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Microsoft Businesses IT

Information Overload Overblown, Says Gates 258

Aarthi writes "Microsoft's annual CEO meet-and-greet kicked off on Thursday with the company's Chairman, Bill Gates, countering the notion that the workers today are not overloaded with information.'We still want a lot of information.' He also outlined plans for Office 12, the next version of its desktop software, which is due to arrive in the second half of next year." From the article: "There is a real temptation that the thing that comes in the latest is the one you shift your attention to, even though that may be the least important...That turns you into a filing clerk."
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Information Overload Overblown, Says Gates

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  • What if... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 21st Century Peon ( 812997 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:15AM (#12588223)
    ..."the thing that comes in the latest" is a warning of a gaping security hole in your browser?

    • 'What if ..."the thing that comes in the latest" is a warning of gaping security hole in your browser?'

      For Bill Gates, it makes sense to have huge security vulnerabilities. Most people who have a huge amount of spyware and viruses notice that their computer is slow and buy another computer, thus making more money for Gates, because he then sells another copy of Windows. So, for Gates, there is hidden logic in selling the most vulnerable commonly used program in history, Internet Explorer. This vicious, hostile trick only works if most people are ignorant about what is causing their computer to be slow.

      Your sig is interesting. Another seemingly wildly illogical issue:

      On 9/11, 15 of the 18 attackers were Saudis. However, the U.S. invaded Iraq.

      When Saudis attack, invade Iraq? Actually, that's not illogical, it is just that the logic is hidden. People in the U.S. now get some of the profit from Iraqi oil. Before they didn't.

      For a president who comes from an oil family and a vice-president who worked for an oil company, it makes sense to use the attack by Saudis, angry at U.S. government influence on their country, to justify an attack on an oil-rich country.

      This only works, of course, if most citizens in the U.S. are unaware of the largely secret U.S. government meddling, for private profit, in the affairs of other countries.
      • When Saudis attack, invade Iraq?

        In case you didn't hear, Saddam is best mates with Bin Laden. They hang out, and smoke dope, get drunk, chase ladies together, and draw up 9-11/Mk2 plans.

      • Completly OT (Score:5, Interesting)

        by protolith ( 619345 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:11PM (#12590405)
        The reason for an Iraq invasion is actually quite clever. It was not really about Iraqi oil. The reason the terrorists used mainly Saudis in 9/11, was an attempt to turn America against its closest ally in the Middle East, that fat oil tit, Saudi Arabia. The fundamentalist Islamic movement in the Middle East really wanted the region in chaos in an attempt to gain hold. Attacking the US in a spectacular way guaranteed our play on the field. We have no intention of carrying on a conflict on our own soil. Instead of making the move they hoped to provoke, we attacked Afghanistan. They wanted war in the Middle East, we gave it to them. The Taliban weren't making many friends in the international community at the time. Had we left it alone as only an invasion of Afghanistan we would have likely incurred another attack on US soil, in further attempt to provoke an attack on Saudi Arabia. In order to keep the war in the Middle East and not destroy our alliance with Saudi Arabia, we invaded Iraq. This allowed for some exercise of back pocket agenda to oust Saddam, but really directed all attention of the terrorists off US soil and into the Middle East. The fact that Iraq has oil, is really just gravy in the whole scheme of things. If war in the middle east was only about taking oil for the US, Kuwait would be the 51st state in the union.
    • Re:What if... (Score:3, Insightful)

      Oh for gods sake.

      Instead of IT, News, Microsoft, etc. can't we just add a section for 'Microsoft Claims' and bung all this crap in there? I see these kind of stories all the time on slashdot now and we all know, without reading any of the articles, that they're all a bunch of rubbish; whether the claims are right or not.

