“Information overload” is another way to describe the inability to manage information abundance. For most people these days, the Web is an overwhelming flood of incoming information that we are forced to navigate. There is another way: tune the web. Specify information about the precise topics that matter to you and arrange for it to come to you in an organized manner through a configurable dashboard that reflects your exact priorities. There’s a tool for that. It sounds more technical than it turns out to be in practice. RSS
Despite the technical-sounding name, RSS is an easy to use and powerful tool for dealing with information overload. Used skillfully, RSS can help you get beyond coping with overload to a more positive ability to design, tune, and harvest your own relevant information from the available floods. You can set up a dashboard and tune in from high-altitude to in-the-weeds levels on the latest info on just those topics that interest you.
I was teaching Stanford students in the mid-2000s when the Web and social media were ramping up. Some of them were beginning to panic at the tsunami of information available to them. So I started showing them how to deal with information that came in streams rather than queues: Email inboxes are queues — in effect, to-do lists that have to be cleared item by item. And the incoming email always outpaces our ability to respond to each one and clear our inboxes. With Twitter, the heyday of blogging, the advent of the Facebook timeline and Instagram, algorithmically recommended YouTube videos, information started coming in streams. And streams can only be handled by filtering and sampling. A tool for filtering and sampling was deliberately created to handle information streams: RSS.