Reducing Information Pollution
The month of February is fast approaching, and that means that it is nearly time for the annual IORG-sponsored conference on information overload, a gathering of the front-line individuals working to solve the issue of info overload, and open to anyone interested in diving in and learning more about the topic. Announcing Overloaded 2013, the information overload conference that will be taking place February 9th, 2013, in San Francisco, California.
Last year’s Overloaded 2012 conference was a fantastic success, and we look to carry forward the work by advancing even more in-depth topics and discussion this year. As we finalize speakers and agendas, we will be posting updates here and on our Twitter account, but we can confirm already several high-calibre individuals who have agreed to present at the conference, including the following:
The cost of the conference is $99, which covers food and expenses. A lunch and snacks will be served. Anyone working to solve the information overload problem, looking for solutions, or wanting to help shape the discussion is welcome to attend. Please come and join us for this special event, we look forward to having you there.
A new repository of articles and research related to Information Overload is now available at informationoverloadresources.com. The web site was created by the Information Overload Research Group—a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to facilitate and share solutions to the growing information glut.
You are welcome to add pointers to IO related resources. Go to the above URL, register and submit your share to this communal work in progress!
“This is a crowd-sourced directory of links and abstracts to articles and resources about Information Overload and related issues such as interruptions, multitasking, attention management, and similar information management challenges,” says IORG President Nathan Zeldes.
“IORG is committed to help reduce the information pollution that is wreaking havoc on the productivity and quality of life of people everywhere. This Resource Center is our way to provide to the research, business, government and media communities—as well as to the interested public— a ‘one-stop shop’ portal to the growing corpus of research and insight about this major problem and how it may be solved.”
Zeldes says IORG was guided by three principles in creating the resource center:
IORG’s goal is to create the world’s most comprehensive collection of information-overloaded related research and content. The project was announced at Overloaded 2012—IORG’s recent conference in San Francisco.
The resource center is dedicated to the memory of Greg Spira, who was instrumental in its creation. Spira, a writer and Internet pioneer, founded the Internet Baseball Awards and helped advance the field of sabermetrics—the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records popularized in the movie Moneyball. He’s remembered at gregspira.com and several baseball sites.
The Information Overload Research Group’s Overloaded 2012 un-conference, a lively one-day gathering of information overload crusaders from a diversity of domains, was a complete success. Two dozen attendees spanning academic, industry, consulting, analyst and public sector backgrounds came together, exchanged research results, viewpoints and opinions, and formed friendships and plans for future cooperation.
We heard two interesting keynotes: Prof. David Levy of the University of Washington spoke about “Educating for Acceleration and Overload”, and Jonathan Spira, IORG’s VP of research and CEO of Basex, shared new research findings on Information Overload.
This kind of informal meeting of like minds is clearly working, and we plan to hold similar events once or twice a year in various locations. If you missed this one, we hope to see you in the next!
On June 27, 2011, IORG hosted five authors of books about Information Overload for a fascinating “Literary Salon” online event, where they discussed their reasons for writing their books and the issues and solutions that they find most significant.
The authors are Dave Crenshaw (author of The Myth of Multitasking), Daniel Forrester (author of Consider), Maggie Jackson (author of Distracted), William Powers (author of Hamlet’s BlackBerry), and Jonathan Spira (author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization).
The New York Post recently cited IORG in an insightful article about information overload and a sidebar focused on fixing the problem. In “Going Under: Information overload is drowning office workers,” author Chris Erikson paints an accurate picture of the typical information worker who’s being “interrupted and over-informed to death.”
Quoted within the article, IORG VP of Research Jonathan Spira noted, “If I had to paraphrase in one sentence what we hear in worker surveys, it’d be, ‘I’m drowning in a sea of information.’” IORG President Nathan Zeldes weighed in with the underwater metaphor, too, saying “The tidal wave of data is drowning us.”
It’s no wonder that people think in terms of an oceanic deluge when they talk about information overload. It knocks us off our feet and leaves us feeling out of our element. It makes us expend extra energy just to move forward. And there’s no way to ignore the new environment that surrounds us.
But even while the problem is washing over us, the answers are down to earth.
As Erikson reports in his side story, “Cut the Glut,” we each have a role in battling information overload for ourselves, our co-workers, our partners and others. And because we’re each contributing the flood of information ourselves, our first step is to turn off the faucet.
How would you describe the effect of information overload in your day-to-day work?
