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Information Overload Predicted Problem of the Year for 2008

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the nagging-inboxes dept.

IT 146

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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Overload? Hardly.... (-1, Troll)

Budgieton (1208128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824602)

There's a whole ton of documentation [snipurl.com] on this.

False link! (2, Informative)

N3TW4LK3R (841526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824642)

Parent is another Minicity-link !

Re:False link! (2, Interesting)

N3TW4LK3R (841526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825692)

I got modded off-topic. Which is funny because I was the one who modded this [slashdot.org] comment off-topic yesterday and got flamed for it!
After the flaming replies, the poster got a +5 Informative for doing EXACLY what I'm doing here.
I was actually sorry that I'd moderated the comment badly. Heh.

Re:Overload? Hardly.... (1, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824670)

It's a myminicity link! Mod down!

So far, I've counted 3 myminicity accounts spamming slashdot:
spx2.myminicity.com
fohootville.myminicity.com
budgieton.myminicity.com

Motion Twin is the company that makes the product, email them and complain about the accounts here:
contact@motion-twin.com

Also, if slashdot would follow redirects on links and display the final destination domain after the link, that would be great.

Re:Overload? Hardly.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824710)

fohootville retired.

Re:Overload? Hardly.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824738)

Redirect services are a bit of a loophole. I could set one up to point to

http://spamslashdot.myminicity.com/ [myminicity.com] ...for example. Get modded insightful for my ramblings, then change the redirect. OMG scarey!

Re:Overload? Hardly.... (0, Offtopic)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824824)

Sure, but most of the spam is coming from the official redirect site's like tinyurl. Those you can't change later as far as I know. If someone set up their own redirect site just for their spam, slashdot could ban that IP without hampering legitimate links using redirect services.

Minicity ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824844)

What exactly does this person/people gain by this ? Is it a personal site or commercial one that wants your click ?

Re:Minicity ?? (0, Offtopic)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824900)

I think that clicking the link makes the city grow. So it is some geekster trying to make the equivalent of his minicity karma higher.

Re:Minicity ?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824932)

If you only click one minicity spam link today, make it this one:

http://spamslashdot.myminicity.com/ [myminicity.com]

Re:Minicity ?? (1)

mmalove (919245) | more than 6 years ago | (#21826356)

Lol, that whole site needs javascript in order to work. And you can bet your ass if a troll is spamming it anonymously, it's not a website I'm interested in allowing to run any sort of javascript/activex/etc.

Re:Minicity ?? (2, Insightful)

ideonode (163753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824990)

That's interesting - almost like a way of scoring trolls - the bigger your minicity, the bigger the jerk you happen to be. All they need now is a way to incorporate a Rickroll in there to demonstrate their douchebaggery further.

Re:Overload? Hardly.... (1)

leamanc (961376) | more than 6 years ago | (#21826002)

Also, if slashdot would follow redirects on links and display the final destination domain after the link, that would be great.

Agreed, that would be neat, but my personal policy is that if the link goes to tinyurl or snipurl, then I'm just going to pass. No need to get goatse'd.

Whatever you do.. (-1, Troll)

SixDimensionalArray (604334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824604)

Don't get overloaded reading my FIRST POST!!! w00t!

Re:Whatever you do.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824652)

Obviously that won't be a problem as you failed quite miserably to achieve first post. In addition, you were beat out by a MyMiniCity spammer. I hope you take some time to think about the direction in which your life is headed and work on a plan to get back on the right track. Or you could just jump off a cliff; I really don't give a fuck.

Re:Whatever you do.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824684)

first, you failed... miserably... second, you probably shouldn't have posted such a stupid comment w/out AC you twit

Re:Whatever you do.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824754)

Offtopic - exactly the point - too much useless information!

hurry up and wait! (-1)

themushroom (197365) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824606)

(first post?)

