» Archive for the 'Events' Category

Overloaded 2012 – An IORG Event

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 by Cody Burke

On Feb. 25, in San Francisco, the Information Overload Research Group will host “Overloaded 2012″, a gathering of people from a diversity of domains such as business, academia, technology, journalism, psychology, and research, committed to the battle against information overload. We’ve intentionally decided to make this an “un-conference”, a more informal and intimate event than a full blown conference, where the focus will be on creating a lively dialog, crossing organizational and domain boundaries, and developing new insight into the state of information overload as well as the latest solutions.
In my experience, getting professional colleagues who usually interact remotely into one physical room liberates incredible energy. Ideas flow, knowledge is shared, innovative thinking is triggered, collaborations are born, friendships are cemented… in fact, IORG itself was born in the aftermath of such a gathering a few years ago. I look forward to attending this day in San Francisco with much pleasant anticipation!

If you share our passion, please join us there! Reserve your place by registering here. We look forward to meeting you in what promises to be a productive, interesting and (not least) fun coming together of like minds.

Nathan Zeldes is the president of the Information Overload Research Group.

Information Overload: 5 Authors’ Points-of-View

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 by Cody Burke

What channel is it on?

On Monday, the Information Overload Research Group (IORG) hosted a virtual literary salon on the topic of Information Overload entitled “Five Authors, Five Books, A Dialogue on Information Overload.” The event featured authors who have written recent books related to the subject of Information Overload. They were asked to discuss why they wrote their books, and what issues they feel are most relevant today.

Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking, spoke about the problem of switch tasking, which describes what happens when people switch back and forth rapidly between tasks, lowering their productivity. Crenshaw suggested several strategies for dealing with Information Overload, including setting definite start and end times for work in order to increase the productivity of work-designated times, learning to say no to new projects, and avoiding the “Double Q” (just one quick question). The Double Q is particularly vexing as those kinds of questions cause multiple small interruptions. The best way to deal with the problem is to group all the little question into a single one-to-one meeting, avoiding the steady stream of small interruptions.

Daniel Forrester, author of Consider, mentioned that he was motivated to write his book in part by reading about how Bill Gates would schedule “Think Weeks” for thought and reflection twice a year. At the time, he was also questioning how multitasking was affecting his own life and reading research that proved that multitasking was largely impossible. Forrester went on to outline how he began looking at information-related military issues in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the leadership style of different leaders such as David Petraeus and Colin Powell. He noted that we are still not spending enough time thinking and reflecting, saying that he believes the most successful companies and individuals will be those who engage in what he called “group reflection” as opposed to group think.

Next, Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted, outlined her argument that we risk heading into a Dark Age due to our lack of deep thinking, excessive work/life balance degradation, and a drop in listening skills. She outlined the three types of attention, namely focus, awareness, and executive attention, and how people can be trained either to be distracted or to be focused. She finished with a call to action to question our assumptions and values about how we think about attention, with a shift back to emphasizing focused thought and setting up our environments to support deep thought and reflection.

William Powers, author of Hamlet’s BlackBerry, spoke about his realization of how the medium through which we consume information, namely screens, shapes our lives. Prior to writing his book, he had begun to notice that it became difficult to get through more than a few pages in a good novel before feeling the urge to look at a screen. Powers discussed how he went back to historical moments when humans faced technological challenges, and found practical examples of people dealing with information consumption and striking healthy balances in their lives. He concluded that we all have to realize the benefits of finding a healthy balance and setting limits on information consumption.

To finish the discussion, Jonathan Spira, author of Overload!, discussed the evolution of his research into Information Overload over the last 20 years. His starting point emerged from his observations of the problems that occur when knowledge workers share information and collaborate, almost all of them Information Overload-related. This led him on a 20-year journey to address these issues and help people deal with the problem. He outlined the phenomenon of recovery time, which is the time it takes a knowledge worker to return to the task at hand after an interruption (five to ten times the length of the interruption itself). Jonathan also shared some statistics on how widespread the problem is: for example, 94% of knowledge workers have felt overwhelmedto the point of incapacitation by the amount of information they encounter on a daily basis. His parting thought was that we can all do something about Information Overload by taking personal responsibility for the problem and taking action in whatever ways we can, such as by sending clearer e-mail, or by valuing our colleagues’ time as if it were our own.

Jonathan, who was also serving as moderator, ended the event three minutes early and told attendees that he was hereby returning three additional minutes to them for the purpose of thought and reflection.

