As Clay Shirky once observed: “There is no such thing as information overload, just filter failure”. He made this the theme of his excellent presentation at Web 2.0 Expo NY back in 2008.
Clay makes the point that information overload is not new and that it has been around since the arrival of Guttenberg’s printing press. And in the print era a publisher had to filter what to publish — otherwise it wouldn’t sell.
It can be said that information overload is (and always has been) a symptom of our inability to focus on what’s truly important or relevant to who we are as individuals, professionals and as human beings. The internet era has certainly changed the dynamics and it’s now possible to publish anything for free … so the filter has gone — or has it?
There are a multitude of freely available filtering “tools” marketers can use.
Here are just three that I would recommend.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds are incredibly powerful in filtering information from regularly changing web content. Personally, I set aside specific time each day to look through the articles in my selected reader and organise each feed into relevant folders (for example by industry sector).
RSS Feeds can also be used to manage Google Alerts — updates of the latest relevant Google results filtered by your search term queries. Google Alerts make it easy to keep tabs on mentions about your own company, competitors and even individual people.
By 2014, Gartner predicts that social networking services will replace email as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communication for 20% of business users. This thought is slightly daunting, and whilst RSS feeds have certainly reduced the load in my email inbox, a simple tool such as NutshellMail allows me to receive a single summary (from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) at the times of my choice.
If information overload is keeping you awake at night, spend some time setting your filters, take control of the wealth of information available and don't allow that to be your failure.