» Archive for December, 2011

What the future holds: IBM’s 5 in 5 Forecast and More Information Overload Ahead

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 by Cody Burke

The future is murky...

On New Year’s Eve, we generally like to take stock of where we are, take a deep breath, prepare for a fresh new year with some resolutions, and of course, make wild predictions about the future.

IBM is getting into the spirit of the season with its 5 in 5, a list of five innovations that will change our lives in five years.  This is the sixth year that the company has released its list of predictions, which are driven by market data, social trends, and innovations taking place in IBM research labs.

Before we look ahead, let’s look at how IBM has done with its past predictions.  In 2006 IBM predicated that, by 2011, we would have digitized medical records and be using advanced video teleconferencing systems to speak and interact with our doctors.  We are not completely there, but we are on the way.  The company also predicted context-aware mobile devices and nanotechnology being used to control our environment.  Mobile devices have certainly evolved in that direction, and we are using advanced nanotechnology to improve solar energy collection.

In the fail column, IBM also believed that, by 2011, we would be immersed in a 3-D Internet (Snow Crash, anyone?) and that real-time translation (Star Trek-style) would be possible.

In the area of Information Overload, we previously predicted that Information Overload would continue to increase despite attempts by us and on the part of others to raise awareness of the high cost and the negative impact it has.  Unfortunately, we were correct in our prediction and the amount of Information Overload rose in lockstep with the increase in the amount of information created over the past year.

Looking to the year ahead, the trend will continue and we can expect more of the same, namely more information and more Information Overload.

This year, in its 5 in 5 forecast and on a more positive note, IBM is banking on the following:

1.)  People power.  Advances in renewable energy technology will allow for the harnessing of kinetic energy from movement such as walking or jogging, or even residual heat from individuals or machines.

2.)  Multi-factor biometrics.  Passwords will become obsolete as we increasingly rely on identification via biometric data such as facial definitions, retinal scans, and voice recognition.

3.)  Mind reading.  No, really.  Bioinformatics is the field of harnessing electronic brain activity with advanced sensors to understand facial expressions, concentration levels, and thoughts of a person.  The technology can be applied to controlling mobile devices, medical testing, and the gaming industry.

4.)  Death of the digital divide.  IBM believes that the ubiquity of mobile devices will all but eliminate the gap between those who have information access and those who do not.  The company estimates that in the next five years there will be 5.6 billion mobile devices sold, giving 80% of the 7 billion people on earth access to such a device.

5.)  Junk mail will become useful?  With both spam filters and targeted advertising becoming more precise, IBM thinks that real-time analytics will become so advanced that the technology will be able to accurately determine what you really want.  An example of this kind of predictive, targeted advertising would be reserving concert tickets for your favorite band on a night that you have a free space on your calendar, all without asking you.

This year’s 5 in 5 predictions are interesting and fun, and it is easy to see how trends support some of the ideas.  Biometrics, control of technology via brain waves, and harnessing kinetic energy in particular seem very plausible.  Eliminating the digital divide that separates the information haves from the have nots and solving the junk mail problem seem a bit trickier, but in the spirit of the holidays lets be optimistic.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.  He can be reached at cburke@basex.com

(Image courtesy of John Stephen Dwyer)

New Year’s Resolutions for the Overloaded

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 by Jonathan Spira


It’s hard to believe, but the New Year is almost upon us.  In the interest of not contributing further to your overload, dear reader, I’ll keep my resolutions brief.

E-mail – as demonstrated by the amount of coverage that the Atos e-mail ban received in recent weeks – is still a hot topic, so let’s try to fix it for 2012.

First, when preparing an e-mail message for the consumption of others, write it with the recipient in mind and please take a moment and read it for comprehension before clicking on Send.

Second, when replying to an e-mail, please read the entire message you are replying to.  It’s amazing how many people reply asking a question about what the writer very clearly covered in paragraph seven of the original e-mail.

Third, on the topic of even having a paragraph seven in an e-mail message, keep e-mail messages short and on topic.  Cramming three or four (or 10 or 20) topics and questions into one e-mail simply means that most of them will be ignored and unread.

I can’t promise this will remedy all of the ills of the world but following these three easy steps will Lower the Overload in 2012.

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Prosit Neujahr!

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex and author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.


Ban E-mail? Stop the Madness!

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 by Jonathan Spira

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Last week, Atos, a French IT company, announced a ban on internal e-mail.  Atos’ management justified the action as a way to stop wasteful messaging.  It says that staffers get an average of 200 e-mail messages per day (the average, according to our calculations, 93), and that most are not “critical.”

Atos wants to move conversations that would take place in e-mail to tools such as Microsoft Office Communicator instant messaging and face-to-face discussions.  Aside from the fact that managers there should read my “What Works Better When?” treatise, I have to wonder how it was determined that “most” of the e-mail exchanges were not necessary.

It’s quite true that e-mail can be wasteful, and furthermore I’m willing to bet that Atos didn’t even begin to calculate the cost of “unnecessary” interruptions, which would magnify the presumed cost of wasteful e-mail exchanges five fold in many cases.

What does trouble me to some extent is the amount of press that Atos’ action has gotten.  While Atos’ management may have indeed given some though to the problem, other managers may simply read the headlines (“Huge Company Bans Internal E-mail” was a popular one) and decide to pull the plug.

Does anyone remember No E-mail Wednesdays?  They were immediately followed by E-mail Tsunami Thursdays.

E-mail has become the prime means of moving information both within an enterprise and beyond its borders.  Is it the ideal means?  No, of course not.  But to paraphrase Sir Winston, e-mail is the worst form of messaging except for all the others that have been tried.

Instant messaging and social networks all have their place, but there are still many types of messages, ranging from out-of-office communications to thoughts that require a longer explanation, where e-mail is still the best medium.

Now, if we could all exercise a bit of control when it comes to the number of recipients…

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex and author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.