Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Give it up. You can't keep up with everything.

Internet is vast.  We all knew that.  Although we realized that there are always information out there that we don't know about, we took a comfort of knowing that we can google anything and find the information that we needed.  Information existed in their own world.  We existed in our own world.  When we needed things, we retrieved them from the Internet.

With social media, things changed.  No longer information waits for us to retrieve them.  They are constantly thrown at us.  By Twitter Timeline, Facebook News Feed, and LinkedIn Network Updates, content are pushed out to us whether we are ready to consume them.

At the same time, social media lowered the economic barrier to publish content.  Everyone who has email address and has a social network account can post updates for all subscribers.  Even some monkeys seem to jump on this bandwagon and start their digital life as content creator.

Let's stop and think about this for a bit.  More people is getting on the Internet, more people are becoming content creator, more content are filling up your social inbox.  There is only one logical conclusion out of all these.

We can't keep up with everything in our news feed.

People are receiving more data than ever.  And we did not make a conscious decision to over-subscribe.  What happened was that we mapped out our social relationship graph on social networks, and everyone became a content creator/curator.  What used to be selectively forwarded (email) is now group forwarded to most of our friends (social).

Every user on social network has this too-much-data problem.  Some largely ignore the problem and market themselves as social media for breaking news (Twitter).  Some suggest user to filter updates by type (LinkedIn).  Some are coming up with their own magic formula to decide what updates to display for user's news feed (Facebook).  Each network is coming up with their own way to deal with this too-much-data problem.

One way to deal with this at individual level is to pull back on our subscription.  Stop subscribing everyone, and only follow those interesting content creators/curators.  Do the right thing by pruning your news sources. Take vitamins every day, and you won't run into the problem of finding messy news feed.

Personally I don't see this happening because it requires efforts on user's part to make decisions without sufficient information (how do I know whether someone will share interesting things once in a while?).  Trimming your news source is a work, and not an easy one to do.

The other way of dealing with this problem is to create a new personal firehose mining tool.  I see more promising signs in this approach because it's about helping user solve the problem when they are motivated.  It's more of painkiller approach than vitamin.  Giving users painkiller is an easier sell than asking them to take vitamin every day.

I will continue my thoughts on this too-much-data (TMD) problem.  I have a few thoughts to share on opportunities that will emerge from this problem and how we are already seeing first phase of TMD products.

TMD problem exists within an organization as well.

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