Toes in the stream: dealing with information overload

Everywhere everyone complains about information overload. Forget the 1000-channel universe – we’re dealing with the million-channel universe … times 10.

There’s too much news, too many new technologies, too much information, too many tweets, too many great blog posts, too many ads, too much of everything. As we’ve been saying for years, it’s an attention economy and the scarcity is in our heads.

Here’s how I deal with information overload – mostly influenced by Dave Winer, who invented the “river of news” concept, in addition to a bunch of other interesting and ubiquitous stuff like RSS.

The stream is there. The stream is flowing. I can’t stop right river, and I can’t stop the water. Building a dam is just a temporary solution, as eventually, after backing up, the water will start flowing again, either over my dam or around it.

So …

  • when I want some news, I dip a toe in the stream
  • when I want some social (yeah, I know that is ungrammatical and sounds weird) I hit Twitter or FaceBook
  • when I want to see what people I’ve connected with are saying, I visit Google Reader
  • when I want to see what’s hot, I go to PopURLs

And when I don’t have time, I don’t. When I don’t feel like it, I don’t. When I’m too busy, I don’t. And don’t stress about it either.

There’s a simple realization inherent in this: there’s just too much to keep up. Maybe there always has been, in spite of a perception that “all the news that’s fit to print” was in the dead tree thing that appeared on your doorstep in the afternoon. So there’s no point trying. In fact, if something is important enough … it will find you.

Adopting this attitude is a wonderful stress reliever if you are the type (seemingly more common in older generations) that feels a need to keep up with everything.

It certainly has been for me.


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