It’s not Information Overload – it’s garbage overload

Garbage Overload Probably the best known technological catch phrase that is forever being thrown out to the masses is information overload and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least knowing our penchant for wanting psychological dysfunctions for every little thing if we don’t see this as the next big thing that will let therapists buy the newest Beemer  on the market.

Every day we are being inundated with spam, useless one line emails, invites to this, invites to that and social networks coming out our collective asses. We aren’t suffering from information overload; because the very term of information implies you are receiving something of use – something that will help you make decisions or learn some new.

As Jeff Atwood in a post today quoted from a piece by Mr. Cliff Stoll who said in a 1996 interview:

One of the lies of the Internet is that it is an information superhighway and that we need lots more information. But I have never met anyone standing on a street corner, sign in hand, saying we need more information. Just the opposite, many of us, especially those of us working in technical fields, say, “I’ve got all the information I need. Give me less, but give me higher quality information.” And that’s what’s missing from the Internet, quality.

What we do have instead of the quality desired by Cliff is nothing short of garbage overload. After all just how many social networks can you perform repetitive data entry and so-called friend search before you say – enough is enough.  Or as Tony Macdonell at Teknision puts it

I mean, I have spent a lot of time adding friends on Facebook – I have used it to reconnect with people from eras throughout my entire life and I have poured days of time into the effort. I have done it to a certain extent on Twitter, where I have a pretty solid snapshot of my industry colleagues. I have done it with my MSN friends list, but it is becoming less important these days as I forget who most of the people I have added are – there is very little context with traditional chat applications as you have to rely on remembering silly screen names.

Then I thought, what about everything else, like Xbox Live, Finetune, LastFM, AIM, MySpace, and so many many more.

This has turned into a nightmare.

It is clear to me as an experience designer and strategist that the social web cannot keep continuing down this road. Eventually everyone will be sick and tired of this arduous process, and users/contributors will quickly be frustrated and turned away from our applications; the very ones that are supposed to rock!

Web 2.0 is suppose to be the cool way to consolidate our lives within the structure of an on-line world and yet it has done exactly the opposite. If you don’t blog you aren’t adding to the conversation, if you don’t have a Facebook entry you don’t exist, if you aren’t on Twitter or Pownce you have no presence, if you aren’t LinkedIn then you have no future.

The reality is though that other than a small majority of blogs none of the above does anything more than make you spend time doing the same thing over and over again. Forever adding to the cyber recycle bin, adding to the potential wealth of a few so-called visionaries that just recycle ideas and concepts that have already been done to death.

The rest of us? .. we’re just the monkeys typing away.


  1. Fredrick
    06/07/07 at 15:04

    I agree, I like simplicity and quality. I like for News, for search and yahoo finance for trading.

  2. 06/07/07 at 15:12

    Man, you just said it… too much all the time and 99.9% of it is recycled crap that adds nothing new or relevant to our lives.

    I think the next wave of web apps will be “fusion apps” that combine the social tools/toys under one interface.

    At least I hope that’s the next wave… one login and one place to enter data would be a nice start towards simplifying this mess.

  3. 06/07/07 at 15:27

    it’s almost a case of envying the regular internet user .. those one’s who stare at you blankly when you start rhyming off social networks and all the related fluff :)

  4. 06/07/07 at 17:59

    I seem to have hit my max social network involvement at 3, if that. I have several logins languishing by the wayside.

  5. 08/07/07 at 13:20


    I am following this “media consumption diet” thread and am trying to suggest an idea of a Commfree Day – one day every month to be spent away from media and information technology. It seems to me that you are actually touching upon similar idea in your post. I have a post with more explanation about what i mean by this and will be glad to hear what you and others think about it: