Saturday, October 22, 2005
Posted October 20, 11 comments
I finally am back to 0 unread items in my feed reader, after over a month of around 1500 new items a day. How? I unsubscribed from several feeds, and decided to take some hours reading, thinking and taking notes. But the whole process led me to think about something I’ve been meaning to write for a long time - too much information.
The problem with the web has always been the same for now over 10 years - more information than humans can manage. Solutions to this problem have come in what I call ages, and I believe we’ve seen 3 so far and are about to see another. Allow me to specify:
The directory / browse age
Happened from the early web days until let’s say 1995/96. The web had too much information for people to memorize. Even for a very small set of people using only a few pages, it was overhaul. Too many, too long urls that took too much time to write down, type and click. So, the solutions were directories of links, categorizing each page to make them readily available in an easy to manage form. Yahoo! was the most attractive approach to the problem at the time, and others followed.
The search age
From 1996 to 2003. The amount of pages with information increased so much that the directory paradigm wasn’t enough to acomodate all the data - search came along, waiving the need to remember any URLs, or any directory. You type in what you’re looking for and a search engine gives you the relevant resources. Cool.
The subscribe age
Late 2003 to the current date. People don’t want to search: people want content delivered to them - they want to subscribe. Subscribing to pages and information leads people to spend less time actually looking for information, and spend more time reading what they really want to read. Information delivered to your doorstep is the coup du jour.
For some, the future is here already. We’re seeing too much subscribed information. Again, too much data we can’t handle by ourselves (it seems data keeps running ahead of the human ability to deal with it). For me, the next couple of years will be about finding new solutions to this new problem imposed by the subscription era. We have too much information delivered to us - most of it, we probably don’t even care about.
Solutions need to be put in place that keep us away (again) from information overload. Because data will not stop showing up unless we relinquish control. What the next age will be called, I don’t know - but I definitely want a way to get the information I care about (and only that information), delivered to me automatically. A combination of search, filtering and subscription seems to be the key, but I’m still to see the ideal product emerge from these ingredients.
How do you manage your information? Do you see too much of it? What do you think the solution is to that now?
In my opinion, the solution will come when more complex social networks mix with the current blogging scene. I shouldn’t have to looking for information, it should come to me - and only the information I care about. Relevance is based upon not only what topics I find interesting, but also how relevant my friends have found it - a trust web of sorts. Stumble Upon meets RSS meets del.icio.us.