Search for that, nope. Repeat ad nauseam.

      The problem is that even remembering something by a synonym, still throws simple search off. Completely. Now let's see, in how many ways can you say "bug". Well, there's "bug", but then there's "flaw", or "defect", or even "problem", etc. So did the boss say it's ok to ship with known "bug", "flaws", "defects", "problems", or what? Now have fun finding out which of the tens of hits for "bug" is really the one you're looking for. But maybe even that wasn't phrased like that at all. Maybe what he said is something like, "it's ok if the web service interface isn't ready in the pilot phase." Or a gazillion other wordings to the same effect.

      Or maybe it was my favourite, some idiot took a screenshot of the log viewer and pasted it into Word as an image. Then you get an email with the actual info as a picture, and some text like "but I think that's low priority right now". Now search that.

      Really, the problem is that we still index and search by words, but your memory is rarely text-file quality. You remember ideas, and (if needed) your brain interpolates the gaps.

      E.g., you may think you photographically remember your wife in her blue dress on the balcony in your honeymoon, but really you don't store a pixel array like that. The actual pixel array never even leaves the eyes, there's edge detection and contrast enhancement that's built right into the retina itself, to save bandwidth on the optic nerve. Then before it even makes it past the short term buffer, that scene is pruned, tokenized, etc, and you only really got an internal representation of the scene instead of the actual image. That's already missing a lot of information, like, for a start, everything that's outside the focus of attention. (While focusing on the blonde with great tits at the wheel, you completely lose such information as the license plate or even the pink gorilla doing cartwheels across the road.) You have a SEP field built-in, so to speak.

      Then over time details or links get lost, and your brain just does a best-guess filling in the gaps. So over time you might remember that the wife's dress was blue, although it was green. Or maybe she wasn't wearing a dress at all on that day, and was in a t-shirt and jeans. Etc.

      That goes double for remembering text. You rarely remember the actual text, unless you do rote memorization. But I'd rather not do that with all emails. If you had to actually remember the exact text describing the scene above, even if you remember the general scene, how many ways are there to say that she was wearing jeans? "Pants" works too, for a start. The shirt gets even funnier, because you might just remember it as a "shirt" instead of "t-shirt", and from there there are even more synonyms. "Blouse" and "top" come to mind, for example.

      And that's when word-based search will fail you.

      What we'd need is some search that's indexed by ideas. But until computers start to really understand natural language, we're kinda screwed. And I mean, understand what it _means_, not just parse English.
      • by mstahl (701501)

        Now let's see, in how many ways can you say "bug". Well, there's "bug", but then there's "flaw", or "defect", or even "problem", etc.

        You forgot "feature"

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by chudnall (514856)
        After reading through all that, all I remember is:

        blonde with great tits
    • by dbIII (701233)
      Some people just don't know how to filter information. One of them wrote the article.
  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @05:49PM (#21824612) Homepage Journal
    But the answer was revealed recently over on
    Why the Coming Data Flood Won't Drown the Internet:
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=392492&cid=21737872 [slashdot.org]
    • by cowscows (103644)
      While they're both kinda dupes of many stories we've seen over the years, I think this story isn't quite the same as the one you linked. The data flood drowning the internet piece was more about the amount of bandwidth being more than the fiber/routers/switches/etc. could handle, basically the physical parts of the internet not being able to keep up. Today's article is more about the human element, how even if all the information makes it to its destination safely, there's going to be so much of it that an
      • But you still need NOAA with the data ark to handle the things that you blew off, because they seemed unimportant, but then realized that you did in fact need.
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @05:49PM (#21824614) Journal

    This problem isn't necessarily an overload of information. It's just a transformation. From the article:

    Workers get disoriented every time they stop what they are doing to reply to an e-mail or answer a follow-up phone call because they didn't reply within minutes. Spira said workers can spend 10 to 20 times the length of the original interruption trying to get back on track.

    These disoriented workers just found their new diversion. Workers are mostly effective, or not effective. Effective workers long ago folded the explosion of information into their daily work flow and are mostly more efficient because of it. Ineffective workers can now use and point to e-mail as their nemesis preventing them from being efficient and getting work done.

