I’m So Glad to Know That None of Us Have Information Overload. Not!

I’ve meant to write about this article / “study” that popped up all over the internet in September. But I’ve been too busy and haven’t gotten around to it. Good thing that my reason for being busy isn’t the Information Overload that I’ve complained about to you in the past.

How do I know that it wasn’t Information Overload. Well, an academic study by an associate professor of communication Eszter Hargittai at Northwestern University told me so. And it’s a good thing that I’m not overloaded from seeing it on Social Media Today via a Google Plus post by +Keith Kmett. Or any of dozens of other places on the net. It was a trending meme for almost a week. (How long can I keep up this level of snark and sarcasm? Let’s ask Steve… Ah… Apparently the answer is “ever since I’ve met you”)

How do I complain about the study… Let me count the ways…

First off, it’s a survey of 77 total participants. Seriously? Seriously! And all were on vacation in Las Vegas.

Next, the question was only about how they felt about the amount of information in the broadest sense. News and entertainment and gossip.

“There’s definitely some frustration with the quality of some of the information available,” said Hargittai. “But these frustrations were accompanied by enthusiasm and excitement on a more general level about overall media choices.”

Right there, that tells you several things about what’s going on. First it’s clear the authors are looking at media choices. Having lots of choices for places to find things isn’t what Information Overload is about. Not at all. Heck, it’s not even about having too many choices at one time. That’s The Paradox of Choice as presented by psychologist Barry Schwartz in his TED talk and his book.

Information Overload is about when you have to find something. Not when things are optional. Not when it doesn’t matter what’s on the TV or on the front of the Google News webpage. No, Information Overload happens when you have a task and all the extra stuff gets in the way.

People are able to get their news and information from a diverse set of sources and they seem to like having those options.”

Well of course. If you feel like these are all options. But when it’s something you must find. You have to get. You need to know. That is what makes it different. That’s when the emotion of overload takes over.

The few participants who did feel overwhelmed were often those with low Internet skills, who haven’t yet mastered social media filters and navigating search engine results, Hargittai noted.

Right… because none of the 77 people in Las Vegas on vacation were web power users who have tons of tools (not “social media filters“). You know the kind, the ones who have 1000+ feeds in their RSS Reader. Who have set up a ton of custom Google searches on their regular topics. Who use 3rd party services on top of Twitter, G+, LinkedIn and Facebook. And who, still, blow past those tools with the volume and complexity. People like you all out there reading this on the Bscopes Blog.

What do you say? Am I nuts? (Wait… don’t answer that.) Is there really a Myth of Information Overload? Or is it real? And a real problem. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Blog Reading Information Overload vs Email Overload

Last week on the blog, we mentioned Joshua Lyman.

What we didn’t bring up is his work on a different kind of overload: Email Overload.

In his email discussion, he hits on a point familiar to Bscopes blog readers. He says:

It is solved by teaching people better email behaviors.

Clearly, Joshua has noticed that Information Overload is Illogical. And so many of the suggestions that he (and others) are advocating are all around the behavior of checking or sending email. And, as others have noted, this can certainly help with the stress associated with Email and constant interruptions.

He also points to tool based help to the problems people have with email. And buried deep inside that post is another kindred spirit to Bscopes. A mention of a tool called PhilterIt. Which lets you “Visualize Your Emails Anywhere”.  This is something we are going to have to check out.

Clearly the more we look, the more we find. Leave a comment below and let us know what other visual tools are out there.

Twitter Folks Discussing Information Overload

We just featured Joshua Lyman‘s Twitter list on Information Overload. Check out some of the tweets:

Nancy is working individually with people to help them survive their overload. Certainly a big difference than Bscopes Software-as-a-Service tool based approach.

Monica is passing along an article from Cody Burke about the dual sides of Information Overload and find what he thinks is a silver lining in it.

We are looking forward to more useful posts as we monitor this list on Twitter. If you’ve seen something you found useful, leave a comment below.

A New Twitter List on Information Overload

Joshua Lyman over on Twitter created a new list of people who are tweeting about Information Overload. He’s already added 26 members to the list. They all focus on a number of different aspects of Information Overload.

For his contribution to cutting through the clutter by doing some meta-organizing of the Information Overload community, we hereby award Joshua our third “Antique Receipt Spindle” Award. (For those too young to remember this once widely used organizing device, wikipedia, the font of all knowledge provides this useful article.)

