by C.G. Lynch

How Do You Manage Information Overload?

Jun 29, 20092 mins

The amount of information that we upload to services like Facebook and Twitter will need to be sorted in some manageable way.

The popularity of Twitter, and the ever-evolving design of Facebook, will cause an increasing amount of information overload on the Web. While we shouldn’t revert back to putting content into tidy folders or static web pages, the amount of information that we upload to real-time data streams will need to be sorted in some manageable way. We should also become comfortable with the fact we’ll miss many items.

The Web is not a book club with a designated reading list, where you check off the box for everything you plan to read. RSS fails to solve this problem anymore, because content piles up too quickly. On Twitter and Facebook’s home page, status messages, pictures, videos and links flow down the page quickly. They are now the consumer poster-children for streaming applications. 

Google will be marrying those streaming bits of content with e-mail when it launches Google Wave. This could have incredible effects on the way we work, since so many people start and manage their day in e-mail. 

But this will have consequences on information overload. With so many posts, so many “friends” and “followers,” who can you keep up with on what you missed? I think the answer is, in short, you can’t and shouldn’t try. You should let the information be, and the really important stuff you can find with search later on (which I’m betting Google Wave will be able to do very well).

For existing streaming technologies, such as Twitter and Facebook, has taken a stab at helping you lessen the problem. We showed you how to catch up after a few days away from Twitter, and we examined how to sort through the noise on Facebook. 

But we’d be very interested in knowing how you sort through information overload as these technologies become significant factors not only for us as consumers, but also as professionals as well.