The entire event, including a question and answer session, can be heard in its entirety here.

This Analyst Opinion is also available online at

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

More Notes from the Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by David Goldes

Last week’s Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event was a great success going by the overwhelming feedback we received from speakers and attendees.

Maggie Jackson, one of the first journalists to interview Basex on the topic of information overload, writes for the Boston Globe on the topic of work-life balance, and last year came out with a book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.

Jackson discussed the erosion of attention to work, attention to information, even attention to eating and leisure activities.  If we continue to squander how we use attention, we may descend into an era where emptiness rather than fulfillment rules, where one never goes sufficiently in depth in any one area because a virtual clock is ticking guaranteeing that something will intrude three minutes hence.

Christina Randle, CEO of the Effective Edge, discussed the problem of information-induced stress.  Work days are marathons, not sprints, and information overload “zaps” our energy, causing us to complete less in the course of a day.  Thanks to information overload we are in a fog and some of the decisions we make reflect that.  We are constantly performing a juggling act that always results in a few dropped balls.  To solve this, we need to look at our own behavior and be willing to make changes.

Ed Stern from OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor) talked about Information Overload in government – and his pioneering work deploying expert systems to help people (individuals as well as government employees) sort through mountains of information including government regulations.  What Ed has been doing at OSHA may very well be one of the great – and unheralded – fights against Information Overload in government.

Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good, spoke about the virtues of an empty inbox and the three “D’s”: Delete, Defer, and avoiD.  Computer literacy, according to Hurst is not sufficient.  Knowledge workers need to develop a far greater fluency and literacy in the use of e-mail, file management, managing images, and managing tasks.  E-mail overload, according to Hurst, is caused by “the lack of to-do management.”  Tools such as gootodo.com go a long way in reducing e-mail overload.  Hurst is an advocate of the empty or zero inbox.  While I believe this sounds great in concept, the time involved in filing and managing the inbox versus using an e-mail client with good search tools may just not be worth the effort.

Ken Sickles, Solutions Strategy Director at Dow Jones, brought his background as a knowledge worker from a large, information-intensive organization into the discussion.  One slide, “Information Overload & Me,” was telling.  For Ken and Dow Jones, the effects of Information Overload are myriad, including difficulty in making correct decisions due to a lack of accurate and timely information, a lack of expertise, difficulty in networking with colleagues, and an impact on forward thinking.  In other words, the impact of Information Overload goes to the very core of business performance.

Seth Earley, an expert on taxonomies and CEO of Earley & Associates, talked about, well, taxonomies as well as search disambiguation and faceted search.  As he pointed out, mere search is not enough.  Information needs context and that is the role of the taxonomy.
Paul Silverman, CEO of Integra Workshops talked about Zen and Information Overload.  Talking at the end of the event, he brought a Zen-like calm to the room focusing on how to create a life that helps evolve the mind and body.  His prescription: do one thing at a time and do it until it’s done.

Mike Song, author of the Hamster Revolution, talked about the relationship between meetings and Information Overload.  He pointed out that even the process of setting up a meeting wastes significant time and that most meetings fail to have clear objectives and agendas.  Addressing this issues will reduce the amount of time millions of knowledge workers waste each day in meetings that seem to come out of a Dilbert cartoon (my words, not Mike’s).

That’s all for now – I hope I haven’t overloaded you.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Notes from the Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event

Thursday, August 13th, 2009 by David Goldes

Yesterday’s Information Overload Awareness Day conference no doubt pushed attendees above and beyond the bounds of overload.  As a public service here, I’ll review highlights.  If you missed the event, we plan to make some of the sessions available shortly via MP3.

Keynotes
The first keynote address, by Jonathan Spira, chief analyst here at Basex, presented an overview of the problem, including costs, problem areas, and a few things we can do about the problem right now.

A few key points:

  • The cost of Information Overload to the U.S. economy is $900 billion annually, as of 2008.
  • For an individual company, 10-20% of the cost of Information Overload should be recoverable in the first year after an organization addresses the problem in a comprehensive manner.
  • A mere 12% of the knowledge worker’s day is spent in thought or reflection.
  • We spend 15% of the day searching for things and 20% in meetings.
  • Think before clicking reply-to-all, or even sending a reply of “Great. Thanks.” acknowledging someone’s e-mail.  Although these are small, individual actions, they add up.

The second keynote was presented by Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group and Intel’s former Information Overload czar.  Nathan discussed the problem from the point of view of the large organization (Intel has almost 80,000 employees).  Intel’s own research indicated that its knowledge workers are losing approximately eight hours per week due to Information Overload, a fact that led Nathan to devise and apply a number of solutions starting in 1995.

