Tuesday, February 28, 2006

lesson: managing (too much) information

Is it just me, or is there too $&@^ much stuff to read these days?

It used to be simple - keep up with IDC and Gartner, read a few of the better trades (SD Times, Infoweek), a few magazines (Fortune, Economist), two or three newspapers (New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and a representative international paper if it was handy) and voila, I felt informed.

But now I have no idea where the next useful bit of information is coming from. Half of the time my so-called "alerts" fire on crap, and I end up deleting more than I read. My RSS feeds help compress the time it takes to scan the headlines, but I lose the second-tier of information where all the subtlety lives.

When I'm feeling particularly stressed, I rely on the Marumushi newsmap as a substitute for my generic "news" feed. It gives me a good top-level view of the Google News feed across all key geographies, in all key categories, cleverly organized using the dual key of "urgency" (as measured by number of mentions) and "currency" (as measured by when the story hit: less than 10 minutes, more than 10 minutes, more than an hour). It even keeps an archive of stories, by time-of-day, so I can go back and see what was going on during any given period.

That leaves me more time to engage in "urgency skimming" the infosphere through - you guessed it - phone calls and blogs. I have a circuit of well-informed friends I try to speak to on a more-or-less constant basis; they return the favor, of course. I augment this "primary" source through the often-suspect, but nevertheless useful drip of blogs.

Here is the challenge for me, and one I wonder how you handle: If the only information sources you access are the ones you always look to, you'll never see your world through new eyes. How do you enforce randomness in your information gathering? It is as simple as looking for new sources?

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