    But, before the (alleged) explosion, ineffective workers had minesweeper and solitaire. Before that they had a water cooler and last night's shows to talk about. Before that it was real solitaire with real cards.

    Yes, the information is overwhelming, but it's mostly easy to filter. I have found anecdotally that even with the exploding amount of information, that not only is it not overwhelming, it's more topical and current than ever possible in the past, and it's actually more easily searched than in the past. If any of you out there remember the old days of writing research papers, it was far more difficult to gather all the necessary research and organize when the only option was the local library, or if you were lucky and in college with a computing center, the other option was the time-share terminals in the computing building.

    As for interruptions and avoiding them, it's easy enough to minimize e-mail interruptions -- establish and stick to an e-mail policy. If you don't want to be interrupted, don't allow people to interrupt you.

    • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @05:58PM (#21824694)
      But, before the (alleged) explosion, ineffective workers had minesweeper and solitaire. Before that they had a water cooler and last night's shows to talk about. Before that it was real solitaire with real cards.

      Now it's /.

    • by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @06:05PM (#21824744) Homepage Journal

      Workers get disoriented every time they stop what they are doing to reply to an e-mail or answer a follow-up phone call because they didn't reply within minutes. Spira said workers can spend 10 to 20 times the length of the original interruption trying to get back on track.

      Which is why I'd recommend against hiring employees that can't focus. Really, at any moment I may have to stop in the middle of PC repair {5 PCs on bench at current}, answer questions from anyone that calls/comes in, keep documentation current on our projects, handle any urgent incoming email/faxes/requests, and even a bit of sales if our sales force is out of the shop. It can get intense at times, but is FAR from anything I'd come even close to calling "disorienting".

      If you've not a mind for the business you're in, then you're out of your mind for working in a field not suited to your abilities.

      • by mc moss (1163007)
        Not necessarily true. Some professions will require a focus with no interruptions at all (such as someone else asking for help with an unrelated task or answering a phone). If you had a surgeon operating on you, the last thing you would want is the surgeon getting an interruption of some sort. Some people just happen to have such focus and can get a job done really well that you should keep interruptions at a minimum such as demanding a reply to an email that can be answered to later.
        • Not necessarily true. Some professions will require a focus with no interruptions at all (such as someone else asking for help with an unrelated task or answering a phone). If you had a surgeon operating on you, the last thing you would want is the surgeon getting an interruption of some.

          Let's look at the quote I indicated earlier:

          Workers get disoriented every time they stop what they are doing to reply to an e-mail or answer a follow-up phone call because they didn't reply within minutes. Spira said workers can spend 10 to 20 times the length of the original interruption trying to get back on track.

          Now, at NO point during surgery would hospital management expect a doctor to answer email or the phone. Au contraire, the hospitals ban cellular use in surgical areas as to avoid equipment interference. Likewise, it's hard to expect a doctor to have their office PC {the one receiving the email} in the surgical suite itself.

          Might I be so bold as to encourage you to post another example that's more in-line with office work?

          • by S.O.B. (136083)

            Now, at NO point during surgery would hospital management expect a doctor to answer email or the phone. Au contraire, the hospitals ban cellular use in surgical areas as to avoid equipment interference. Likewise, it's hard to expect a doctor to have their office PC {the one receiving the email} in the surgical suite itself.

            Might I be so bold as to encourage you to post another example that's more in-line with office work?

            I thought the example was perfectly reasonable and relevant. The point that was bein

            • If you absolutely have to have an office example then how about my situation. I work for one of the largest insurance companies in North America as an application architect.

              If you're talking USAA, I work with one of their lead web designers...

              Between email, voice mail, phone calls (cell and desk varieties), IM and people just "stopping by to ask a question" my day is one long interruption, and I don't even have a CrackBerry(tm) yet.

              The designer I know DOES have one of those Smackberries, and STILL gets her job done. Want to know her secret? Let's look at what you said next to set up my next point:

              Is my problem that I can not focus? No. It's that with the never ending interruptions in the modern office it is virtually impossible to make any headway on the design for that 500 day project when you're only able to squeeze a few minutes of the day here and there.

