Two tips to avoid information overload on the internet
Information overload is affecting more and more of us, as we register for yet more websites which promise to change our working life/give us more time with our families/do our jobs for us. No one tool can ever live up to such grandiose promises, no matter which tech luminary is endorsing the next big thing, but you can definitely save yourself some running around circles with a bit of savvy attention to detail and some initial time investment.
The first complaint I often hear is that people keep missing tweets on Twitter from people they’re very interested in, because they get lost in the noise generated by other people they’re following. The best way to resolve this is to set up lists, a service which Twitter have offered since the beginning but few people seem to trip over.
Instructions on how to set them up can be found on the Twitter website and can be quite time consuming, but it is worth bothering with. Essentially, you can create a list called News, add everyone who tweets news such as @bbcbreaking to the list, and then if you only want to read tweets which contain news, you simply go to your list on Twitter by going to http://twitter.com/<yourtwitterusenamehere>/<yourlistnamehere> so if I wanted to go to my news feed list and only see tweets from news source, I would go to http://twitter.com/loulouk/official-news-feeds. Once you have set up your lists, you can add new people to these lists as you go. As an addendum to this, it is worth noting that if you use Tweetdeck, it is possible to create any number of columns based on lists.
The second complaint is that people see links in tweets they’d like to follow, but they are reading Twitter in their lunch hour or during a quick break between meetings and they don’t have enough time to follow the link and read a full article. After all, Twitter is supposed to be short, sharp messages. This is where the “Favourite” button comes into its own. If you favourite a tweet from anyone, even someone you are not following, it can be recalled at any point by going to http://twitter.com/<yourtwitterusernamehere>/favorites , so if I wanted to view my favourites I would go to http://twitter.com/loulouk/favorites (Note the US spelling of favourites).
Once you know about favouring tweets, it suddenly becomes a lot less overwhelming to keep up with the links people share on Twitter. You can always come back to them later – days or weeks later if necessary. Again, Tweetdeck offers the functionality of creating a column based on your Favourites.
Of course, not all information comes via Twitter. Emails arrive with links, for example, and people write interesting and relevant content in blogs. In fact in a world which is moving as fast as ours is, following the right blogs can mean a quick and easily digested overview of the new localism bill instead of wading through the whole thing. Plus you’ll get opinions, interpretations and feedback that in the new consultation age are no longer the sole remit of think tanks and professional journals.
If it is your job to keep track of what grassroots are thinking as well as senior management, blogs can be fantastic; but if you regularly read more than a few blogs each day or week, checking back manually to each blog to see if it has been updated is going to quickly wear thin. This is where RSS can be your friend. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (a title some would refer to the Trade Descriptions Act), but once understood it corrals all your reads into one place, highlighting in bold new posts from all the blogs you follow, which can be a real time saver. There are guides to setting up your RSS reader all over the internet, but the BBC provide a particularly helpful one along with a list of all their news feeds – it’s not just blogs that allow you to RSS their content.
So there you have it. Two easy steps to getting the information you need, when you need it. These are just a couple of examples of the tools available to help you control your information but if there is a particular problem you’re experiencing with digital information, why not comment below, we’ll do our best to help.