The possibility that social networking tools will take a bite out of email in organizations suffering from IO has been discussed for a while, and some forward-thinking companies have been seeing progress in this direction. But the news from France last week takes this to a new level: the CEO of IT services firm Atos Origin, an international 49,000 employee corporation, has declared that he plans to make the company Email-free in 3 years. The intent is to replace all internal email with alternative comm channels using the new crop of social networking and collaboration tools. Read about it here (thanks to IORG member Pascal Frion for pointing this out to me).
Given our own tagline of “reducing information pollution”, IORG members will be delighted to hear CEO Thierry Breton stating that “We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives … We are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organizations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution.”
So will this succeed? We have three years to find out, but given the strong leadership shown by the man at the top, I’m betting they can at least come close. I’m also expecting to see more of this happening in other companies, but Atos Origin will remain the first large organization to take this leap. Let’s wish them success!
IORG is proud to greet 2011 with an updated look. We’ve introduced our new logo and launched our reorganized website – but more importantly, we’ve renewed our determination to help the world fight information overload in all its forms.
Want to get involved? We welcome you. Want to receive updates? We’ll be happy to keep you informed (and of course, we won’t overload your inbox!). Please feel free to dive in and explore – and to join the crusade.
Who knows – with a bit of good fortune and a whole lot of work, perhaps we’ll all soon be saying “Information overload? That’s so last year.”
I’ve been engaged in the battle on Information Overload since 1995, when it exploded across Intel – where I was Computing Productivity manager at the time – with the now familiar devastation to people’s effectiveness and quality of life. In the 15 years since then I’ve driven a variety of solution efforts at various companies; I’ve communicated with scores of like minded professionals fighting IO around the world, exchanging and developing new solutions; and I’ve had the pleasure of co-founding the Information Overload Research Group with some of them. With all this activity, and the introspection a new year calls for, the question comes to mind: are we winning or losing?
At one level, it would seem we’re certainly not winning: Information Overload remains a rampant issue, affecting Knowledge Workers in organizations of every kind across the globe. If anything, it is worse than it was in 1995; certainly the estimates of the cost to Industry, as calculated by Basex, are rising with the years. And the arrival of new communications channels – Facebook, for one – only adds opportunities for overload. In the face of this rising flood of comms, it might seem that we’re engaged in a Sisyphean task, destined to forever try to solve a problem that will just get worse.
And yet, a better metaphor would be the labors of Hercules. Indeed, resolving Information Overload is a Herculean task, not only because of the extent of the issue but also because of its complexity: we humans depend on communications by our very nature as a social animal, and our modern business world could not survive without the very email, telephony and internet channels that we complain about. This isn’t a problem to be eradicated; it is a question of optimization, of striking the correct balance between too much and too little communication, of modifying the culture of groups and the behavior of individuals ever so carefully… and in this battle, we are making progress. The overload may be rising, but more slowly than it would have absent our efforts. In the nineties people were suffering from IO but organizations were mostly in denial or ignorance about it; people willing to take action were few and far between. Today there is a widespread recognition of this problem, and a growing number of companies are taking serious steps to mitigate it. Methodologies are researched and published, software solutions are developed and marketed, books and articles are increasing in number… and success stories are slowly accumulating. IO has moved from being a problem individual workers complain about in private to one that employers are working to solve in the open. We’ve come a long way…
And of course, we have our own Information Overload Research Group – which is poised to extend its activity and influence in 2011. We may still have those stables to clean and many monsters to slay… but remember: Hercules did complete the mission in the end (and get the rewards).
Have a happy and successful 2011!
From Ian Price:
On Tuesday, I was invited to be part of the expert panel discussion that launched the three-day summit on Information Overload run by v3.co.uk (previously known us vnnunet).
Given the nature of the audience, the summit as a whole has a technical emphasis and is sponsored by IBM. Having said that, there was a willingness on the panel I took part in to discuss the behavioural issues as well. If you have an hour to spare, you can watch the discussion here.
There is a wealth of other video debates and articles on v3’s site which is particularly rich in technical aspects of information overload such as storage and data centres. A comment article by Ian Williams, however, is a good expression of the view – which I share – that this is more about management than anything else.
Overloaded 2013 is coming!
Dec. 26, 2012
The month of February is fast approaching, and that means that it is nearly time for the annual IORG-sponsored conference on information overload, a gathering of the front-line individuals working to solve the issue of info overload, and open to anyone interested in diving in and learning more about the topic. Announcing Overloaded 2013, the [...]News Archive
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