There is not too much information. You just don’t know how to manage it.
Most people I know complain that there is too much information *out there*. The amount of information isn’t going to get smaller and sadly the tools to manage that information are not able to keep up with the pace that we are able to create it. So what are people going to do? For one they will become obsolete and be replaced by digital natives (have you ever heard a Gen Yer complain about too much information?). The rest will adapt.
At Defrag 2008 Stowe Boyd made a statement I have long held to be true. Basically he said that there is not too much information people just don’t know how to manage it. He then compared the ability to manage all this online content to juggling.
I learned how to juggle in grade school. We started off with handkerchiefs. These articular handkerchiefs were made from a lightweight material so they almost floated, making it very easy to catch and juggle. From here we moved to orange foam balls. These took a
lot longer to master than the handkerchiefs. This is about where I stopped. I can juggle three relatively ball like objects; apples, small toys, etc. I do this as a cheap form of entertainment for my children (they’re easily impressed). Juggling more than three objects requires a completely different technique.
Stowe was a semi-professional juggler. He can juggle many more objects than I can, all kinds of odd shaped objects, he can juggle with a second person and I believe he mentioned chainsaw (I may be making that last part up).
Most people learn how to handle a basic amount of information in school. We can pay attention in class and take notes and not miss too much. But they stop there. This used to be enough. These basic juggling skills translated to a work environment where you had to do your job and handle email and the occasional phone call. Although many people feel the need to turn off email when they work. Most people handle information in a linear fashion. One thing at a time. They quit learning how to juggle.
Today’s Digital Natives (and those of us who adapted quickly) process information in a hypertext fashion. Don Tapscott discusses this in great detail in his book, Grown Up Digital. You can read reviews of Don’s books here and here.
While the tools will never be able to keep up with the amount of information they will help as our brains learn to deal with the data flow. I know I have a lot of readers to this blog who still subscribe by email. When I started blogging multiple times a day I noticed several of my email subscribers unsubscribed. While I’m sad to see them go I totally understand. Email is a horrible way to manage information. If you’re one of these readers please, do yourself a favor, sign up for Google Reader or Bloglines. (Here’s a great post on Google Reader.)
The amount of information we have to manage is not going to drop, it’s increasing exponentially and will continue to. Have you ever heard a GenY complain about too much information? I haven’t. Maybe that will change when they hit the workplace but that’s only because they will quit learning how to juggle.