On Writing a Book About Information Overload

Having written extensively about the problem of Information Overload for over 15 years, I never thought it would be difficult to write a book on the topic.

So many chapters, so little time

Little did I know…

I knew going in that I would want the book to be relatively brief, concise, and clear – I would never want to be accused of contributing to the problem by virtue of having written a book on it.

Of course, that was life p.b. – or pre-book.

Now that I am fully immersed in writing it, I have found several problems – all of which are traceable to Information Overload.

First, there’s the question of defining both information and the problem of Information Overload – easier said than done. To borrow from a comment made by Justice Potter Stewart in his opinion on the obscenity case of Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), information is hard to define “but I know it when I see it.” The same holds true for Information Overload.

Then there’s the question of concentration. As a student of workplace productivity and interruptions, I know I must absolutely positively concentrate on one thing at a time.

Also easier said than done.

Finally, there’s what I call Shiny Object Syndrome. I think of something that would make for a fantastic chapter (the “shiny object”) – and start writing about it, neglecting all of those other half-written chapters (which themselves started as shiny objects) that are just begging for attention.

It’s time now to instill some discipline in the writing process (this is a variation on what software developers call “eating your own dogfood”). I’ve given advice to others for years. It’s time to start following it myself.

[Editor's note: Jonathan Spira's book on Information Overload is scheduled to appear in 2011 - presuming he completes it.]

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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