The problem remains the same: we want instantaneous responses and quick access to information, but it's still going to take us a few hours or days to get off our asses to do something about it. :)

you should welcome it. (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824608)

Information Overload Predicted Problem of the Year for 2008

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

Obligatory welcome (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824664)

I for one welcome or new information over-whatevers.

Re:Obligatory welcome (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824682)

In Soviet Russia, Information problems overload YOU!!!

Re:Obligatory welcome (2, Funny)

XHIIHIIHX (918333) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825346)

In Soviet Russia, You overload information problem. Duh.

Re:Obligatory welcome (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825760)

You evenhandedly lorded over the overloading of the overlord overload jokes.

(2 mod-points if you can say that fast 3 times in a row.)
     

Re:you should welcome it. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824756)

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.

Re:you should welcome it. (2, Funny)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825496)

Kekekekekeke Orwell rush.

Re:you should welcome it. (1)

ArikTheRed (865776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21826272)

I've told you all this like 5 times already! Don't you pay any attention?

Using a search engine is too hard? (2, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824610)

I mean really. My email is overflowing, but a search finds stuff right away.

Re:Using a search engine is too hard? (2, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824890)

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 sign up for it. If you don't want to look up something on wikipedia, don't. Is it that hard?

Re:Using a search engine is too hard? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825392)

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 person doesn't help you.

... if you know the exact wording (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825620)

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.

This is a really old story (4, Informative)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824612)

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]

Re:This is a really old story (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21826508)

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 individual won't be able to cope with it all. Basically they're saying that since the internet makes it so easy for people to bug you, we'll all be way too distracted to get any real work done. And if we manage to focus and try and get work done, we'll spend all of our time trying to find old files because dammit there's just so many of them and google can't keep up and god why didn't I file my email better and and *bang* just shoot yourself in the head.

While the previous thread answered some of the concerns about the resilience of the physical internet, I'll address this personal information overload issue. Most people are plenty good at completely ignoring things that they don't feel like dealing with, whether it's important or not. Those who do not possess that skill have likely already had at least a few nervous breakdowns already. So basically, all the email in the world isn't going to change anything.

not necessarily information overload (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824614)

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.

Evolution... (3, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 /.

Re:not necessarily information overload (5, Insightful)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824744)

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.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

mc moss (1163007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825150)

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.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825524)

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?

Re:not necessarily information overload (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21825838)

Writing software.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21826446)

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 being made was that every job has certain tasks that require uninterrupted concentration. That's why when a surgeon is operating there is not email, cell phone, pager, etc. to be found. IT is no different, there are certain times in our jobs where we need to be left alone so we can concentrate on the work at hand.

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. 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. 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.

To deal with the problem I am forced to come in to work a few hours early or stay a few hours late in order to get some uninterrupted time to do some quality work. In other words, the only time I can get any work done in the office is when the office is not working.

Some might say I should just learn to filter it out. Those people have never worked in a large (> 1000 people) IT shop. And the problem only gets worse the higher up the food chain you go.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825196)

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.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825458)

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, a task requiring some degree of focus and mental acuity.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825528)

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 them to justify it.

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.

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

Secondly, if you suggested this to the someone who codes in software development world they would start warming up a barrel of tar and start ripping up feather pillows.

Personally in my current job (neither PC repair nor Coding), I ignore interruptions and do not respond to IMs or emails due to the fact it would be rude to the client. In between conversations, I'll respond but otherwise I just have to shut it out due to the nature of the job.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825722)

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 that: Interruptions are part of a work environment and can be expected in darn near every work environment.

Secondly, if you suggested this to the someone who codes in software development world they would start warming up a barrel of tar and start ripping up feather pillows.

Do you have any idea how weird it might sound to many folks that the people working on their mission-critical software don't care enough to pay attention? Try using THAT as a selling point.

Personally in my current job (neither PC repair nor Coding), I ignore interruptions and do not respond to IMs or emails due to the fact it would be rude to the client.

If your job is face-time customer-oriented, then you're jus' doing your job. If you're NOT required to have that face-time, then why NOT answer an email while waiting for a client to gather paperwork?