Joshua, you may feel free to proudly display this award on the desktop or blog of your choice.

Thanks Apple! My son’s stolen iPhone is found in a few hours

So my freshman in high school calls me at work around 3pm today to tell me that he thinks his iPhone was lost/stolen. I should put stolen in quotes as he isn’t 100% sure that it didn’t fall out onto the floor in English class and get dropped there. He had it in his pocket at the start of first period and went and transferred it into his backpack.Maybe someone from school found it and is planning on returning it, he says. He wants to think the best of the other kids at school.

As a fully tech savvy 14 year old who is obsessed with Apple products (the “apple” doesn’t fall far from the tree), he has already done all the right things. He borrowed his friends phone and used the Find My iPhone app to locate it. It isn’t at school. It’s in a neighborhood about a mile from our house. He has already locked the phone and put up a message asking for a call and to have it returned if found.

No callback by time I left work. I had checked the location from my phone and determined that it was in a field/woods between a pair of different streets. It hadn’t moved in a few hours. I wasn’t sure of the GPS resolution, but on Apple maps it is usually accurate to 10s of feet.

So, on my way home, before it got dark, I decided to see if it was lying out there in the field/woods. Probably not the best move, but it’s a safe neighborhood not far from my house, and I held out hope that it was just lying there where someone dropped it. Not like what happened to David Pogue’s iPhone that ended up in the bad MD suburbs.

I parked and went right to where the satellite map showed. Just at the edge of the grass and into the trees. I had Find My iPhone have the iPhone make sounds and hoped that they’d be loud enough to hear. In fact, Apple did a good job there. It was quiet out, with no one around and no outside noise. I did keep checking to see if anyone was outside or watching me, but I didn’t see anyone. I kept hitting the sound button as I hear a faint beep. I was able to narrow it down to a pile of leaves at the base of a tree. As I dug down, I found it. A plastic Baggie with two white iPhones in it. The beeping one was my son’s with his message still on the lock screen.

Realizing that it absolutely had been stolen, I quickly headed back to my car. I was pretty sure that there was no one around. Within a few moments I was home and he was thrilled to see his iPhone again. Apparently withdrawal sets in at age 14 within a few hours.

I reported the theft to the police so that they could return the other phone to its owner. And maybe find whoever took the phone. I don’t know what’s the minimum level for them to deal with.

So, thanks to Apple and it’s Find My iPhone technology I’ve got one happy camper. And there will probably be a second one if the other phone makes it back to its owner. I’ve been an Apple fanboy since my first Mac in early 1985. And now I’m pretty sure my son will be one too. Thanks Apple for the happy ending!

Google Search Results Now Highlighted

Yet another new feature from Bscopes.

We’ve just finished integrating Google keyword search with Bscopes blog topics.

When you do a search on Google, any time you click through to Bscopes, your search terms are now highlighted when you arrive on the Bscopes topic page.

For example, when you search for “dragon earth science” and then click through to Bscopes.com, then the result is as shown in the picture on the left. The non-matching posts are removed to cut through the clutter.

This feature makes it quicker and easier to find what your searching for on Bscopes.

Give it a try………


RapidBI: Clearly One of the Top Leadership Blogs

How do I know that RapidBI is one of the top leadership blogs? Well, it’s not just because they are in the heatmap of the top leadership blogs… Although that doesn’t hurt, and it shows that Bscopes has great taste… No, it’s because Mike Morrison took the initiative to not only check out Bscopes, but then to blog about it and tell his many readers and fans all about Bscopes and Heatmaps.

So a quick shout out across the Pond to Mike. Thanks! Let us know how we can help.

Does Lifehacker Think That RSS is Dead?

Of course, on the internet, “Is <subject> Dead?” is one of the those meme’s that always being put out on blog posts. This week, the blog Lifehacker decided to poll its readers and ask the musical question (no, not “who wrote the book of love?”) but rather “Are You Still Using RSS?”

Check out the poll results:

I’d love to think that (a) this will put an end to asking questions about if RSS is still dead, and (b) will encourage the folks who read Lifehacker to  check out Bscopes to help them get through the RSS feeds they read and manage any possible Information Overload. So, why is it that I think Steve is likely to call me or text me to ask what color the sky is in my world today?

Make my dream come true… pass on the message to a Lifehacker reader or anyone else who knows that RSS is very much alive. Tell them about Bscopes.

New Feature: Heatmap Comments

We’ve just added a new feature for you.

Now anytime you place a comment on a users heatmap, an email will be automatically sent to the owner.

We want to encourage social interaction in the Bscopes community. Now by notifying a heatmap owner of a comment, like minded users can communicate directly.

Thanks for requesting this feature!

The Bscopes Team

5 Ways to Turn Down the Heat

Five ToolsAgain, in the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen tons of upset, frustrated people complaining about Google Reader and Information Overload. A few are also trying to find ways to overcome the overload rather than just give up. In this post, we want to focus, not on the problem, but on solutions.

Start With Your Needs

Most overloaded readers experience one of two kinds of problems:

1. Amount Overwhelmed

Such @firstworldlife who feels like he has too much to read no matter how much time you can find:


2. Time constrained

Such as @chachictweets who has a few minutes, but doesn’t know where to start:


To start to address this problem, we select a solution method based on the goal and the constraints. What do you have time for? All of a single topic?  Are working on research about one single topic for a blog post, article or paper? These determine which method or tool to use and how to put them together.

Combine Five Tools

There are techniques available. We used to experience the same pain, but we’ve gotten to a better place. We have built and used a combination of tools and methods to help the logical side master over the emotion of overload.

Here’s how we we get from chaos —> order. There are five main ways to turn down the heat and sift through the overload (taken from the Bscopes secret sauce):

  1. Separate: Into topics or categories.Not all blogs are the same. Many cluster together naturally. Don’t jump around from shiny blog post to shiny blog post like a magpie. Find and work through all the posts in a single topic area at a time.For most problems, separation is the first step. If you haven’t already organized every feed and blog in to categories. This must be done immediately and continuously. Then, depending on your time and constraints you can attack one topic fully or skim across several. But tailor the approach to your circumstances. If you are working on a specific task, focused in one or two topics, you’ll prioritize by reading all available topic posts, independent of the frequency or last visit.
  2. Frequency: How regular or irregular the blog is.There’s a sweet spot somewhere. Is it a once a day, once a week, or maybe once a month? Goldilocks likes to have hers just right. The frequency also depends upon the type of source. Seth Godin blogs a few times a week. CNN 20 or 30 or more times a day. Go back to your goal an determine how that combines with the frequency of the blogs you want to read. It makes sense to read each blog post by a deep thinking author. The posts of a news service area ones you should not try and keep up with 100%.
  3. Recency: when was the last post?Has it been a month, or has it been an hour? Some blogs are new with recent content on something topical. Others are providing timeless information. Know whether or not this matters.You can and should factor in how recently the site has been updated. If there are no recent posts in the last year or two it is a very different site than one that has been updated this week.

    In addition, consider if the recency matters to your goal. Research can often benefit from ideas that have been tested. In areas such as the sciences, a bit of time can help an idea prove itself. In other areas, the world moves on and leaves a post behind. If you are looking for info on web development, posts last updated in 2002 may not be the most helpful ;).

    You can slice off parts of the problem using recency. Catch up on all of the posts of a single topic, or read some of a series of topics since your last visit.

  4. Priorities: Measure the importance of the topic to your specific interests.Go back to your goal. If you are amount overwhelmed and need to find information to create a new blog post, then very few topics are high priority. They others may just have to wait.This is very much a battle between the emotional and the logical. What we are talking about here is classic Delayed Gratification. Make your tools help reinforce your logical side.
  5. Last Visit: How far behind am I on this blog?This combines with Frequency and Recency. Have you skipped this blog for the past few week or is this one your been able to keep up with?Depending on the topic of this blog, it may or may not intersect with the urgent ones. But over a longer time-frame, this must be tempered to balance the important against the urgent. So, this measure keeps them in balance.

Use What You Need

You need to mix and match these techniques. By combining them in various ways, you can have the tools you need to then solve your different problem. You’ll work differently if you have only 10 minutes than you would if you need to spend several hours catching back up on the latest in a topic, such as Internet Marketing in preparation for creating your newest material.

When you feel emotionally overwhelmed, stop. Think back to your goals. Determine your constraints. Then combine the tools to be as productive as possible in your given circumstances.

Let us know, in the comments below, how this works for you and your environment.