      Who cares what Gates thinks? I have a lot of opinions about things in this world too, which arent driven by money making schemes, or claims that popular big companies who may pose a 0.1% p
  • by Cryofan ( 194126 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:17AM (#12588256) Journal
    Yeah, well, thanks for giving me the latest scoop on what some plutocrat college dropout thinks about how the brain works. Tell ya what, if I ever need some solid info on "information overload", I think I will consult someone who actually knows something about it, like maybe a neuroscientist, or something.

    Who gives a fuck what Bill Gates thinks about every little thing?

    • Apparently... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cnelzie ( 451984 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:21AM (#12588309) Homepage
      ...many people believe that once you are an expert or extremely succesful in one area, you are suddenly an expert or very knowledgeable in many, many areas. From what I read, this belief can be held by both the person making the out of their element claims, as well as by the people that find 'truth' (whether or not it is the truth, remains to be seen) in those claims.

      It appears that Bill Gates is not immune to this ego inflating weakness of the human condition.

      I only know this, due to having read a bit of study a year or so back. So, my information could be wrong, out of date or otherwise inaccurate.
      • Ahhh, very wise to end with the disclaimer... : p
      • Re:Apparently... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        Anybody who wants to hear a person with a little bit of knowledge and others assuming they know a lot about something they really don't should watch Dr. Death.
      • Re:Apparently... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by the right sock ( 160156 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @10:03AM (#12588817)
        my information could be wrong, out of date or otherwise inaccurate

        ...or completely irrelevant. Gates's book from a few years ago (Business @ the Speed of Thought) is all about collecting as much information as possible and leveraging it to your (company's) advantage. To that end, MS's software is built to create, manage and make accessible piles of information. His comments could be nothing more than trumpeting MS's line that the more info the better -- cutting back is not in their best interest after all.

        And it's not necessarily that people think he's an expert at neurology or informatics or cognitive science -- he's just a highly successful business man and technologist, and his thoughts on a given topic could prove useful or inspiring to others with similar aspirations.

        That book, btw, is terrible.
        • To that end, MS's software is built to create, manage and make accessible piles of information.

          This should read, "....built to create....piles of information...". Think "signal-to-noise".
      • Sort of the intellectual equivalent of Golden Throats [].
      • Expert:

        Derives from Ex - meaning, has been and

        Spurt - meaning, drip under pressure
    • Don't you get it? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:23AM (#12588332)
      Don't you get it? This is America. Where talking out of your ass is an art form.

      We see this everyday. Some call it bullshit. Others call it spin. Regardless of what is actually is, it's destructive.

      What is surprising is that more don't call this stuff out like you did. I wish that happened more.
      • by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @11:25AM (#12589707) Journal
        You CAN'T call it out all the time. There's too much of it.
        Trust me, I do it, and My fiance will get angry at me for being too negative all the time. People don't want to hear negativity, even if it's the obvious truth.

        On another point about it being destructive, The Daily Show (reputable source, eh?) had a professor on that disucssed how bullshit was worse than lying, because with lying you at least know the truth and repsect it enough to work around it. With bullshit, you don't CARE what the truth is at all, and this can end up being more harmful because the accountability of bullshit is nill.
      • by tbone1 ( 309237 )
        Don't you get it? This is America. Where talking out of your ass is an art form.

        Odd, I thought the UN proved this to be a species-wide characteristic, not limited to one nation or ideology or race or region or religion ... although Oakland Raiders fans do seem to have a disproportionate amount.

    • He's rich. That makes people listen to him, in the hopes that they, too, will become rich.
      • by Cryofan ( 194126 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:28AM (#12588397) Journal
        Gates mainly got rich because his family connections got him his first big contract. His family was Old Money, and his mom used her connections to get him in with IBM. And his family's old money got him educated at one of the best private schools in the country. And he has genetics on his side. Genetics and family connections aint gonna brush off from reading his latest self-indulgent musings.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:26AM (#12588366)
      Gates isn't thinking about neurology, or talking about what he thinks workers want or need.

      He is creating hype to sell product.

