Why We Don’t Care About Information Overload

11. February 2010

From the Blog of Tom Davenport:

I gave a presentation this week on decision-making, and someone in the audience asked me if I thought information overload was an impediment to effective decision-making. “Information overload…yes, I remember that concept. But no one cares about it anymore,” I replied. In fact, nobody ever did.

But why not? We’ve been reading articles in the press about information overload being the bane of productivity for almost twenty years. (Here’s a link to a fairly recent article in Harvard Business Review on the topic called “Death by Information Overload” and a related blog.) And there is no doubt that the information load has only increased — day after day, year after year. Spam filters have helped a bit, but we all still get a lot of stuff we don’t want. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, text messages, email ads — everything we do only adds to the pile.

So if information overload is such a problem, why don’t we do something about it? We could if we wanted to. How many of us bother to tune our spam filters? How many of us turn off the little evanescent window in Outlook that tells us we have a new email? Who signs off of social media because there’s just too much junk? Who turns off their BlackBerry or iPhone in meetings to ensure no distractions? Nobody, that’s who — or very few souls anyway.

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Let’s Tweet About Something Important!

8. February 2010

Freitag, 05. Februar 2010, 21:15:30 | Tom Davenport

Almost 50 years ago, FCC Commissioner Newton Minow suggested that the then-new medium of television was becoming a “vast wasteland.” One could argue that the same fate is befalling social media. It’s been a few months since I last fulminated on this issue. So it’s time for another curmudgeonly post.

A couple of recent studies suggest that the content of social media is trivial at best. An analysis of over 100 million tweets thus far in 2010 conducted by Sysomos found one bit of good news and lots of bad (from my perspective, anyway). The good news is that Barack Obama was the most common person tweeted about. The bad news is that he was followed (in order) by Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Pat Robertson (because of his comment on Haiti’s supposed pact with the devil), Miley Cyrus, and Nick Jonas. All others in the top 15 were popular musicians, disgraced sports figures, and the celebrity politician Sarah Palin. (What, no Scott Brown?)

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