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Gluttony: Total Information Awareness, Personal Edition

We’re flooded, drowning in information. We’re better than ever at collecting the dots, worse than ever at connecting the dots. This is true at the level of national security, business intelligence, customer and vendor relationship management and the personal daily real-time streams we audit. We cast our nets wider than ever and catch everything. Nothing escapes our grasp.

This high-velocity firehose of messages seems to imply that something is going on. But the items that pass through this pipe require additional filtering to find out whether anything important is really going on. The violence and the sheer volume of messages are an indicator, a message about the medium itself, but the individual messages pass by so quickly that one only gets a sense of their general direction and whether they carry a positive or negative charge. Oddly, there’s a disconnect between message traffic and whether something important is going on. There’s always a high volume of message traffic, there’s rarely anything going on.

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

The Atlantic Wire’s series ‘What I Read‘ asks various notable personalities about their media diet. When confronted with an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord, how does one choose what to eat? A recent column contained thoughts by Wired editor Chris Anderson on his foraging techniques. One of the best filters that Anderson uses is free of charge, and given to him by a friend:

Nassim Taleb once advised people to ignore any news you don’t hear in a social context. From people you know and, ideally, face to face. You have two combinatorial filters in social communication. First, you’ve chosen to talk with these people, and second, they’ve chosen to bring it up. Those two filters–a social and an importance filter–are really good ways of identifying what really matters to people. If I hear about news through social means, and if I hear about it three times, then I pay attention.

The interesting thing about this technique is that it doesn’t require Network scale technical capability. Spidering the entire Network and running a query through a relevance algorithm isn’t part of the picture. Trading your personal information for access to large scale cloud-based computational capabilities isn’t required either. Authentically connecting with people to learn what really matters to people is the key.

It turns out that not much matters to a mechanical or computational process. While it can sort items into a prioritized list based on this algorithm, or that one, the question of which algorithm should be used is a matter of indifference. And when we crank up the social context to extreme levels, we create some confusion around Taleb’s filters. Not every social media interaction provides the kind of social context Taleb is referring to. Only in their simplest and least technical incarnation, do these combinatorial filters provide high quality output. And despite all the sound and fury, the manifestations of speed whirling around us, “things happen fairly slowly, you know. They do.

Comments

  1. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  2. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  3. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  4. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  5. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  6. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  7. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  8. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  9. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  10. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  11. PaprikaPink | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    Very interesting, but not sure about letting any attention rest on it . I heard about this post from one person I know, @Karoli… but is following someone on Twitter for two years really knowing…? Blasted Internet, raising more questions than answers as usual.

  12. Tweets that mention echovar » Blog Archive » Gluttony: Total Information Awareness, Personal Edition -- Topsy.com | August 22nd, 2010 | 12:57 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Karoli, Cliff Gerrish. Cliff Gerrish said: echovar: Gluttony: Total Information Awareness, Personal Edition http://bit.ly/bCXN2F […]

  13. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  14. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  15. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  16. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  17. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  18. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  19. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  20. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  21. Stuart O'Neill | August 22nd, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    Not sure I agree about the filter since then question behind the question research or info seeking is then ignored….well maybe not. nnIf used as a meta filter, hearing about Afganistan three time or misinformation three times, then I understand. nnCertainly we are overwhelmed with info. I find there are dimensions, questions and information behind the original topic, that pull me but also add to the overload. Contextual information is almost impossible.

