Feeding the Beast - InformationWeek
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8/26/2008
02:24 AM
Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek
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Feeding the Beast

Steve's comments below got me thinking about why we don't just accept information overload, but actually ask for it.There was plenty of chatter in the blogs this weekend over the decision by the Obama campaign to text its supporters news of the VP pick as soon as it happened (well, as soon as the campaign was ready to release it). Most of it seemed centered around (1) the timing of the text's release (another 3am brouhaha), (2) the "next-gen Internet outreach" approach, and (3) the pick himself. Mainly lost in the discussion was whether anyone really needed to know the information in real time, on their cells and PDAs.News reporters need to know what's happening as soon as possible, so they can spread the word in this world of 24/7 news cycles. Any Obama supporters who really cared that much about the VP choice could have found the information the instant it was released, via text message, RSS, or a simple web search. So why on earth did millions of supporters sign up for theinstant information? If you ask me, just did it because everyone else was doing it, and it sounded kind of cool.It's not like having the information in the middle of the night made any difference to Obama's supporters, or to Obama; the election is still months away. But if people want to wake up at 3am to feel "in the know," so be it.However, businesses that treat information as mission critical, regardless of what it is and whether it truly is timely or time-sensitive, yet alone necessary to do one's job, do so at their peril. Managing multiple inputs is only part of the problem (and one which Steve details well). Rushing to act on information as quickly as possible simply because you can can create more problems than it solves, ranging from distraction (really, shouldn't most of us have been sleeping at 3am?) to mistakes.Sometimes, of course, we do need data as quickly as possible. People whose jobs involve saving lives in a heartbeat (surgeons, firefighters, soldiers on the front line) obviously need good information as soon as it's available. Even less critical endeavours sometimes require it, too--during sales calls that are going to be made now, for instance, whether we can participate or not.But a lot of what we do would probably be done better if we all took time to think for longer about fewer things.

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