Don't get me wrong; I don't know your job, and am not trying to tell you how to do it. I'm just not sure why "multitasking" is a job requirement at most places when according to some on here, it's impossible. ;)

Re:not necessarily information overload (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21826570)

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 them acting like it's my fault somehow, and once it's done I've got to get back to testing software again. I wish - nay, dream - my main job took as much focus as repairing PCs or updating documentation. That's child's play.

Re:not necessarily information overload (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824758)

The difference between receiving e-mails and playing solitare or chatting at the watercooler should be obvious. The latter two are forms of slacking off, which is easy for an earnest employee to avoid. The former is a distraction which is work-related and seems urgent. An earnest employee can be distracted much more easily.

This is not to say that a few easily learned skills wouldn't mitigate the problem, just that its different from the problems you mentioned. Probably more akin to things like beepers, cell phones and voice mail.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824806)

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.

Overload for the nonefficients.. (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824834)

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 drained of energy and my mind is tired from endless processing of information fluff. I'm slowly weening myself off of my drug. But, in 3 weeks I may come barreling back as I am hooked in.


The internet is a merciless master

Re:Overload for the nonefficients.. (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824854)

That's a very long way of saying you spend too much time on b3ta

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824872)

I think one major problem is that people over commit themselves or allow themselves to get overcommited to too much crap.

Re:not necessarily information overload (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21825120)

Exactly.. this is just another way for ineffective people to bury themselves.

Personally I've spent the last few years conciously minimizing a lot of stuff in my life: less surfing, less email checking, less "stuff". More focused, more organized. I've started using the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology and general mindset to help me focus on tasks and rapidly switch focus when necessary without losing my place. I check my email when I feel like, I don't have it alert me. I rarely carry a cell phone, etc., etc., etc.

I have a simple rule for news, TV, websites, RSS feeds, etc: "Is this potentially actionable?" If not, I ignore it, unsubscribe, whatever. Because if it's not actionable, it's just ENTERTAINMENT and can be purged. With that mindset, think about how much of what's on CNN is just useless entertainment!

Honestly, the more the other people get "overloaded" and out of control, the more of an EDGE it gives ME in both my personal and work life. People think I'm strange because I have free time. They think it's strange that I don't watch much TV, and I don't pay much attention to news or politics. They don't realize that one follows from the other...

Re:not necessarily information overload (4, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825136)

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.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825788)

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 independently on anything but the most basic projects. That isn't a problem for most businesses but the career limits might be a problem for the individual. Especially if the individual has to take a step or two down the management ladder because they cannot multi-task. I think this isn't a case of overload, but of changing requirements of what it takes to get ahead in the modern business world. The problem is that this change relocates many older employees who have already maxed out under the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org] . Someone who was good enough in a position ten years ago might not be able to cut it under the new rules, so you have to demote them or insert new layers of management.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21826336)

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.

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

Venik (915777) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825162)

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).

Re:not necessarily information overload (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825554)

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 be on the bottom of things. I look at ideas and think about them carefully and try to write them up... I move slowly through things that people have done and try to organize the material. But I don't know what is happening this month."

http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/email.html [stanford.edu]
http://tex.loria.fr/historique/interviews/knuth-clb1993.html [loria.fr]

So now some organization has deemed that this is the year the phenomenon has gone mainstream. It's kind of strange that they mention the problem as information overload when inbound communication overload is a more accurate description of that particular problem. Information overload is a problem too. It's easy to just keep researching, because the signal to noise ratio is so good that research becomes addictive and the amount of material is virtually endless.

Some people handle these things well, some people don't. The sort of people who didn't weren't all playing solitaire 20 years ago, a lot of them were workaholics. A workaholic is almost always a star employee, simply because he is addicted to the work. But the thing was, eventually researching something used to get boring because eventually the info that they were researching dried up and they moved on to actually solving their problems (if in an imperfect but still very good way).