      The problem, Gates said, is that the information exists, but it is not in one place and cannot be easily viewed in a meaningful way using today's software.
      And, of course Microsoft will sell you their new improved office suite, MSN search, yada yada, to fill this "perceived" need.
      • > >The problem, Gates said, is that the information exists, but it is not
        > >in one place and cannot be easily viewed in a meaningful way using today's software.

        > And, of course Microsoft will sell you their new improved office suite,
        >MSN search, yada yada, to fill this "perceived" need.

        Heck, Microsoft will dis their own software once a few years have passed. Ad in yesterday's Independent [] for the latest version of Office had people in an office wearing various dinosaur masks; one dino
      • I think when he says:

        "information exists, but it is not in one place and cannot be easily viewed in a meaningful way using today's software",

        he's referring to the information needed to run and/or administer Windows properly (can you say "Event Logs") or the absence of any useful tools provided by Microsoft.

        One workaround, of course, is a full Cygwin installation with its compliment of shells, interpreters, text editors, compiler, network utilities and so on, along with a handful of other third-party pro
    • Maybe Bill should come over and manage my inbox? Then when he's finished that he can organize the random collection of files that were dumped into a folder due to lack of time. Then, he can manage the dead-tree information which typically gets filed in a box whenever the desk is full.

      One of the reasons I left my last company was because I received something like 150 messages a day, most were useless, broadcasts about things I didn't need, or things that should have been put elsewhere. I had a large number
    • When you can buy and sell small countries, and influence the economy of the world at your whim, people tend to pay attention.

      Even when you are dead wrong.

      Its fun to be in control of the worlds largest monopoly..
  • countering ... not (Score:5, Informative)

    by Paul Rose ( 771894 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:20AM (#12588298)
    "countering the notion that the workers today are not overloaded with information"
    I think he is countering the notion that workers areoverloaded with info
    • selling Office (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kaan ( 88626 )
      I think he is countering the notion that workers are overloaded with info

      I think he's trying to get everybody all worried about overloading each other with information so that they'll think it's necessary to upgrade to Office 12. I mean, how many more new features are really necessary by most humans who work in an office environment?

      Instead of adding a bunch of complicated features that solve contrived problems for a thin slice of Office users, I'd like to see them put some serious effort into making Wo
    • It should correctly read:
      "not un-countering the notion that the workers today aren't not un-overloaded with information"
  • No such thing as too much information, just information which is badly organised.

    I am connected to a web with a lot of gigabytes of data - the Internet. It's a lot of data, but with the right tools and knowledge, it's not useless.

    It's when you factor in using the wrong tools, lack of knowledge and malicious attempts to attract your attention that you get information overload.

    It's an overrated buzzword anyway. It seems to be most used for the same reason the previous generation complained about the pace of life being quicker these days.
    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Friday May 20, 2005 @10:38AM (#12589187)
      Or however you want to distinguish the two.

      Data is facts.

      Information is what you have when you process data.

      It is possible to have too much data and not enough information. And that is the point we have hit. We can capture just about any amount of data on a subject, but we aren't getting any better information on that subject.

      If you have enough data points, you will start to see patterns even when there aren't any.

      That is data overload.
    • ...with a lot of gigabytes of data...

      Indeed, there is data, information, knowledge and wisdom. Only the first of these is found on the Internet. It seems that we have lots of data, quite a bit of information, but very little knowledge and even less wisdom to prevent hatered, war, selfish greed, etc... a list as long as you want to make it. If a person has much knowledge without the wisdom to apply it, the usual result is pride leading to a downfall.
  • Hmmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Philosinfinity ( 726949 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:24AM (#12588345)
    One of the things I find interesting about this is that Gates holds the exact opposite paradigm about work that Plato holds in the Republic. But this brings up an interesting question. Do workers need knowledge of the whole system or just what their portion of it is?

