Perfect Porridge

Social Information Hoarder: MIMA's Data Overload Panel and Helpful Links

Last night I spoke on a MIMA panel called titled “Too Much Information? Surviving Data Overload.” You can view the archived stream here.

I thought the overall event was fine, although I’m afraid the topic and questions were too general, geeky, philosphical and/or tactical for about half of the audience to appreciate. At the end of the day, there’s still a bulk of people who want to be told that managing an e-mail box to zero and using personal folders is the key to organizing data. While this is true (to an extent), social media has so much more exciting offerings to talk through. But the bulk of us early adopters tend to forget not everyone is on Twitter or uses RSS (although they should, which is the position the panel took from the outset).

In hindsight, I would’ve loved to hear Alisa (the librarian) share more. She sent around some sweet links prior to the panel that are golden (see below). I also would have suggested each panelist prepare three solid take-aways for the audience. Or maybe we should have each presented for 10 minutes and then open it to questions. Hindsight being perfect and all, I still think the event went well and got lots of great comments following the event.

Here’s the basic premise of what I talked about…Social Information Hoarding.

My day job is all about trends, research and buzz and using that to inform client campaign strategy. Here at Perfect Porridge, my job is to know what bands are hot, not or up and coming. In my personal life, I need to be sure I’m up to speed with what my family’s doing, how the economy affects my mortgage, if the car has gas, etc. etc. This is lots of information coming to me in lots of ways — drinking from the firehouse, as Garrick says.

queen_iwantitall.JPGI want as much information as possible, all the time, on a wide range of subjects. I want to keep it (hoard it) just in case. I may never need to revisit that particular landscape analysis or need to recall a certain band’s tour schedule from 1995, but I’m keeping it forever and you can’t take that away from me.

It’s an archetype I’m self-labeling as “Social Information Hoarder,” based on the clinical definition of hoarding:

Randy Frost, a psychology professor at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., estimates that 2% to 3% of the population has OCD, and up to a third of those exhibit hoarding behavior (Cohen, 2004).

Hoarding has three components:

  • Acquiring possessions compulsively – compulsive buying, or collecting things.
  • Saving all these possessions and never discarding.
  • Not organizing and maintaining all the saved possessions.

People who hoard keep things for the same reasons as anyone else:

  • For sentimental value – emotional attachment or to remember an important life event.
  • For utility value – the item is, or could be, useful.
  • For aesthetic value – the item is considered to be attractive or beautiful.

It’s important to note I’ve added the word “Social” to the label because there’s no point in hoarding all this information for myself. And that’s where social media comes in…

My brain alone can’t handle all the incoming inputs, plus it’s a rather inefficient manager of data. As the marketing landscape evolves, so do the tools we use to identify, collect, sort, tag, share and use data.

There are a few digital tools I lean on heavily to keep my data accessible:

  • Google Desktop Search, which provides Google’s search capability to your entire hard drive and MS Outlook sent and received. What’s most important is to think about your personal folksonomy — six months from now when you’re searching for a document, what words will you use to search for it? Be sure to “tag it” with those terms, either in the file name or in a string along the top of the document. I rarely file anything, so tagging and search are a key component to my personal system.
  • Mega-browser: Firefox3 with plugins for Gmail, Weather, and Yoono (that has Twitter, Instant Messaging, etc.).
  • Blackberry: It’s an essential device to stay on top of the flow, including skimming Google Reader’s mobile platform while I drive on the freeway.
  • the social bookmarking browser is not only an absolute gem for managing your bookmarks and sharing them colleagues and friends, it’s also a superb way to find information/research/etc. of which you may be looking. Again, it comes down to the folksonomy of figuring out what tags others would use to identify the data.
  • Evernote: with screenshots, plus mobile compatibility
  • Alert Thingy: Bringing FriendFeed updates to your desktop with sweet little popups in your screen corner.