              Whoa. As neither you, she, nor I are at the top of our respective food chains, that means we have supervisors. Folks whose job is to {in theory} make sure that OURS is getting done.

              Have you gone to them to make SURE you have the space you need for a project? Our f

      • by geekoid (135745)
        You mean like losing focus and post on some forum while work sits on their deask?(I believes 5 PCs at the moment)

        Of course, it doesn't take a whole lot of focus to build a PC.

        • You mean like losing focus and post on some forum while work sits on their deask?(I believes 5 PCs at the moment)

          You mean the PCs in varying states of diagnosis? The ones running diagnostics that won't run any faster if I watch the progress bar intently?

          ...and I can give a status for any of 'em while on the phone or otherwise engaged... My boss is well aware I read and post on Slashdot, but looks it as I do: learning opportunities galore.

          Of course, it doesn't take a whole lot of focus to build a PC.

          Guess you lost your focus; my OP said nothing about builds, which are presently so n00b-friendly a spastic monkey could slap one together. It said repair, which infers diagnosis

      • by vertinox (846076)
        Which is why I'd recommend against hiring employees that can't focus.

        Wouldn't it be cheaper to just hire 5 incompetent employees from geek squad on contract, outsource the technical question to India, and fire you? ;)

        In all seriousness, contract and outsourced labor would trump full time employees because they only get paid when there is work to be done. Of course they'll probaly won't be able to focus, but when someone wants a profit for the quarterly report at upper echelon of management, its easier for
        • However, if a company cared about quality (and could afford it) they would have devoted your job into separate positions in which there was a full time sales person and a full time repair person. About 10 years ago, I worked for a small time PC repair shop with maybe 4 employees but I still didn't do sales and only did two computers at a time.

          As indicated in my OP, we DO have a sales force... who many times are asked questions of a technical nature. I'm one of three people here that can answer those.

          I'm full-time repair, yes, but enjoy helping with the weird stuff that comes up in our day. I *want* the business to grow!

          When you force people to focus on multiple things at once, even if they can do it right it will lead to burnout fairly quickly.

          15 years of doing this every day, at multiple locations, and no sign of burnout here! I'd suggest that the ones with burnout aren't the ones that LOVE working in this field. I'm glad I'm not one of 'em!

          Interruptions do cause unexpected stress to a work environment and can really hamper things over long term.

          Let me rephrase tha

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Coming back to repairing a PC is small fry and easily done. It takes about as much focus as scratching your arse. I know, I've done both.

        Conversely, working in R&D testing software takes a lot of focus. When we don't have enough support staff and the calls get fed through to me, I have to change my mindset to deal with very different legacy equipment, some dating back to the early 90s. I have to troubleshoot these systems over the phone with idiots that can't even read an error message straight, with th
      • by dodobh (65811)
        When doing pure thought work (think programming/design activity) which needs to be done purely within your head, any interruption sucks. It takes at least 15 minutes to return to the previous state from any interruption (Tom De Marco, in Peopleware, IIRC).
    • by ThreeGigs (239452)
      Looks like they thought TMI meant 'too many interuptions'.

      And yet another 'costs our economy' number. I wonder how they come up with those numbers.

    • I am not that efficient when it comes to managing influx of information. For me, I'm high with information bong day in, day out. I surf and surf, and at some point in the day I "burn out" from the influx of information. There's simply too much swirling in my head to really contemplate anything else. Internal filtering of the information is done that cuts out most of the fluff, but there's always a dozen really interesting things I'm keeping track of at once. I experience a "information hangover", simply dra
    • I think one major problem is that people over commit themselves or allow themselves to get overcommited to too much crap.
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @07:09PM (#21825136) Journal
      Hmm. You make a valid point about effective employees, but I think you're missing something quite important.

      As a business owner or manager, one of the things you need to improve is employee effectiveness. I've managed individuals that are off-the-charts effective when uninterrupted, but easily get lost in the crush of emails. These are usually the people-pleasers. If I send them an email requesting A, B, and C, they'll deliver promptly and thoroughly. But if in the meantime they have received an email requesting D, E, and F from someone else, they run into problems because they can't deliver A through F promptly AND complete their normal workflow.