    In many cases, things fall through the cracks when the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing. However, is that a causal relationship or a correlative one? I think that a strong corporate heirarchy where managers *gasp* are well trained employees that have moved through the system and proved that they are capable of seeing a picture bigger than "insert part A in slot B," is much more likely to not have the same sort of issues that a less well managed company would (assuming of course that the actual workers have very little clue what is going on outside of their area). Again, to bring up Plato, I think he is correct to say that people are happier when they are able to specialize in a specific task and work toward the perfection of said task. This does not mean that they cannot move up, but that the base job is a platform to the next level.

    However, Gates is in an itneresting position. Software problems can be directly attributed to having too many programmers working in too small of a scope. When they lack the information to understand exactly how their code is part of the whole, they make mistakes.

    But well coded, well documented, libraries, functions, programs, etc. should provide enough information for those who utilize the code to understand exactly how it will work within their project. Again, I think a well informed management that actually does work is a much better structure than building a staff of well informed workers from the ground up.
    • One of the things I find interesting about this is that Gates holds the exact opposite paradigm about work that Plato holds in the Republic

      Is that a real paradigm, a corporate speak paradigm, a metaphysical paradigm or does the sentence create a new paradigm in and of itself by pushing the paradigm envelope?
  • by Laurentiu ( 830504 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:28AM (#12588399)
    From TFA1:
    "I'd say in all of these cases, we are really dealing with information underload," Gates said in his talk, which kicked off Microsoft's annual CEO Summit. "We still want a lot of information."

    From TFA2:
    Raikes noted studies that show that the average worker gets about 10 times as much e-mail now as in 1997. That's projected to increase another fivefold in the next four years, Raikes said.

    Either Raikes and Gates don't know each other, or they use different definitions for "information". From Gates' point of view, information is probably what's left after his army of PAs has filtered the e-mail box and the income paper bin, leaving only neat reports and meaningful mails out of the whole damn mess. A typical grunt, however, will have to do the whole thing himself. Even the simple act of recognizing an e-mail as spam is an information gathering and processing system, and you have to do that for each spam that goes through the filter. And then there's the unavoidable corporate and friendly spam (don't tell me you don't have it), in the form of memos you don't care about, rules for using the printer and the latest joke your buddy across the hall has found on the Net.

    These ARE harmful to your concentration, to your productivity and to the level of stress that you aquire at the end of the day. Information oveload? You bet. Every context shift you do sets you back at least 15 minutes in concentration (scientifically proven, ask any serious psychologist). More than half the job of a competent PA is to shield you from that. And there's no software out there that can replace a PA.
  • by mindaktiviti ( 630001 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:28AM (#12588400)
    - Turn off the TV (download your shows if you must). - Browse with ad / flash blocking tools or with an RSS feed reader. - Don't sign up for "reward programs", don't give away your permanent email to any service. - Don't multitask yourself to uselessness (i.e. watching tv while working on your project with music playing and a game minimized you go into every 15 minutes while your paper's in front of you and you're baking cookies). ...You can sign up for my information overload program for just 3 easy payments of $49.9..just kidding. :P
  • by Nytewynd ( 829901 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:29AM (#12588404)
    "There is a real temptation that the thing that comes in the latest is the one you shift your attention to, even though that may be the least important," Gates said. The result, he said, is that people either have to leave everything "in one big bucket" or they have to spend a lot of time creating lots of folders. "That turns you into a filing clerk."

    How about hiring people that understand how to prioritize their own work? If someone can't figure out whether to run a report for their boss or send on a chain letter, I don't think a new version of Office is going to fix the problem.

    The typical Web search takes 11 minutes these days. Gates acknowledged that that is a big improvement over search times and capabilities of a few years ago, when half of the searches didn't yield the needed information. He added, however, that a Web search is still a "treasure hunt" in which one hopes that the top few links contain the desired information.

    Who the hell is taking 11 minutes to find what they want on the web. I timed myself just now, and I was looking at "hot teen lesbians" within 13 seconds. If that doesn't count for what people want on the web, I don't know what does. In 11 minutes, I could build my own website for it.

