Blogs and information overload

October 4, 2006 at 1:21 pm 4 comments

Tom Davenport, author extraordinaire, in Attention Bloggers on the babsonknowledge blog, makes some comments regarding blogs, information overload, our management of this information deluge, and ponders about computer ‘agents’ that will help us manage our information in the future. Some comments that caught my eye (well the first one was in bold, so…):

“…the key issue is the imbalance of information in the blogosphere and the amount of human attention available to attend to it.”

I’m reading The Long Tail, by Anderson, so I’m kind of thinking that way anyway, but the point seems to be there’s an audience for everything – it just might not be a huge audience.  It’s not that we want to keep up on everything in the blogosphere, just the things that matter to us.  And someone, somewhere, seems to be publishing just for us….

“…We don’t have time to look at all of this stuff to see if it’s interesting and relevant to us, so we will have to have systems that find the good content and serve it up or summarize it for us. It is individuals that read and take action on unstructured information, so we need to address this issue at the individual level.”

This is actually exactly what I see useful about blogs.  Rather than ask Google what the best sources are on a given topic, you’d look to your expert, your mentat (ala Hunter), who knows what’s important and filters it for you.  And it’s people doing this, not systems. 

But how to find the blog for you?  That’s the question.  Technorati, Google blog search?  And the list of “almost perfect” RSS feeds is certainly growing.  Managing these is important as Davenport mentions.

And as referenced in the Attention… post, another post suggests,

“…[A blog] as a device for personal knowledge management—a way to keep track of ideas that you’d like to follow up on or return to at some point. And if someone else is interested, so much the better.”

And that’s how a lot of people use their blog, I think (e.g. Doctorow’s comments).  Certainly what I’m doing here.

Then Davenport poses a few topics he’d like his e-agent to keep up on…these look like search terms for Google Alerts?  Maybe we already have agents to help us out?  And with Google personalized search (beta),

“Personalized Search orders your search results based on what you’ve searched for in the past. Early on, you may not notice a huge impact on your search results, but they will continue to improve over time as you use Google.”

I think watching your mentat’s blog will also lead to synthetic serendipity when a blog exists as a boundary object between different communities of practice.  You don’t know what you don’t know. 

How specific do we want our mentat to be?  Commented in Information Anxiety 2 by Wurman, “…personalized news is a horrible idea, since it’s often the noise that leads to the creative breakthroughs.”

Blogs allow people to self-publish.  When this long-tail of publishers post a blog entry they are organizing some corner of the chaos of information at our fingertips, providing the links between disparate information resources.  Google is watching this information-aggregation and turning it around to help us find pertinent information.  So maybe it really not the blogs we should be reading anyway.

From Rainbows End, “…In almost all modern jobs, search and analysis are how we make our living.  But, in the end we must also know something about something….”


Entry filed under: feed my pet brain, KM.

Excel vs. Access (reprise), context, and SharePoint Additional digital notes

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chris Saad  |  October 15, 2006 at 8:10 am

    Great post – we are working on something that hopes to help with the attention deficit problem. Drop me a line and let me know what you think of the URL in my name 🙂

  • 2. futhermet  |  October 16, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    It’s sort of off topic, but I’ve often wondered, Chris, if the kids we label as attention deficit today will simply be called ’employees’ tomorrow.

    Our information environment is changing so quickly that people who grew up pre-web have a foot stuck in both worlds, whether we like it or not. We’ll always have a codgy perspective ala Manfred Macx in Accelerandoby Stross, a forward thinker, but who stuck with his specs over implants as long as he could (“Goop-phase Darwin-design nanotech ain’t designed for clean interfaces,” he’d said, “I’ll stick to disposable kit, thanks.”) , or Robert Gu in Rainbows endwho resisted wearcomp as well.

    The concept of Touchstone is extremely compelling and I thank you for bringing it to my attention (allusion unintended but convenient). I’ll be checking it out.

  • 3. chrissaad  |  October 16, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    I think that even Autism is probably a difference of information processing that we don’t understand rather than a neurological disorder to be cured.

    As you say – I think that ADD is fast becoming an advantage at the level of information saturation we are experiencing.
    Like anything though, there is the right person for the job. Some jobs will need information gathers (our ADD friends), and others will need information synthesizers.

    Thanks for dropping by on our blog too!

  • 4. Google causes ADD « Feed My Pet Brain  |  January 18, 2008 at 9:03 am

    […] 18, 2008 A post at Slashdot reminds me of a post and the comments from a while back, Blogs and Information Overload.  The article mentions the growing impatience of today’s digital natives as well as us […]


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