      There are a couple ways of dealing with this. One is to establish priority controls on workflow. Another is to route all requests through their manager. A third is to establish an SLA that gives the employee a better guideline for when a response is expected.

      In no way does this mean that the employee is an ineffective employee -- it just means that they are ineffective given their nature and the nature of the work presented to them.

      My point, really, is that some good employees handle the "information overload" well, and some don't. The trick is to work with your staff's strengths and weaknesses to maximize their effectiveness. Yes, there are people who truly are generally ineffective -- but that's a hiring issue. Usually ineffective employees can be made effective through competent management.
      • I've managed individuals that are off-the-charts effective when uninterrupted, but easily get lost in the crush of emails.

        What you have indirectly acknowledged and TFA did not, is that different people have different inherent skills. Of course different skills will place and/or limit people within the business hierarchy. If someone is only very effective when dealing with three or less requests at a time, then they will forever have to be under close management. They cannot ever be project heads or work
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Usually ineffective employees can be made effective through competent management.

        Competent...management? Fish...unicycle? I recognize both of these words, but in combination they puzzle me.
    • by Venik (915777)
      I think you lost track of the subject somewhere along the way. You started out talking about information overload and ended up talking about workers who play solitaire on their computers. Having too much work and being lazy are not always the same thing (unless you are looking from a manager's perspective).
    • by turing_m (1030530)
      This is why Don Knuth stopped using email in 1990. Before this he had 15 years of email interruptions, which were presumably disorientating:

      "It's impossible to shut email off! You send a message to somebody, and they send it back saying "Thank you", and you say "OK, thanks for thanking me..."

      Email is wonderful for some people, absolutely necessary for their job, and they can do their work better. I like to say that for people whose role is to be on top of things, electronic mail is great. But my role is to
    • by gr8scot (1172435)
      True in many cases, no doubt.

      Still, putting procmail's sorting ability into more of the apps favored by casual end-users might be the next easy Internet fortune.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)

      As for interruptions and avoiding them, it's easy enough to minimize e-mail interruptions -- establish and stick to an e-mail policy. If you don't want to be interrupted, don't allow people to interrupt you.

      I find the combo attacks the worst, the kind that either send me an email and tell me "Could you look at the case I just sent over?" or just try to steal me away "Can you come over for five minutes and look at this?" and usually if you're already in the "interrupted" state everyone else see it as their chance to jump at you too. While it wouldn't really work with support hours, I've found that you need some sort of pacing - work concentrated one hour, solve various tidbits one hour, work concentrated one h

    • by gillbates (106458)

      Email is a valid distraction. Some of the places I've worked had a real problem with email - their corporate, CYA, political buck-passing culture meant that they exchanged far more email than was really necessary. In some of my other firms, people talked face to face. Now, it seems, everyone wants a "paper trail" so they can blame someone else when things go wrong. Hence the flood of irrelevant, distracting, work-stopping email.

      Typical problems:

      • I don't care about your stupid cat or its 3rd birthda
  • We could probably weed out a lot of the excess if everyone linked back to the _original_ source. I shouldn't have to follow a dozen links to get back to where it originated. And /. could make it easier by posting less dupes. :P
  • by Daltin (1153533) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @05:50PM (#21824624) Journal
    welcome our new information overlord. Wait, I read that wrong.
  • The year Linux finally is ready for the desktop, the internet goes and overloads!
  • by ch-chuck (9622)
    Cancel subscription to Wired, that'll take care of a large part of it.

  • At my job I quit checking voice mail and only read emails once or twice a day. Sure does piss off management but it makes my life easier.
  • by foobsr (693224) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @05:58PM (#21824698) Homepage Journal
    ... the article gives an answer:
    TFA: "also means more time wasted looking for the right information"

    If looking for the 'right information' is considered 'waste of time', how do you think 'deciding which information is appropriate', i.e. actually thinking (no outside activity to be observed, mind that) is valued?