    If I were to file this release into folders, it would probably go into my Marketing/Propaganda one.
    • Believe it or not, when it comes to something other than pr0n, it can take 11 minutes to find something. Your search was very broad, to the point where typing in URLs at random could have found you what you wanted in 13 seconds.

    • If someone can't figure out whether to run a report for their boss or send on a chain letter, I don't think a new version of Office is going to fix the problem.

      The new version of Office will AUTOMATICALLY send on any chain letters you receive, leaving you free to focus your attentions on running reports!
    • Did you pay or already have an account (meaning you found it before)? Because if not I don't think there's any way you can find something good in 13 seconds.
  • If you give a user two computers with Office 2003 and Office 2000, then I estimate 98% of the users in my company will never see the difference. Heck, if MS were to drop Office for Mac today, the current version would remain "good enough" for at least 5 years, plenty of time for StarOffice/Openoffice to take over. Now I can see 10 years from now real AI entering Office software, bringing help to users. But I shure like hell can't imagine how they will keep on milking that cow until then. What new featu
    • ... if MS were to drop Office for Mac today...

      The 1992 MS Word 5.1 still works just fine to make nice looking letters. It runs on an old Color Classic and still also works on a new 2Ghz dual PowerMac. Office 2004 on the PowerMac opens the old Word 5.1 files without problems. Both computers print perfectly to an ancient Laserwriter 2g on the network. The old Classic is used mostly as an answering/fax machine, but sometimes still get used with Word for a quick reply.
  • Perspectives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DingerX ( 847589 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:30AM (#12588420) Journal
    It's nice to see everyone bashing our rich neighbor in Redmond.

    The article, though, is a sales pitch. Uncle Bill is talking to a bunch of CEOs, and he's trying to do two things:
    A) Trash Google and Yahoo and anyone else's desktop search program
    B) Promote the windows environment and Microsoft's desktop search stuff.

    Ultimately, the most annoying part of the whole article is the explicit point that Microsoft is primarily interested in developing software for the corporate world. So the ultimate bottom line for any development is how the new, human power elite accepts it. Sure the slaves in the trenches or in non-corporate fields suffer from information overload, increased stress and lack of concentration -- my life has become an anchorless drift across continents and task panes since Windows XP came out -- where was I? oh yeah -- but as long as the guy making decisions (who, as well all know, is always the worst informed. Hell he's buying microsoft products ain't he?) can yell at some slob and say "give me all my correspondence with Ballmer, except that april-fools yamauchi thing", and that slob can choke it up in the next 15 minutes, nobody suffers .
  • He's just preparing us so we won't be surprised when the next version of Office is loaded up with even more crap all over the place that we don't need.
  • Why does the media keep reporting Microsoft marketing ploys as news? Make 'em buy advertising which is what all this nonsense is. Bill Gates having constipation or Bill Gates having diarrhea isn't news. Bill Gates coming clean and admitting that the direction of Windows(tm) has been wrong all along and that he apoligizes for all the drek they've pushed off on people would be. An apology for releasing service packs that break compatibility forcing upgrades is rather a criminal matter and should be dealt with
  • If office doesn't cause information overload, then why does M$ have to hide all the extranious menu options by default. I tire of telling users to click on such and such a menu and they come back with "I don't have that."
  • Data overload (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cscalfani ( 222387 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:35AM (#12588480)
    We are overloaded with data not information.
    • Sure, but that isn't as pleasing to the ear. They've already done a multi-stage focus group process in an attempt to synergize their vocalizations of market shaping conceptual schemes with the dominant user paradigm.
  • Wish list (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CaroKann ( 795685 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:36AM (#12588495)
    1) Make tasks easier to manage. Make it easier to enter task dates and improve the ability to link tasks to email messages. The ability to have super-tasks be made up of sub-tasks would be a great feature.

