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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Too much information

It was interesting to note in this weeks Economist a detail regarding the torrent of information that we can receive on a day by day basis. The article highlights that traders receiving the all news feed saw 21 headlines flash up on their screens. Which gives them 3 seconds to read and assimilate each item. That is depending that they had read the 16 stories that had popped up a minute earlier.

Occasionally i've heard professionals complain that what they don't lack is information coming in at them - think about the daily law journals. What they are suffering from is information overload. An economist highlighted (Fischer Black) described this information as noise and that people make decisions on the back of this.

The obvious issue is that it can be difficult to differentiate between what is noise and what might be useful information. The more information that we receive may make us more confident about the decisions that we make, however research has shone that sometimes the more information we have the worse our decision making processes become. It is as if we receive too much information paralyses us as it opens up too many vistas for us to consider. I know that it is easy to suffer from this information paralysis. I subscribe to a number of blogs - but I know that if I don't read them for a couple of days then it gets too much for me to consciously read so I take the nuclear option and mark all of them as read and start again. I don't have an answer, but in this world of knowledge being delivered to us and even with RSS perhaps knowledge management's biggest challenge is to help people to be able to navigate the world of knowledge without becoming becalmed by it.

I watched a blast from the past the other day when I found on You Tube a video by Apple covering the Knowledge Navigator. This was something that they worked on in 1987 I'd recommend that you watch it and ask yourself - whether this is what we need more than ever. I know we have some of this now - but not all combined - maybe when we have the semantic web or Web 3.0 - something like this can be delivered to help people.

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