    Much better to quickly produce a dupe of some blurb to add up to overload.

    CC.
    • Probably the intended meaning: "more time wasted while looking for the right information". The point being, presumably, that the "right information" is harder to find than before.
    • Hey screw off Darfur! Problem of the year? Information overload!
  • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @06:02PM (#21824726)

    Wired Editor Attempts to Fill Whitespace

    Fixed it for you.

    • by Caste11an (898046)

      I know Jonathan Spira personally. I couldn't have nailed it better. Jonathan's a well-meaning attention whore who loves talking about himself as much as about his own interests.

      The only thing he's better at is misunderstanding technology.

  • by Roxton (73137) <roxton@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @06:08PM (#21824770) Homepage Journal
    Modern messaging is an incredibly effective. If too many people are requesting your time, that doesn't necessarily mean it's time to change your communications medium. You may have taken on too many responsibilities.

    I find that people have a tendency to overestimate the volume of work they can handle. That said, there's definitely something to the notion that you shouldn't bother someone unless you have to. If you find yourself frequently disrupting someone's work (or find yourself frequently disrupted) out of necessity, however, then you need to reassign responsibilities, put those responsibilities on the chopping block, and/or get help.
  • by BitwizeGHC (145393) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @06:11PM (#21824788) Homepage
    Johnny Mnemonic: Yeah, the Black Shakes. What causes it?
    Spider: What causes it?
    [points to various pieces of equipment throughout the room]
    Spider: This causes it! This causes it! This causes it! Information overload! All the electronics around you poisoning the airwaves. Technological fucking civilization. But we still have all this shit, because we can't live without it. Let me do my work.
  • Wired is reporting that information overload is being predicted by some analysts as the problem of the year for 2008.

    This will be more than offset by the time-saving switch to Linux (2008, year of Linux on the Desktop!). A much bigger issue will be the distraction of playing Duke Nukem Forever. And all this is assuming the tubes of the internets don't burst from the exaflood. Lastly, all this will only be a problem until June when the Roombas take over the earth and sweep us all into neat little piles.

  • i only have one problem lately since my email is down to about nothing.

    Search engine results that are another frickin search engine or consolidation site that may or may not even have what i was looking for. Here we go round in circles...

    At least i instinctively avoid the ebay links that have whatever i searched for...even when they don't :/

    Well that and news sites that link to a blog....hint hint
    • by Verteiron (224042)
      At least i instinctively avoid the ebay links that have whatever i searched for...even when they don't :/

      Gotta love those.

      "Click HERE for your NUMBER 1 source for blue screen 0x800ccc0e!"
      "Click HERE for your NUMBER 1 source for exchange 2003 pop3 retrieval!"
      "Click HERE for your NUMBER 1 source for fetchmail!"

      Who knew you could find all that stuff in one place?

      Mercifully those sorts of results seem to be on the decline...
  • "And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh."--Ecclesiastes 12:12
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)
      in short:
      "Don't learn to think for yourself or God will get you." Gee, people using a fictitious character in a way to prevent people from actually thinking about what they are saying.

      It had NOTHING to do with organizing or storing data in an accurate way.

      "
      9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care.
      10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

      11 The words of the wise are like
    • The previous words in that quote show that the ancient book is advising us not to read:

      "The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh." -- Ecclesiastes 11 and 12.

      I doubt that anyone who reads Slashdot wants to read only "collected sayings", and be poor because he or she has lost his job.
  • No... Wait...

    Popfile
    http://popfile.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

    Tools like this will help get rid of corporate spam[1] as well as the normal stuff. They'll eventually evolve into general purpose artificially intelligent personal assistants which will act as a filter on almost all communication.

    [1] Crap from various management who spam the world with trivia about how they are feeling.
  • The cure for information overload [slashdot.org], if you can get past the ponies, it's a very interesting idea. (Just be sure to RTFA.)
  • Quote from the Slashdot story: "... Basex chief analyst Jonathan Spira declared."

    Quote from the Basex web site [basex.com]:

    "Basex reaches the key decision makers in the Collaborative Business Knowledge space."