    2) The idea of server-based Excel spreadsheets is intriguing. Unfortunately, the article does not go into any details about this. Excel could benefit from improved multi-user editing. The granularity of locking and editing needs to be increased. When more than one user works on a spreadsheet, instead of locking the whole thing, Excel should only lock smaller pieces. Built in version control, with formalized checkout, check-in, and merging of individual spreadsheet pieces, would make multi-user editing much easier to keep under control.
    • why build version control into each application, wouldn't it be a better feature of the OS? then the individual applications would get it for free...

      or perhaps use a file format that isn't encoded in some weird way, and allow people to use a rational version control system of their choice.

      I think this was meant to be funny... it's hard to tell in this subject area...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:44AM (#12588576)
    From tfa "the thing that comes in the latest is the one you shift your attention to" That reduces you to being a filing clerk. Or worse. At least a file clerk can prove that he gets his job done.

    The problem with the info glut is how we respond to it. If you let yourself get distracted by every little thing then your performance will suffer.

    Recently there was a story that using email decreased your IQ worse than marijuana. That's true if you insist on answering every email the minute it comes in. 60 06.adp
  • by Jivecat ( 836356 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:46AM (#12588595) Homepage
    From TFA: "The company's MSN Search already has that for a few areas, he said, demonstrating queries on 'Which country has the second-largest GDP?' and 'How many calories are there in spinach?'"

    But if you want to know how many calories there are in sperm, you'll have to ask Uncle Cecil [].

  • I can't figure out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by el_womble ( 779715 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:47AM (#12588605) Homepage

    ...if I have a serious problem. I spend my whole day filtering information, code, tech manuals, slashdot etc. and only taking in the bits that I think are useful/interesting/funny. If I miss something I figure I can always go back and read it again.

    The problem is I can't switch it off. I skim everything, and now the problem is spreading: it's affecting my listening too! I have to really focus on someone to take in everything they tell me, especially people I listen too a lot, like my girlfriend. If she is talking to me about something 'really important', like shopping, holidays, TV or hair and my brain doesn't agree how important it is I simply don't hear what she's saying. What worse is that she has a typical female ability to multiplex two or more streams of information, one of which might actually be important. This has lead to all sorts of arguments.

    Does this affect anyone else?

    • It happens to me too.... ... Mostly when I'm really stressed out.

      If I can't shut-off the inner monologue, or at least tone it down, I find myself unable to direct my attention.

      Classical ADD, or perhaps ADHD.

      You either need to find a way to relax, and find focus, or get stimulants (no, not illegal ones, either coffee/caffeine, or prescription).
    • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @11:04AM (#12589459)
      It's happening to me as well. I used to be known growing up in my teens and 20s as somebody with a huge attention span. I could lose myself in work and not come up for 12-24 hours or more. And, as I've gone into my 30's, it's been harder and harder to do.

      I've started hyperlinking my brain. I hear snippets of what people are telling me, I free associate during a conversation, I tune out my wife (most of the time with good reason) but even during important lectures or trainings, I start needing to check my laptop or my PDA.

      I've consdiered resorting to meditation to help me stop the inner dialog and outwardly focus on things. I picked up my O'Reilley Advanced Perl Prrogramming book last night, because yet again I was struggling with references (pointers) and the book at one point just faded into symbols. I couldn't force myself to concentrate and read the code. Ok, perl can be like that sometimes, but this was TEXTBOOK perl, so it was supposed to be readable and understandable. But I couldn't focus on it.

      I think I need to do something. I don't know what. Historically, reading a long book of non-fiction, like a biography, over the course a day or so sitting outside, has helped alot.
    • This definitely affects me, too. As a cousin to this post said - I've been known for a super attention-span - I can get into a book or a piece of code and tune out everything else. But that's getting a lot harder to do; I'm noticing a tendency to skim more and more of the information I get (books, emails, conversations).