  22. Jerome Hughes | August 22nd, 2010 | 10:57 pm

    “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” –Pablo Picasso

  23. Jerome Hughes | August 22nd, 2010 | 10:57 pm

    “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” –Pablo Picasso

  24. Jerome Hughes | August 22nd, 2010 | 10:57 pm

    “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” –Pablo Picasso

  25. Jerome Hughes | August 22nd, 2010 | 10:57 pm

    “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” –Pablo Picasso

  26. Jerome Hughes | August 22nd, 2010 | 10:57 pm

    “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” –Pablo Picasso

  27. Jerome Hughes | August 22nd, 2010 | 10:57 pm

    “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” –Pablo Picasso

  28. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:02 pm

    HAMM:nI love the old questions.n(With fervour.)nAh the old questions, the old answers, there’s nothing like them!n(Pause.)nhttp://www.samuel-beckett.net/endgame.html

  29. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:02 pm

    HAMM:nI love the old questions.n(With fervour.)nAh the old questions, the old answers, there’s nothing like them!n(Pause.)nhttp://www.samuel-beckett.net/endgame.html

  30. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:02 pm

    HAMM:nI love the old questions.n(With fervour.)nAh the old questions, the old answers, there’s nothing like them!n(Pause.)nhttp://www.samuel-beckett.net/endgame.html

  31. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:02 pm

    HAMM:nI love the old questions.n(With fervour.)nAh the old questions, the old answers, there’s nothing like them!n(Pause.)nhttp://www.samuel-beckett.net/endgame.html

  32. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:02 pm

    HAMM:nI love the old questions.n(With fervour.)nAh the old questions, the old answers, there’s nothing like them!n(Pause.)nhttp://www.samuel-beckett.net/endgame.html

  33. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:04 pm

    I’d wait to see if you hear about these concepts from a few other people. The post itself is only a container for the ideas.

  34. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:04 pm

    I’d wait to see if you hear about these concepts from a few other people. The post itself is only a container for the ideas.

  35. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:04 pm

    I’d wait to see if you hear about these concepts from a few other people. The post itself is only a container for the ideas.

  36. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:04 pm

    I’d wait to see if you hear about these concepts from a few other people. The post itself is only a container for the ideas.

  37. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:05 pm

    Seems like contextual information is the *only* possible thing. It’s how language works.

  38. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:05 pm

    Seems like contextual information is the *only* possible thing. It’s how language works.

  39. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:05 pm

    Seems like contextual information is the *only* possible thing. It’s how language works.

  40. cgerrish | August 22nd, 2010 | 11:05 pm

    Seems like contextual information is the *only* possible thing. It’s how language works.

  41. shampa0904 | August 24th, 2010 | 3:09 am

    Hi Cliff,nn Nice write-up. You should check out http://feeltiptop.com/ a new way of absorbing information. The current product is more of a prototype but you can I think see the potential of the engine. Let me know what you think, would love discuss if you have time. This is my latest project :-)nnCheersnShampa

  42. shampa0904 | August 24th, 2010 | 3:09 am

    Hi Cliff,nn Nice write-up. You should check out http://feeltiptop.com/ a new way of absorbing information. The current product is more of a prototype but you can I think see the potential of the engine. Let me know what you think, would love discuss if you have time. This is my latest project :-)nnCheersnShampa

  43. shampa0904 | August 24th, 2010 | 3:09 am

    Hi Cliff,nn Nice write-up. You should check out http://feeltiptop.com/ a new way of absorbing information. The current product is more of a prototype but you can I think see the potential of the engine. Let me know what you think, would love discuss if you have time. This is my latest project :-)nnCheersnShampa

  44. shampa0904 | August 24th, 2010 | 3:09 am

    Hi Cliff,nn Nice write-up. You should check out http://feeltiptop.com/ a new way of absorbing information. The current product is more of a prototype but you can I think see the potential of the engine. Let me know what you think, would love discuss if you have time. This is my latest project :-)nnCheersnShampa

  45. cgerrish | August 24th, 2010 | 1:41 pm

    I’ll definitely take a look.

  46. cgerrish | August 24th, 2010 | 1:41 pm

    I’ll definitely take a look.

  47. cgerrish | August 24th, 2010 | 1:41 pm

    I’ll definitely take a look.

  48. cgerrish | August 24th, 2010 | 1:41 pm

    I’ll definitely take a look.