notebookcomputer1A few weeks back, I had a Too Much Information meltdown, because I was being overrun with information spewing forth from various sources. To be specific, I regularly get communications from these feeds: email, SMS text, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. The amount of “stuff” that was coming in was getting out of hand so I sprang into action.

First, I asked myself, how did I get into this mess? The general trend I see is that when I first start using a particular communications tool, my goal is to connect up with as many interesting feeds as possible. For old school email, this usually means subscribing to email lists, mostly via Yahoo Groups. For Twitter, this means Following other people that have interesting tweets. As more people engage in these media, the available stuff grows rapidly. Then Google Plus comes along, which tries to improve on Twitter but is somewhat redundant with the other social media. That is, I get Google Plus postings that are the same as ones from Twitter and Facebook.

The big trap I fell into is the fear of missing something. There’s so much interesting stuff out there, I wanted to grab it all. In reality, I was still missing stuff because I was being overrun with superfluous information. Ah! This is really the classic communication problem of signal-to-noise ratio. Some of these feeds have too much noise in them so I was losing the signal!

What constitutes noise? Lots of things: Foursquare check ins, Fitbit updates,  off topic posts in email lists, etc., etc. Of course, noise is in the eye of the beholder, so what is noise to me may be valuable information to you. Also, a few “noise bursts” are OK but lots of noise degrades the signal-to-noise ratio.

With signal-to-noise ratio as the primary measure, I ruthlessly slashed my collection of information sources. I dropped out of many of the Yahoo Groups (actually, I moved them to web only), I reduced the number of SMS text alerts, I pulled back on the number of Facebook friends, deleted less interesting RSS feeds. On Twitter, I started to pay attention to noisy tweets…if someone has a tendency to send noise and not so much signal, they are gone.

If I dropped you from Twitter or the other social media, please don’t take it personally. It’s just me unclogging my digital life.

Those are my thoughts…what are you doing to manage your digital life?

73, Bob K0NR