    I know that many people don't speak Corporate Robot Language, so I will translate: "We are really, really bored with our jobs. We don't like technical things, or have any respect for technically knowledgeable people. However, to make ourselves seem more important, we adopt technical-sounding expressions, and pretend that they are meaningful."

    I'm guessing that the New York Times got paid for that article, and so did someone at Slashdot.

    I would love to see the "Collaborative Business Knowledge Space". I'm guessing it is about one centimeter square and is guarded by one old cockroach.
    • Yeah, I was kinda thinking that too...and the story is 7 days old already anyway [nytimes.com].

      But, since we have already spilled so many pixels over how much of the problem is the tools and how much is the resistance of the workers to interruptions, does anyone have recommendations for better tools? or at least tools that give you options for working smarter?
      Not using the "alert" feature on gmail, for instance, leaves a chunk of my bandwidth in tact.
  • A guide to ensure an information overload free 2008:

    1) Don't give your manager more information than you have to. "Good morning" should be sufficient for the day. He's got a lot on his plate, and doesn't need to know that you've had no work to do for the past month.
    2) Don't tell anyone where you're going when you go for a meeting, or whom it's with. That information could be just one bit too much. In fact, don't force the admin staff to check if there's a room available. Go down the pub for the meetin
  • I remember byte magasine discussing this 15 years ago ... this is the reference that I can find quickly [stanford.edu] .
  • BLOW IT ALL UP!!
  • by Fuzzums (250400)
    I already dropped 10% of my rss-feeds this week. THAT will teach them!
  • in his 'thought experiment' book, God's Debris [ucomics.com] (WARNING, PDF).

    "Humanity is developing a sort of global eyesight as millions of video cameras on satellites, desktops, and street corners are connected to the Internet. In your lifetime it will be possible to see almost anything on the planet from any computer. And society's intelligence is merging over the Internet, creating, in effect, a global mind that can do vastly more than any individual mind. Eventually everything that is known by one person will be available to all."

    I don't think that information overload will be our biggest problem, it will be the springboard to something greater. Not necessarily to the same conclusion that that Scott does, but the ability to process it all. We can create information successfully, we just haven't mastered the ability to search through it all. A problem such as too much information is the impetuous behind making sense of it all.

  • by moogied (1175879)
    More IT jobs will be created in 2008? Wow.. what a suprise. Oh. My. God. Christ almighty, does every year need to have some HUGE problem?
  • "What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it."

    Herbert Simon
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Simon [wikipedia.org]
  • What about runaway government spending, and the annual 1 trillion dollars spent with the American military overseas? And the fact that the US dollar doesn't stop slipping, and the US keeps borrowing money non-stop to cover its massive, quadratically increasing deficit?

    I know this is Wired and one can't expect them to focus on the real problems, but I find it completely absurd to predict "Information Overload" as 2008's biggest problem.
  • Maybe it's just a semantic difference, but there can never be too much information. Information is useful, it can be easily sorted and digested both mentally and algorithmically. The problem I foresee (and I think it's been here for quite some time) is that there's just far too much data on the internet with almost no value as information.

    Duplication, an age old engineering problem, rears its ugly head once again. The massive amount of duplication caused by sites like digg and youtube dramatically decr

    • Things will stay that way until something is done to change the internet from a giant data storage facility into an information catalog.

      yup

      cuz generally folks spend their time asking questions instead of trying to answer them

      if you spend any time trying to answer questions you will get an interesting lesson: when you come into possession of some valuable information you need to file that information and index it in such a manner as you and others are highly likely to be able to find it again.

      this isn't easy

  • PEBCAC

    Learn how to set up categories and context filters to make your e-mail work for you instead of against you.

    Have "robots" triage the messages.

    Once the robots filter out all the static it is easy to concentrate on the fifteen or so messages that actually make sense.

