A 40 Page Paper On Information Overload? Yeesh!

October 31, 2007 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Attention Management | Leave a comment

I’m back from our conference in Barcelona and ready to blog again.  I had a great time there – if you haven’t seen Barcelona I highly recommend going for the architecture, food, and museums. 

I did a posting on the official CCS blog about I got after my Enterprise Attention Management presentation: “First you tell me about all these new mechanisms for content creation with Web 2.0, then talk to me about attention overload?  Do you guys plan these presentations together?”.  See the CCS blog posting KM and Attention Management: Wine and Aspirin? for my answer.

I wanted to extend that thought a bit further here in my personal blog.  I got a similar type of question after I published my paper on EAM last year.  The question stated the 40 page length of the paper and said (in part): “If the topic is about teasing out the most important information it only seems logical to put only the most important information from the article out. “

Here’s the response I gave:

I know at first glance dumping 40 pages of information on how we have to sort through too much information sounds like irony just waiting to be poked along the lines of interrupting someone to tell them about interruption science, having a typo in a brochure about proofreading software, or burning 20 gallons of gas to go to a global warming seminar.  But really, I can explain!

To address the surface concern, “too much” is a relative term.  Davenport and Beck’s book on the Attention Economy is 250 pages and its contents are condensed into about 3 pages in my paper.  As are the multiple 50 page research studies I reference (often down to a few sentences) or the physiology paper on the workings of the brain (Posner’s 20 page dense article summarized in 2 sentences).  My 40 pages are indeed condensed compared to the sum of what it came from.  

Also, we do practice what we preach and provide a 100 word conclusion to condense it all the way, or a half page synopsis if that’s all you need.  It’s even presented automatically in condensed form on the website before you decide to click and get 40 pages dumped on you.  And we separate out detail from analysis so you can eliminate background you don’t want.

Really though, the main topic of the paper is not about how too much information is bad.  “Too much” is all relative, and “bad” is a judgment that I’m not prepared to make on it.  The paper is about what enterprises can do about it in the form of a conceptual architecture.  Describing the architecture does involve a certain degree of complexity.  If someone just wants the most important bits of information without the detail, they can go to my blog (see below) and just get the conceptual architecture diagram itself in convenient, packaged form but not very actionable that way.


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