Feeling overwhelmed with information lately? Information overload was a phrase first coined by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock. Not only are people unable to deal with the information flow effectively, it impairs their decision-making ability. You know the stats on the sheer amount of information being generated every minute of every day.

The infographic above captures it quite succinctly. Information is coming at us from real-time feeds, informational websites, gatekeeper websites and our social networks. How does one stay on top of this without feeling like you’re constantly trying to stay afloat.

Now this may not be a big deal for the casual user who doesn’t really need to consume every piece of information, but it’s critical to people who do this for a living e.g. Bloggers, Journalists, Editors, Management level Executives, Thought Leaders, Decision makers.


What are your options for dealing with the deluge? You can
a. Cull your sources so only important information makes it’s way into your activity stream.
b. Drink 6 cups of coffee a day, be an information junkie and devour loads of data.
c. Have effective human filters e.g. depend on your Social network to surface the relevant to you.

There are problems with each of these approaches. With A, you’re still potentially missing out on important information and there’s no way for new sources and new information to make their way into your view, unless you’re periodically reorganizing and setting up new sources. This can be pretty time consuming.

With B the problem is (other than a bad caffeine habit) you’re fighting a losing battle as the problem is expected to grow bigger, and it takes us back to the premise of impaired decision-making ability.

C is a somewhat effective solution as the irrelevant gets filtered out, but does someone who does this for a living want to depend on serendipitous discovery.

In the fight between Man and Machine, the former being careful Human Curation and Social Networks and the latter being Semantic Analysis, Machine Learning and Recommendations, the answer, as is so often the case lies in the middle.

With the noise to signal ratio being as high as it is, we need the machine to filter out the chaff, organize for easy consumption and learn from your preferences before information makes it’s way into your discovery pipeline.

Discussion, Sharing, Annotating and Collaboration can further add value to this information and really supercharge our information gathering methods.

In my opinion, the tools today to help with this process aren’t quite there yet. But we’re getting there and I’m certain that we’ll be up to the challenge. I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that the furthering of human civilization depends on our ability to effectively deal with this information deluge, organize it and convert it to knowledge if you will.

Thumbnail Image courtesy of: iStockPhoto, loops7

Image courtesy of:DOMO, Column 5 Media