Coping with Information Overload (video)

About four weeks ago I made my way over to ZDNet's studios in San Francisco to be interviewed by Mike Elgan for DevSource and discuss a number of topics close to my heart.  The video (15-ish mins) is now published.

Mike asked me about microformats, tagging, information overload, OPML, attention data and of course web 2.0. From the article introducing the interview:

"Are your users drowning in data, and you have no idea how to help them navigate through the information available? It doesn't help to know that you're the only one without a life preserver. Fortunately, the Web is evolving, and new tools are being created to help you — and the people you serve — navigate the expanding information space.

...In our latest DevSource video, Barnett shares his expertise on Web 2.0, OPML, tagging, data programmability, and microformats."

I tried to stay away from pure geek talk and instead talk about some of the benefits and the application of the various technologies we discussed. I touched on Dave Winer's Share Your OPML (see my post on it here), Greg Linden's Findory, the bookmarking service, Josh Porter's 'the lesson', and enterprise tagging.

Thanks to Mike Elgan for thinking of me and asking such well researched questions 🙂


The interview is part of the DevSource video interview series. Other interviews worth checking out are with Rob Howard talking about the evolution of ASP.NET, Jakob Nielsen discussing usability, Jesse James Garrett (who coined the 'AJAX') on AJAX and the Jeremy Bailenson interview about virtual reality.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments (7)
  1. ArnoldVilleneuve says:

    This is how I try to cope with Information Overload.

    The Art Of Information Triage

    Too Much Information


    Did you ever want to be able to read faster so you can get through the many reports, emails, and documents you receive each day? Are you dealing with information overload? One of the major complaints from many information workers today is that they simply cannot keep up with the volume and frequency of the information that is bombarding them everyday.  Stop for a moment and think about how much time you are going to spend for the rest of your life reading documents, reports, newspapers, emails. How many documents have you read only to determine that the information was not required after all. Imagine if we could reduce that time by half? What would you do with the extra time now available to you? I know what I would do!

    One solution is to learn how to speed read but this is easier said than done. Another solution is to use software that creates a readable version of the document that is easier to review, one that allows you to navigate the document and locate just the content that is relevant to you, paragraph by paragraph.  

    What if there was software that could help you understand what is in a document, or even collection of documents, without having to read all of the document? The software should be designed to read a document for you and provide you with a simple and easy to read and navigable knowledge view version of the document. It should allow you to apply information triage techniques used by experienced researchers to help you immediately get the gist of a document’s contents. The software should take you well beyond getting a summary of the document by allowing you to navigate the document to locate themes that you are interested in. This is a very important feature because it allows you to zero in on the information that is important to you.          

    The Challenge of Information Overload  

    Many organizations produce extensive amounts of information, some of it purposefully (reports and marketing material) and some of it as a result of doing business (electronic messages). A major challenge we all face is trying to determine what information we should spend time on and what information is not worthy of our attention.

    Information Triage is a Five Step Process

    1.        Does the document contain themes that I am interested in?

    If Yes, then continue.

    2.        Does the Synopsis of the document demonstrate that I should read further?

    A one page version of the document allows you to make this decision.

    3.        Does the Detailed Summary of the document demonstrate that I should read further?

    A 20% smaller document allows you to make the decision

    4.        You navigate the document thematically to find only the paragraphs that contain the information that you are interested in  

    5.        You decide to read the full document.

    That’s information triage at work for you. Imagine if after looking at the synopsis of the document you decided that it did not contain information that was relevant to your job, life, family. Why would you want to read more of it?

    What would Information Triage look like in action?

    1. What ever it is, the solution must be simple and immeidate. Something like, "Right click" on any typical unstructured text file (Word, PDF, WordPerfect, WebPage) and select Speed Read.

    2. Review the Thematic DNA Signature of the document. The themes in the document should give you a good idea of what is in the document. If the Major and Minor themes are not what your interested in, why would you want to read the document?

    3. A one to one half page Synopsis (Speed Read) view of the document should be presented that you can review once you have determined that the document contains themes of interest. For a 100 page document, the Synopsis would be about 1 page and based on the major themes in the document. The Synopsis should be based on the document’s original contents.

    4. Based on a quick review of the Synopsis, a more detailed summary version of the document should be available (Detailed Summary) should be available. The Detailed Summary should be a more extensive summary view of the document (Power Read). For a 100 page document, the Detailed Summary should be about 10 to 20% of the original document size.

    5. A form of Thematic Navigation should be available to assist in navigating the document. You should be able to use the Thematic DNA Signature of the document to navigate and locate just the information that is important to you. You should be able to drill down through the documents Major, Minor, and Subminor themes in order to locate just those paragraphs that contain what you are interested in and nothing else. This means narrowing our search for content that is important to us and removing that which is not without having to know a foreign language like Boolean!

    6. As part of your Information Triage process, if you have now determined that you need to read the actual document you can simply access the original document (Entire Document) and it will launch with the appropriate application (Word, Adobe, Word Perfect, etc).


    The benefits of speed reading are obvious: process more information faster and raise your comprehension level at the same time. But not everyone is adept at speed reading and learning the process takes time, patience, and lots of practice. Speed Reading software should help you accomplish similar results without having to learn how to speed read.

    Information triage is a technique that allows you to save time by focusing on just the information that is relevant and important to you. Right Click and you are Speed Reading. It really has to be that simple!  


  2. IDC and EMC have released a new study today – 'The Expanding Digital Universe: A Forecast of Worldwide

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content