Parting thoughts:

  • Don’t hog your data: Sharing and participation are the currencies of the knowledge economy. Build your organization’s collective intellectual capital by investing in sharing tools (intranets, wikis)
  • Personal discipline: At the end of the day, your feelings of being overwhelmed most likely stem from a lack of discipline. If you want your inbox at zero by 10 a.m., then make it a priority. If you have 13,925 items in your inbox (like I do right now) and it stresses you out that they aren’t individually filed in client folders, lay out a few hours to sort them and actually DO IT.
  • Bacn is the enemy: If you subscribe to any eNewsletter that you don’t read nearly every single time, I recommend you unsubscribe. Routinely I found myself deleting upwards of 10-15 overnight eNewsletter e-mail when I first opened my work e-mail in the morning. Why bother?
  • Paper is evil: As a general rule, written and printed word on paper is bulky, inefficient and unsearchable. Take notes in MS Word or Google Documents so you can use Google Desktop to quickly retrieve, edit and share notes.
  • Never stop seeking out new systems: I’m constantly learning of new tools and techniques help refine my love of hoarding (just in case) and share the information with clients, colleagues, friends and family.

If you have a system that’s working for you, please share. Here are a host of resources we put together prior to the panel.

Archived MIMA stream.
Garrick’s presentation.
Cullect/312 featuring recommended reading links from panelists.

Elisa‘s links:
Ready Reference
Internet Public Library Ready Reference – Almanacs, encyclopedias, dictionaries, quotations
Librarians’ Internet Index – Websites selected, described and organized by librarians.
Ask Dr. Census – includes contact information for different topics. Always very responsive and thorough. They will pull data you need, but also explain it. Also a good question and answer section.
DockuTicker – DocuTicker offers a hand-picked selection of resources, reports and publications from government agencies, NGOs, think tanks and other public interest organizations. Categorized by topic.
AllTop – Organizes popular blogs into topic areas.

Addict-o-matic – get stuff from everywhere and create a dashboard. Pulls from the “best live sites on the web for the latest news, blog posts, videos and images.”
Dogpile – search Google, Yahoo! Ask all at once.
Exalead – advanced search operators not available on other sites. Includes thumbnails of pages and provides excellent narrowing options on right side. Search Tips
Factbites – offers real, meaningful sentences that are right on topic
Keotag – search across social media sites such as Twitter, Technorati, etc. Also includes social bookmarks links generator.
Kosmix – gather information from across the web and transform it into an organized overview.
Keyword Mutation Detection – MSN tool helps you find alternative spellings or misspelled keywords.
Loki – let’s you find location information based on IP address or nearby wifi signals.
Newsmap – visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News aggregator.
Nationmaster and Statemaster – sources for national and state stats with a tool for presenting graphical information.
Omgili – “what are people saying about___?” Searches more than 100,000 forums, newsgroups, and mailing lists.
Redzee – cycle through your results like you cycle through album art on an iPod. Results come back as thumbnails of the sites. Fancy.
Rollyo – choose which sites you want to search.
Searchmash – Google test project. Includes other search indexes.
Touchgraph – reveal relationships between people, organizations, and ideas.
ZoomInfo – search for people.

Reference Management Software
Zotero – firefox browser based extension to collect, manage and cite research sources from news pubs, subscription databases and library catalogs.

Searching Tips
Searching Wikipedia (we all do it)
Google Advanced Search Tools
Google Experimental Search – See results on a timeline, map, or in context of other information types. You can use it without signing up by adding these to your search statement view: prefix followed by info, timeline, or map.

Xobni – organize your email. Cool features like email analytics, attachment discovery and contact details.


Garrick‘s Links:
On the ‘Using-Your-Friends-for-Search’ side of aggregation/search:

Mike‘s Links:
Evernote: This is your brain on tags. Super-powered with optical-character recognition. : Social bookmarking and tagging.
Jott : When you can’t write it down, Jott it
I Want Sandy: The personal assistant you’ll never actually have in real life.
Cullect : Feed reader for the sophisticated readers.
Google Reader : Feed reader control freaks.
FriendFeed: Putting it all in one place.
Google Advanced Features: Becoming a search ninja.
Life Hacker: Making life more efficient and productive. Hacking it.
FedStats : Get creeped out by the vast fortunes of data our government has. Then put it to use.
Marketing Charts : Make your marketing smarter with data.

Greg’s Links:
Forrester’s Groundswell Tool
Google + OMGILI: The awesomeness of Google, plus the awesomeness of OMGILI’s discussion board search TOGETHER!
PopURLS: the aggregator of the aggregators
Evernote: with screenshots, plus a good mobile tool
Yoono: Pimp out that browser!
Alert Thingy: Friendfeed desktop app

And there’s always and Google… :)

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