Unfortunately now, in the process of doing your research the most efficient way, a workaholic is very tempted to develop web addiction, which turns an excellent worker into a poor worker.

Re:not necessarily information overload (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21826114)

Before that it was real solitaire with real cards.
And real minesweper [youtube.com] as well

Couple things.. (1)

Slashdot Suxxors (1207082) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824622)

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

I for one... (3, Funny)

Daltin (1153533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824624)

welcome our new information overlord. Wait, I read that wrong.

God damn it! (3, Funny)

i_liek_turtles (1110703) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824650)

The year Linux finally is ready for the desktop, the internet goes and overloads!

Action Item #1 (2, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824654)

Cancel subscription to Wired, that'll take care of a large part of it.

Re:Action Item #1 (1)

vnaughtdeltat (1167485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825388)

Stop reading Slashdot, that'll take care of the rest.

I have information underload (2, Interesting)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824668)

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.

Unintentionally, ... (3, Insightful)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824698)

... 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.

Re:Unintentionally, ... (1)

Cal Paterson (881180) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824960)

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.

New Headline (4, Funny)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824726)

Wired Editor Attempts to Fill Whitespace

Fixed it for you.

Re:New Headline (1)

Caste11an (898046) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825122)

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.

Grok ./ modding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21825390)

That's right, I'm new here. So... if a post is noted "funny", that means it's insightful. Am I "getting it?"

How self-absorbed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824742)

No, I'd say the real problems of the year for 2008 will be the same as the problems of the year for 2007: war, disease, famine. It's a fucking travesty that anybody, anywhere would consider "information overload" to be a significant problem facing the world.

Not Really A Problem (2, Insightful)

Roxton (73137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824770)

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.

WAIT!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824782)

Not another problem! 2007 is almost over and I'm not done solving the predicted problem for this year!

What was the predicted problem for 2007 again?

Oh man! See? We're doomed! Shit! Shit! Shit!

Information overload, man! (3, Funny)

BitwizeGHC (145393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824788)

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.

Email Deluge (1)

Neuroelectronic (643221) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824828)

I work for a web retailer. I get over 1000 emails a day. It's insane. With filtering I can get it down to about fifty. But I still get that "Did you read my email" at least once a week. We have so many internal sites for centralizing information. So when ever I look for an established solution to a problem, I search the past tickets, our wiki and our message boards, oh and the "portal." There's also the archives from the previous centralized data source.

A lot of it would be better if we could manage to implement a decent search on any of these resources.

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824874)

2008: The Year of the Linux Desktop AND the Duke Nukem Forever being released? This isn't just going to be information overload; this is going to be the end of the world.

The Singularity is nigh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21824898)

Repent!

Quick! Fix that! (1)

krunchyfrog (786414) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824912)

OK everyone, let's all stop the madness!

[NO CARRIER]

Not to worry folks... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824916)

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'm hoping to get swept next to Natalie Portman covered in grits.

I for one... (1)

hurfy (735314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21824986)

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

Re:I for one... (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825070)

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...

This is nothing new under the sun (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825008)

"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:This is nothing new under the sun (1, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825178)

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 goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.

12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. [2] 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with [3] every secret thing, whether good or evil.
"

Listen to wise men, and don't read? (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825384)

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.

Octopussy (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825062)

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.

This problem is already solved. (1)

davburns (49244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825118)

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.)

I Totally Agree With This Article (1)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825158)

I've spent ten years in the information technology field and the number of outside interruptions from phone calls, e-mail, text messages, and other so-called "conveniences" of modern technology that were supposed to make our lives easier has risen by an exponential rate, thereby increasing the incidents of short attention span...just the fact that the slightest thing can take our attention... OOH LOOK!! A SHINY DIME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Slashvertisement? (2)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825190)

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.