      This becomes an issue at work when I miss important details, and it can also become an issue when talking with my husband - I go off on a tangent ("multiplexing") and he's confused, becaus
    • Yeah, I know what you mean. Even reading, I find myself looking at a paragraph before I read it to see if it looks relevant to the story. Sometimes I catch myself just after I have skipped it... who knows how often I do it without realising!

      I find this correlates to whether or not I have some interesting work to do which gets me back in the habit of concentrating. When I have a contract with some good, meaty, stuff (as now) I check /. et al about four times a day and read anything good.

      When I am out of
  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:48AM (#12588628)
    We still want a lot of information.

    Such as "How do I get Windows to the point where I'm not having to continually force quit stalled applications" or "Why on God's green Earth would Windows go out and waste my time trying to access a server pointed to by a shortcut I am telling it to delete, and then it bogs down because it can't find the server and does not realize that, well, that's why I want to DELETE THE FUCKING SHORTCUT!!!!" or "Why are most Cancel buttons in Windows cruel hoaxes?"

    You know... little factoids like that.

  • by blueZ3 ( 744446 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:56AM (#12588730) Homepage
    The first is: Never get involved in a land war in Asia. But only slightly less well-known: Never use a non sequitur, when Death is on the line!

    "...workers today are not overloaded with information." and "We still want a lot of information."

    Hello? Can you say "Unrelated statements"? The fact that we want "a lot" of information does not preclude information overload.

    The useful bit of information we want is (usually) a nugget that has to be carefully sifted from the deluge of meaningless noise that constantly flows through our every-day lives. These days, I'm finding that filtering out the noise now takes almost as long as accomplishing the task that I'm looking for information to complete.

    How many of us waste a good deal of time each day dealing with spam? I'm not talking about "spam" in the classic sense; I get a lot of what I call "internal spam" where someone thinks it's important to tell me about things that have zero impact on my particular work... Or what about your organization's Intranet? Is it well-organized? Can you find the information you need without sifting through piles of marketing drek?

    In any event, this is one of those situations where failing to acknowledge the problem could quite well be one of its symptoms. There's so much noise that the you think you're getting 100% of the signal.
  • That dashboard feature looks neat. Would that help with the information overload?

    When will Linux be getting this feature?

  • I don't have a problem with information overload. Here's how I know:
    1. I have several e-mail accounts to deal with
    2. I chat on IRC daily
    3. I follow several USENET news groups
    4. I routinely post on a variety of message boards
    5. I subscribe to Mental Floss [], SysAdmin Magazine [] and Columbus Monthly []
    6. I read /. [] and technocrat [] and fark [] and El Reg [] and Something Awful [] and Google News [] and Groklaw [] and The Onion [] and Maddox [] and Ars Technica [] and USA Today [] and NewsForge [] every single day
    7. I use Stumble Upon [] to find random, new and
  • Did someone misread that "Information Overlord Overthrown" Says Gates?

    I, for one, welcome... Nah, you get the picture
  • grammar much? (Score:4, Informative)

    by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @10:51AM (#12589313)
    TFA stated a confusing idea right: Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Thursday countered the popular notion that workers are universally overloaded with too much information.

    TFAS, OTOH, garbled it: "Microsoft's . . . meet-and-greet kicked off on Thursday with . . . Gates . . . countering the notion that the workers today are not overloaded with information.

    Welcome to slashdot, I guess.
  • by PingPongBoy ( 303994 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @11:03AM (#12589442)
    There are much more sources of information and that can be very distracting, especially because it takes so much time to evaluate new sources.

    I find it instinctive to be an information packrat, collecting bits and pieces, and marveling at the relationships between a current situation and some idea observed long ago. However, there is so much information that is difficult to really organize since it is encapsulated in some vague relationship to dozens of subjects.

    In spite of all the information free for the taking, the big problem remaining is to obtain the relevant in-depth knowledge useful for reaching a major goal.

    According to information theory, information aids us by telling us what is true or believable, as opposed to the randomness akin to ignorance (example - the ignorance of the next lottery winning numbers as illustrated by the fact that even winners check their tickets).

