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partnerships:articles:overload [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
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 +# Turning information overload into useful knowledge resources
 +
 +Jan Wyllie, Managing Director, [Trend Monitor International
 +Ltd](http://​www.trendmon.demon.co.uk/​)
 +
 +Email and World Wide Web have great attractions - but the sheer volume
 +of information can become intimidating.\
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +\
 +\
 + Once people become connected through email to (multiple) groups of
 +common interest -- yes, tele-communities of interest -- they find it
 +irresistible. They want to converse with everybody. Then, one of two
 +things can happen. A few people become addicted to tele-conversations
 +which begin to eat up more and more of their time to the detriment of
 +the 'real life' (known as '​RL'​ in cyberspeak). Most people become
 +quickly overwhelmed.\
 +\
 + Then they either suffer from having to do an ever more onerous chore,
 +along with the guilt associated with not being able to keep up with any
 +but the most immediately important commitments,​ or they stop replying to
 +anyone but an inner core of associates.\
 +\
 + The same logic applies to the availability of information on the World
 +Wide Web: it either makes people feel overwhelmed,​ guilty and inadequate
 +for not being able even to begin to keep up, or they try to forget that
 +this enormous and ever growing global repository of knowledge exists.\
 +\
 + The key to changing information from being an unwanted overload to
 +being a valuable resource is good information management practice. Most
 +expert practitioners believe that classification and ordering add value
 +to an information base. Simply by clustering information about similar
 +topics, it is possible to see and reflect on threads of interpersonal
 +communication from a higher perspective making it possible when required
 +to rise above the confusion.\
 +\
 + ​Fortunately over the past 15 years, computer software, such as text
 +databases, computer conferencing,​ mail filters and search agents (see
 +box), have appeared which provide information managers with very
 +powerful tools.\
 +\
 + As for the time problem, the good news is that like in many
 +professional activities, lay people can learn to do the bulk of the
 +work, very quickly. Most good practice is based on common sense and uses
 +natural human skills, such as the ability to categorise and distinguish
 +levels of generality.\
 +
 +Software tools for information management
 +-----------------------------------------
 +
 +### Text retrieval / text database
 +
 +A text database will index every word in every one of
 +thousands-to-millions of documents making each one instantly retrievable
 +simply by typing in combinations of words it contains. Suddenly
 +information which was safely out of reach in places like libraries is
 +available directly from the desktop.
 +
 +The drawback is that searches can either swamp users with much too much
 +information,​ or completely miss what the user is looking for. To avoid
 +this use free text retrieval combined with traditional classification
 +schemes and controlled description vocabularies.\
 +
 +### Computer conferencing
 +
 +\
 + ​Computer conferencing enables geographically dispersed groups of people
 +to carry on written conversations '​threaded'​ by topic. People can
 +contribute to these electronic conversations at any time of their
 +convenience ('​asynchronous'​ unlike '​synchronous'​ videoconferencing,​ for
 +example, where everyone must be there at the same time) either by
 +starting topics of their own, or replying to an already existing
 +conversational thread.
 +
 +The benefit is that people can communicate with each other in their own
 +time in a consistent and focused way. Results should be more useful
 +information exchange, more informed decisions and better aligned
 +actions.\
 +\
 + The danger is that the signal to noise ratio is very low as chat,
 +confusion and repetition take over from focused collaborative thinking
 +and discussion. In order to avoid this problem groups need to agree some
 +structural elements to their conversations. e.g. major topics and
 +sub-topics. Moderators need to be appointed to stimulate conversation
 +through effective questioning and to make sure people stick to agreed
 +topics. Topics must be periodically summarised in order to give existing
 +members overviews of what they said and to update new members.\
 +
 +### Filters / search agents
 +
 +Filters select and screen out items from email and text databases such
 +as the World Wide Web by comparing document text with user-defined word
 +combinations.\
 +\
 + They can reduce the number of items to look at - however filters can
 +screen out items for which the user never thought to ask. Agents can
 +bring simply bring in more unwanted material ironically causing greater
 +expense in both time and money.\
 +\
 + These tools should be used, if possible, in conjunction with classified
 +information bases, as well as being amended to take into account new
 +vocabularies and information types -- a process which takes a lot of
 +expert human work. Also, steps must be taken so that serendipity is not
 +screened out of the information acquisition process.\
 +\
 + [Jan Wyllie](mailto:​trendmon@cix.compulink.co.uk) FRSA, MD\
 + ​[Trend Monitor International Ltd.](http://​www.trendmon.demon.co.uk/​),​
 +Portsmouth
 +
  
partnerships/articles/overload.txt ยท Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)