How to deal with information overload (3, Funny)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825240)

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 meeting to stop them from having to schedule anything.
3) 90% of the office emails are going to be a waste of time - however, if you check them to find out, you'll get sucked into dealing with them. Instead, create a rule that randomly deletes all but 1 in 10 of the emails you receive. Statistically, this will be the important one.
4) Timesheets. Surely the classic example of information overload. Just pick a random job code and fill in all your hours with that. You're in (well, provided you aren't following #3 too closely) and that's what counts, right? The beancounters will thank you one day.

I hope this guide gives you all a productive and useful 2008.

Only one sane solution... (1)

Rassleholic (591097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825268)

BLOW IT ALL UP!!

RSS (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825270)

I already dropped 10% of my rss-feeds this week. THAT will teach them!

Scott Adams Had Few Things to Say... (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825352)

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.

Not going to happen ... (1)

lorg (578246) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825362)

... about 18 months ago Senator Stevens thought us all that the Internet was like a serious of tubes and that they can not contain endless amounts of information before the system becomes clogged. So you'll never have to deal with information overload since the information will never reach you. Hench no information overload. This surplus information will instead be pipes down the digital brigde to nowhere, aka /dev/null.

Problem solved. Thanks Senator Stevens.

So basically (2, Funny)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825464)

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?

A famous quote is in order. (1)

jma05 (897351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825486)

"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]

Messed up priorities (1)

Flavio (12072) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825492)

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.

Data Overload Not Information Overload (1)

Jekler (626699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825538)

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 decreases the signal-to-noise ratio. For every topic there are 100+ pages added to Digg (and consequently to the page count of the internet) without really adding anything of value to the internet, the same goes for youtube, every video is duplicated and posted by 100 users. It's like having an elevator with a 1000 button panel to service a 5 floor building. Everyone using the elevator gets to add their own button. Operation of the system becomes a more complex task than doing things manually.

The social networking sites seem like a good idea at first, but even if the information you want happens to be there, it's obscured in a vast sea of uncorrelated data.

Jef Raskin dove into this problem in his book The Humane Interface. The idea that there should essentially only be one avenue to each piece of information. The interface on a phone is a good model of what the internet as a whole should look like. On a conceptual level, there's only one way to dial each person, enter their number in the correct sequence. It produces a very quick feedback, either you dialed correctly and got the person you intended to get, or you dialed wrong and don't get them. You don't need to critically evaluate your result.

On the internet, results are very fuzzy. Even with advanced searches, the results often need to be critically examined without even being given the data you need to do so. Crucial data is often missing such as date of publication, author, or any citations. These problems have relegated the majority of the internet to the domain of entertainment. It can only be used for serious work under strict conditions. Things will stay that way until something is done to change the internet from a giant data storage facility into an information catalog.

poop deluge (1)

screeble (664005) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825572)

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?

Life Immitates Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21825772)

The Adeptus Terra

The Adeptus Terra is the enormous priesthood and bureaucracy of Earth, whose scriptoria, continent-sized archives and pilgrimage sites occupy nearly all of the holy hiveworld of Terra...The Adeptus Terra is so immense, and operates so slowly, that whole departments of it still service agencies which no longer exist and worlds dead for thousands of years.

Google search result overload (1)

PingXao (153057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21825946)

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 get multiple useless hits from their forums via Google. Google itself is a culprit in the form of Google Books. A great resource to be sure, but most of the time not relevant to information I am seeking. Just today I discovered that if I do a Google search for something and put either -"google books" or -inurl:books.google.com (or both) it has no effect whatsoever. It seems to be impossible to do a Google search and exclude Google Books from the results. At least -safari works as far as filtering out books from other sites. In general I would like to exclude anything at all that has to do with books from most of my searches. I've got nothing against books, but when I search the internet for information that is online I find hits that refer to books are of no use to me 99% of the time.

Google will probably never make it possible to selectively filter search results on a global basis. One of my near-term projects is going to be a Greasemonkey script for Firefox that approximates the ability to do it.

Welcome to Time Management for Sysadmins (3, Interesting)

edunbar93 (141167) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

chicken nuggets in 30s or less (3, Funny)

epine (68316) | more than 6 years ago | (#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
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