Have you ever felt like there was too much to do—that your schedule just wouldn’t allow you to do anymore—that there just weren’t enough hours in the day? I know I have. Sometimes it feels like I’m buried under a stream of tweets, deadlines, to-do lists, new articles to read and that’s before account for the more personal commitments.
Evan Williams is the co-founder of Twitter, a realm of social networking based on sharing information with your followers. I use Twitter. I get the latest news, reviews and updates on Twitter. I like Twitter, but it’s contributing to the world of “too much.” It’s heaping piles of information, under which people are being buried.
Williams himself admits in an interview with Om Malik that there are challenges in a web of infinite info. Malik opines, “Ev, when you look at the web of today, say compared to the days of Blogger, what do you see? You feel there is just too much stuff on the web these days?”
“I totally agree. There’s too much stuff,” Williams responds. “It seems to me that almost all tools we rely on to manage information weren’t designed for a world of infinite info.”
Williams wants his creation to be an “antidote to infinite information, not a cause of it.” He continues, “We can let people follow as many accounts as possible. We just need to let them find the right stuff.”
The interview reminded me of a comic I’d read a few weeks back by Stuart McMillen. Entitled “Amusing Ourselves To Death”, McMillen’s comic uses the words of Neil Postman to compare George Orwell’s view of the future in “1984” to Aldous Huxley’s in “Brave New World.”
“Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us,” Postman writes and McMillen illustrates.
There are ways to avoid that ruined future. Beyond unplugging from everything, there are ways to start digging out. I’m not going to say that what we love will ruin us
Patton Oswalt said there’s a similar problem in geek culture. He wrote this piece for Wired saying, “I’m not a nerd. I used to be one, back 30 years ago when nerd meant something.”
His problem is that anyone can use the Internet to become an instant “expert” on anything, “The problem with the Internet, however, is that it lets anyone become otaku (a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests) about anything instantly.” The danger? Patton writes that it “creates weak otakus.” It creates weak experts, who are more interested in adding to the noise than adding anything of value. Patton describes our current state as “Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever.” Patton’s solution strikes me as one Tyler Durden would come up with. He sees “Etewaf as the Balrog, the helter-skelter, the A-pop-alypse that rains cleansing fire down onto the otaku landscape, burns away the chaff, and forces us to start over with only a few thin, near-meatless scraps on which to build.”
I don’t subscribe to that theory; because I don’t think what we love will ruin us if we can learn to manage it. Instead of losing focus trying to gather everything in, we can refine our focus by doing things that matter. Going back to Williams, he recognizes there’s an overflow of information, but has a more creative solution.
“I think we need to design (our products) for a world of infinite information,” Williams tells Malik. “There’s always somewhere else to go, delivering more value in less time should always be the focus.”
I have to ask myself if I’m following that advice. The goal should always be to deliver more value in less time; otherwise we’d all be better off grabbing a shovel to start digging out from the avalanche of information overload.