    A snapshot of thought is information leading from unsolved goal to solved goal. Deduction is so delicate that every step must be completed in order for the ultimate conclusion to deserve confidence.

    It is likely that in the years to come the Internet will contain, freely available, information requisite for most problem solutions. It would be helpful for us to collect information and compile it into the form of knowledge that can be easily used. It's very expensive to search for information and separating the so called wheat from the chaff. Computers and the Internet are tools that will decrease the cost of obtaining relevant information, and organizing it would only help in problem solving.

    Another aspect of information overload is handling it. Information triggers ideas and may sway beliefs. I say, live and let live. It would be nice to foster a tendency towards achieving new and unique goals and the belief that the information for attaining these goals is readily available. This comes down to the producers and providers of information to output quality while keeping in mind utility.

    Right now I see so much information available but so difficult to organize into verifiable deductions. We've come quite a long way though.
    • Where is the life we have lost in living
      Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge
      Where is the knowledge we have list in information

      T.S. Eliot The Rock
  • Why they always masturbate themselves with vapourware instead of actually doing something? Who cares that in year something will do something. We have real problems to solve now.
  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Friday May 20, 2005 @11:11AM (#12589534)
    If you subscribe to the ideas laid out in "The Human Interface" the idea that people love to have a random information dumped onto them is not humane. People may want a ton of information but they don't want to spend time "ordering" it. Beyond this humans just can't handle giant lists disperate information well at all.

    Consider your an audio ripping program. If a user were required to fully detail each file before they could listen to them in a player, one would spend all of their time typing information into each file instead of listening to the data. Filling out metadata seems to be a machine task not a user one. It is good to know what files where written by what artists. It is not good to force people to enter it. That would be tedious and prone to error: these are things machines actually excell at accomplishing so why make users do it?

    Apple and Google have been putting tons of effort into making machines fill out the metadata instead of making users do it because it is really a task for the machine. If Gates expect users to fill out all of this stuff he is bonkers.
  • Much of what gets shoved in our faces isn't information; it is noise. Things we don't want to know are not helpful. Meanwhile it is often hard to get the information that we *do* want. User interfaces distract us with data we don't care about and features we don't use, but we have to dig and dig and dig for hints about how the useful bits work.

    Clippy, for example, was almost always noise. I would estimate that about 50% of the words in the Windows Resource Kits are noise. Rah-rah, let's-all-get-on-the
  • To help prevent information overload, the new version of Outlook will randomly delete 50% of all incoming email. That'll really help you focus on the other stuff.
  • I know that some people will have a hard time accepting this, and it seems that Mr. Gates himself dismisses it altogether, but information overload can be a real problem. Heck, it was just yesterday that a "Ask Slashdot" entry [] discussed the relation between information overload and mental illnesses such as burnout and depression!

    Many young people may be tempted to think that their brains are indestructible, that they can work for as many hours as they want, sleep as less as possible, and constantly ove

  • Having started a company with the tagline "Information overload solutions", I have a bit to say about this.

    Full entry on my blog [] -m
  • but, the thing is Bill, some of us don't have an office in Redmond containing 20 people whose sole job is to read our e-mail for us!
  • I personally am at my limit of coping with incoming information.

    What would be useful is some kind of filter that can filter out the inforrmation that I want and drop other information. The big problem is when information is dropped - was it something there that I could have used anyway...

    /. is fairly OK when it comes to the range of nerd information, but I can't get everything here, like the local weather or finding out how to optimize my living quarters...

  • He also outlined plans for Office 12, the next version of its desktop software, which is due to arrive in the second half of next year." From the article: "There is a real temptation that the thing that comes in the latest is the one you shift your attention to, even though that may be the least important...That turns you into a filing clerk."

    Sorry, I'm distracted by the announcement of the latest version of Office. Let me do some involuntary beta-testing of it after it's released and then I'll file it a

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen