Information Overload and the Great Purge of 2011
There is no shortage of recommendation tools on the web. Amazon recommends books, Pandora recommends music, YouTube recommends video, just to name a few of the more popular online services. While the added value is obvious in the realm of personalized content discovery, if we keep adding streams of information, diminishing returns will inevitably ensue. More is not always better, because there’s only so much that we can digest. This notion reminds me of an article published last year regarding the volume of ‘friends’ we actually maintain relationships with in our social networks. Similarly, in regard to media consumption, the signal to noise ratio does not necessarily improve if that which was once signal converts to noise as new signals are introduced into a system. We simply only have room for so much.
I’m in the mood for an info purge. A digital cleanse, if you will. And I’d like some assistance with this, please. I want to improve my personal signal to noise ratio by not only adding real signal, but by shedding some noise as well. (I’m writing this post, of course, because I want to improve yours as well.) Sure, Google Reader provides trend analysis that illustrates which feeds I’m really reading, but I’d like to see a recommended unsubscribe-list. I’d also like to see Twitter provide monthly ‘un-follow recommendations’ based on my click-throughs (or rather, lack thereof) and trend analysis of those that I follow. I won’t have to accept these recommendations, but it’d be a nice start.
It should be said that I recognize significant value in following/subscribing to channels that reside outside one’s comfort zone or direct areas of interest. It is in these places that we often discover the seeds of new inspiration, and in general, grow our intellectual capacity across the horizontal plane of knowledge. I’m quite fond of this as a general learning principle. In fact, I think it’s critical to both personal and collective growth. But it’d be nice to have some help, some assistance in weeding out the nonsense.
Mashable recently posted an article about how Twitter users have changed in the last year. Consider that the number of users with more than 100 followers has tripled from 2009 to 2010. Now, this may simply reflect the broadening adoption of the service and sophistication in which people are using it. After all, those with 5-100 friends is almost the same. This statistics says nothing about a change in the signal to noise ratio. But I’ve got a gut feeling about this one. I know what my behavior is like on the platform, and I think I perform more active curation that most, and I’m definitely feeling the occasional swell of spam so I can only imagine how the passive Twitterers feel from time to time. I’m writing this post to call attention to this phenomenon and to motivate you to take action. I think we’ll all be better for it.
Perhaps there’s an ideal quantity of junk that is non-core to our interests yet potentially useful. 1 in 5 feels too high. Maybe 1 in 10? Yes. I’ll try that. I’m planning to spend some quality time before the year’s over with both my Twitter and Google Reader, to refine my feeds to a more tolerable and value-adding configuration. I suggest you do the same. For approximately every 9 “core” feeds that I’ll follow, I’ll permit 1 “non-core”.
What’s my favorite consumption method, you ask? Flipboard on iPad. With Facebook, Twitter and full Google Reader integration, it’s the best I’ve ever had. Pulse is in solid second place. Very smilar functionality, but very different experience design. They both allow me to integrate all my sources on the iPad while provided tools to share, and also store items via my preferred archiving mechanism, Instapaper (aka Read Later).
Let’s call this the Great Purge of 2011, a digital cleanse in an age of exponentially increasing streams of information that undoubtedly cause mental clutter, less focus and less retention. On that note, I intend to blog a whole lot more in 2011, and I hope that as you purge your streams you choose to continue to follow me and the entire Idea Couture / Noodleplay team!