Information filter overload


Think of the internet without Google. You wake up, check your emails, brush your teeth, sip coffee and browse…wait. In the tranquility that gushes into your being from your comfortably numb fingertips, you realize there is no Google. Where would you begin peering the IntraWeb? Curbing the logical quip of Without Google how the heck I would know there is an IntraWeb out there, let us take it as I IntraWeb, therefore I am. So where do you begin?

Maybe at your homepage or from your bookmarks. But where to venture to get your neurons fired up with Information and feel distracted? How to prove to yourself Rule 34 exist? Perhaps pick up a few bookmarked InfoHubs that link harvest several important news and media sites. If you want to know about a book, you go to that only available link for a book review plus author-reader meet-up plus sales store website. For a cooking recipe, you go to that (only) cooking site. And so on. A small town set up in the IntraWeb.

Suddenly, there is no information overload and Google doesn't make us stupid anymore. And that single book store site never had that title The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nick Carr's recent book.

Instead, we have us, the Google and what it feeds on, the IntraWeb (ya, with Rule 34 safely snucked in).

And along with that came Information overload that is increasing by the minute and mouse clicks. We realize now too much information — useful or useless — stumps us in our ability to take correct decisions causing us to under perform. So after a long search in Lycos for many years, Google invented itself. We now think Google as a savior for its ability to search and bring forth what we are looking for. But, better the information filters become — like Google — more such useful information would be there for us to reckon with.

Let us try searching in Google for the recipe of an exotic dish using two keywords, "exotic dish" and "how to cook" and it crunches out enough links. The first link contains all we want about the dish, recipe and post-dinner-medication. Now, what about the other links? Why did they come up? I don't need them. Irrelevant; may be not. Un-used; yes, definitely. A typical information overload — and here is the point — due to a good filter.

We can argue the other links are also probably equally useful, if we had clicked on them. Possible, but in that case, they merely increase my inability to decide on which one to use/read/follow. I probably need to "browse" a few of the content before I settle for one that dishes out my recipe.

Indecision is about choosing between equal choices. And better filters dutifully bring to us more such equal choices. Thinking back, we seem to have always had information overload. I am always stumped what to read in a library — they always have more good books than my leisure. Since I couldn't choose, I seek filters, which in a library, would be other users or the librarian. They filter what I should read from the pile of what I could read, which in turn is a corner slice of what is available for reading.

At the local dead-wood library, to get that recipe, I would approach the librarian who may direct me to the cookery section where I may have to browse a few books (titles) to locate one or two books that contain the recipe. The difference between that manual search and today's Googling of the IntraWeb is the time saved. Googling brings up a list of relevant titles in a jiffy. But that is precisely causing my (good) information overload.

If for instance, Google brings up only two links — both relevant and good ones — for my recipe search, I may not be overwhelmed and would be able to decide and perform efficiently on my job of preparing the dish. Else, the processing of all the useful information Googling brought me should be done in sufficiently longer time than in a jiffy, which in this case, would starve me out of my dinner. So I mash up the information found in the series of links and try to assimilate how to make that dish correctly the first time, all in a jiffy, otherwise, I think I am not using the IntraWeb and Googling properly. Hence I IntraWeb, therefore I frenzy myself to a freeze.

The argument to thaw me out of this InfoFreeze would be to build better filters. Now, in the beginning, the baby filter cannot cope with the information galore and locates minimal or worse, irrelevant things for me. I presume the filter to be a bad product, like the version 1.0s of Microsoft. So I improve the filter to find more relevant things. When should I stop improving? When a version of it finds five things, all relevant for what I am seeking, or should I improve it to seek ten more things? Because, the Internet Cow might be having more of what I am seeking and I might be missing out with my version x filter — a badly squeezed udder. This path, though tempting, leads me back to information overload — this time, possibly loaded with useful information.

So, I need to establish that my increased inability to decide over available information or frustration felt while facing indiscriminate information (entire IntraWeb) is far greater than that felt while facing useful information presented by a good filter. This comfort requirement remains as one build progressively "better" filters.

Information communicated in one language can get erased along with the death of that language. Possibly, across generations most of that 'old' information may be translated into a newer version for the new people of Earth speaking a fresh language. Assuming the language it is communicated to remain fresh, we could surmise Information of our world increases in time. Importantly, the IntraWeb allows such segregated information across the World to be connected and grouped as an InfoSphere. To make me efficient and stress-free in my during any of my InfoJuggle task, building better filters to seek relevant information from that InfoSphere involves, not bringing up all possible relevant information to me. A better filter should bring only fewer (relevant links) information.

As Nicholas Carr says, in the end, it is not about information over-load. It is about filter success overload. It is information overload, due to filter success.