    This was news?
  • It's getting harder and harder to get meaningful results from even Google (which has been my home page on the internet since 1997). I'd like a way to set global preferences for Google searching where I could specify sites and filters from which I do not want any result hits under any circumstances whatsoever. about.com is a big time waster IMO and that's just the first one that comes to mind. Another is the site(s) that support spyware detectors. Search for anything computer related and you're bound to
    • by base3 (539820)
      You want the Customize Google [customizegoogle.com] Firefox extension. First thing I do is blacklist *.info, Experts Exchange, and other sites that return useless "results".
  • by edunbar93 (141167) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @09:45PM (#21826218)
    Here's the short version:

    Turn it off. There is an appropriate time to be reading your e-mail, responding to instant messages, and texting your boss on your blackberry. And there is an appropriate time for work. Set those times in your schedule quite strictly. During that your work time, your e-mail is not open. Your blackberry is off. MSN is closed. You can probably expect to get three to four hours of this kind of time per day. Unless something is on fire, nothing is to interrupt you, and you can focus on what you're doing and be astoundingly effective and productive.

    Once you're done, it's back to e-mail and MSN and constant interruptions. Or "team building" at the water cooler. Whatever.
  • by epine (68316) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @10:24PM (#21826440)
    What a bunch of pussies. We all know that a quick answer isn't necessarily a good answer, but maybe only 10% of us have the balls to stick to our guns, and half of us are at risk of winding up on the unemployment line, because a defective "fast food" culture has gained ascendancy in office politics, much like McDonald's in the 1970s. Only later did the masses decide that burger stamped from 1000 different bulls (to paraphrase "Supersize Me") is not good for the constitution (either personal or corporate). I was only twelve when I first tasted a green Shamrock shake, and even then my palate was sophisticated enough to conclude that petrochemicals (to give those flavour additives the benefit of the doubt) were unfit for human consumption.

    That's the present state of corporate email and IM culture: fast is good. Fast is actually crap, unless you are careful where you eat, but it will take another decade or so for backlash to recruit the unwashed. The average email response received in under 15 minutes is deep fried in hydrogenated soybean oil to a crispy golden colour. Yum, yum. Eat up and regurg, if you wish to see Santa arrive with your xmas bonus arrive in your neck of the cubical farm.

    "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven't got it."

    -- George Bernard Shaw
  • but Spira said the problem has grown as technology increases societal expectations for instantaneous response.

    This is the major reason for the problem. People who send these emails, text messages, and so forth, expect instantaneous response. It's gotten very bad.

    I recently had to deal with an issue at a customer's site. I was asked numerous times when the expert at my company would have an answer. Hell, I was asked every 30 minutes. This was a problem that was beyond my expertise and required an expert
  • These are some of my pet peeves:
    * Emails tagged as 'important' from corporate - that are not.
    * Emails from corporate that contain a Word file that I have to open only to find a single sentence that could have been cut and pasted into the email instead.
    * Corporate managers that think instant messages are a great idea.
    * Having to fill out multiple time sheets, one for my paycheck and at least one for project management.
    * Corp websites that have too much info and are very poorly organized.
    * Microsoft Pro
  • The information overload is coming to the managers who can now see how much time is wasted, more effectively than ever. Turns out, humans aren't 100% focused all the time. This is not news. The challenge is not crushing the inefficiency with picking the most attentive, focused, dedicated workers (since most companies rather not afford, TRAINED and SKILLED, workers) but how to best reduce inefficiency with management techniques, including realistically managing workflow.
  • Stupid IO is the problem.

    I am +55yo. I need each work/friend/family email I get. I need my email-list and S&T/R&D/.EDU/. news ... I was able to buy two OLPC, tell a friend about recent medical R&D, do my work with the correct latest BizBuz concepts and words for management and understand TEKchat within local H/S... hacker crews .... The email, blogs, wikis, miro ... are tools that when used intelligently provide an edge to an older/slower person like me. I am frequently the translator between ma
  • information overload is being predicted by some analysts as the problem of the year for 2008.

    Sure, why not? I have been hearing how people were going to be overloaded by information every year for the past 25 years. Seems a lot like predictions of the imminent demise of the Internet. Or how if you watched a puppy growing for the first month of its life, you would conclude that it will be 400 feet tall in six years. Funny how these things never seem to come to fruition. Perhaps there is some kind of co

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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