The Firehose Is Out of Control

First it was RSS.  I absolutely loved it.  I was able to handpick blogs/topics I wanted to read and at my leisure, consume the content.  My RSS list grew to over 200 bloggers/content sources and if I didn’t check it each day, it became intimidating just looking at the list of unread posts.  I can’t tell you the last time I checked Google Reader.  I was addicted at one point however – checking each hour.

Next up is Facebook and Twitter.  I would give myself a grade of “B+” for limiting the amount of people I follow on Twitter (158 as of writing) as to not overload my tweet screen.  Facebook as well – limited the people who I follow through the news feeds.  The sheer volume however of each tweet/update from the people I’m following both dillute the stream (I don’t need to know that you had cinnabons for breakfast – but I’m guilty at that every once in a while) and make it hard to keep up.  I don’t know if I’m actually supposed to (I don’t think I am) notice that sometimes there are some amazing tweets that I don’t see because my tweet feed is just too long.

I’m not the first person to talk about this nor the last, but there is definitely a need to filter information and data.  I think too many people are focusing on discovery – filtering is needed before we can go out and discover anything new.

People talk about the velocity of current flows of information and inputs and say it’s like drinking from a fire hose.  That’s wishful thinking.  On far too many days, it feels more like living in the Lower Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina.  For Clay Shirky, that sense of drowning in information is a sure sign not of overload but, rather, of inadequate filters.  If he’s right (and I think he is), we have to find a better way of coping.  (c) Above and Beyond KM

Google, Yahoo!, MeeHive, and others are innovating in this space but I’m sure there are many more people.  Anyone know of any great services that help filter the firehose?

This issue is playing out at SXSW.  Just look at the #sxsw issue.

  • http://karlmfoxley.com Karl Foxley

    This is a great post. I recently wrote a blog post about increasing productivity and one of my main tips was to shut out background noise (unplugging the phone, closing your email client etc). It’s all well and good having the tools and systems that increase our productivity but, as you say, they decrease in functionality when you are overwhelmed by the very tool you used to ‘make things easier’ in the first place.

    Regards,

    Karl

  • http://karlmfoxley.com Karl Foxley

    This is a great post. I recently wrote a blog post about increasing productivity and one of my main tips was to shut out background noise (unplugging the phone, closing your email client etc). It's all well and good having the tools and systems that increase our productivity but, as you say, they decrease in functionality when you are overwhelmed by the very tool you used to 'make things easier' in the first place.

    Regards,

    Karl

  • http://mikepratt.tv/ Michael J. Pratt

    As indicated by the recent tectonic shift by Facebook in their user experience, the 2.00 world is, once again, evolving. Give thanks to Twitter (or whomever you want) for highlighting the need/benefits of “engagement” but the conversational aspect to information production and consumption is being integrated at full speed into our worlds. Not only will tools need to evolve to help with the firehose dilemma but they will also need to evolve to help integrate the lengthier, more deliberate and produced content (blog posts & stories) with the short, spur of the moments comment and Twitter – type content.

  • http://mikepratt.tv Michael J. Pratt

    As indicated by the recent tectonic shift by Facebook in their user experience, the 2.00 world is, once again, evolving. Give thanks to Twitter (or whomever you want) for highlighting the need/benefits of “engagement” but the conversational aspect to information production and consumption is being integrated at full speed into our worlds. Not only will tools need to evolve to help with the firehose dilemma but they will also need to evolve to help integrate the lengthier, more deliberate and produced content (blog posts & stories) with the short, spur of the moments comment and Twitter – type content.

  • http://meehive.com dane

    Information overload is a real problem and one we are attempting to solve at MeeHive. I'm not saying this simply because I'm on the development team…but I did find this article while browsing my newspaper today and it is very relevant to my interests so we must be doing some things right.

    Still, we are early in development and there is a lot of things we need to add/improve to make this a primary news consumption point for our users.

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