Key points:

  • It’s important to get buy-in from senior management (he provided some tips).
  • Information Overload is a subject everyone complains about but few actually undertake solutions.
  • The impact can’t be ignored: reduced mental capacity, no time to think about things, direct loss of productive time, breakdown of organizational processes, and a diminished quality of life.
  • While most activity is around personal solutions, “what the world needs are organization-wide solutions.”
  • Start with a pilot program and choose your group carefully.

Bit Literacy
Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good, spoke about the virtues of an empty inbox and the three “D’s”: Delete, Defer, and avoiD.  Computer literacy, according to Hurst is not sufficient.  Knowledge workers need to develop a far greater fluency and literacy in the use of e-mail, file management, managing images, and managing tasks.  E-mail overload, according to Hurst, is caused by “the lack of to-do management.”  Tools such as gootodo.com go a long way in reducing e-mail overload.

Visionary Vendor Panel

The Visionary Vendor panel, a Basex tradition for almost a decade, was comprised of executives from companies with industry-leading products or services that focus on the problem of Information Overload.  The choice for inclusion was easy: we had already selected five companies to receive the 2009 Basex Excellence Awards for their work in combatting Information Overload and they were the obvious choices for the panel as well.  The Basey winners and Visionary Vendor panelists were:

  • ClearContext: For tools that control the inbox, aggregate project information, and reduce information overload;
  • Microsoft: For Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010 and for inbox features that help reduce Information Overload;
  • Nordic River: For TextFlow and its ability reduce Information Overload through a collaborative authoring environment;
  • Xerox. For multiple contributions in search and categorization as well as a continued emphasis on Information Overload; and
  • Xobni: For tools that improve inbox management and reduce information and relationship overload.

Before we completely overload you, we’ll pause here and continue next week.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

An Overloaded Room on Information Overload Awareness Day

Thursday, August 13th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Yesterday, August 12, was Information Overload Awareness Day. If you are reading this column, you probably knew that already and you might have even been one of the 350+ people who registered for the Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event.

When we first announced Information Overload Awareness Day a few months ago, we envisioned that 50 or so people would gather online and talk about different aspects of addressing Information Overload.  But once we started preparing for the event, the response we received from all quarters was overwhelmingly positive and the Inaugural Event took on a life of its own.

Our sponsors invited guests, we received numerous enquiries from members of the press, and an outstanding roster of speakers agreed to participate.  Still, nothing prepared me for the irony that greeted some of our attendees when the virtual doors opened at 11 a.m. EDT.  It was a type of overload I hadn’t yet considered: too many attendees.

Through what turned out to be human error, the virtual conference space had not been set up for unlimited attendees.  When we hit a certain number (I’m not sure exactly what that was), those trying to join in got the message :”Too many participants.  The number of meeting participants has exceeded the limit.”

That was immediately followed by an avalanche of e-mail to our meeting organizer and it should have been a simple, two-minute fix – unless your dedicated technical support person is being rushed to the hospital (he’s feeling much better, we are told).  It took about 12 minutes to get this sorted but soon enough, several hundred people were in the room and we were cooking.

First off, I’d like to thank the 300+ knowledge workers around the world (over 30 countries were represented) for attending.  Many were with us for the entire event, which was five hours in length.  Our speakers were, in order of appearance, Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group, Maggie Jackson, author of “Distracted,” Christina Randle, CEO of the Effective Edge, Ed Stern from OSHA, Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good, Ken Sickles from Dow Jones, Seth Earley, CEO at Earley & Associates, Paul Silverman, CEO of Integra Workshops, and Michael Song, author of “The Hamster Revolution.”

We took this opportunity to single out five organizations for their significant contributions to the fight against Information Overload, bestowing upon them the Basex Excellence Award, or Basey.  We invited an executive from each company to sit on our Visionary Vendor panel, which preceded the awards ceremony.

The 2009 Basey awards went to ClearContext: For tools that control the inbox, aggregate project information, and reduce information overload; Microsoft: For Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010 and for inbox features that help reduce Information Overload; Nordic River: For TextFlow and its ability reduce Information Overload through a collaborative authoring environment; Xerox: For multiple contributions in search and categorization as well as a continued emphasis on mitigating Information Overload; and Xobni: For tools that improve inbox management and reduce information and relationship overload.

Finally, I would like to thank our corporate and association sponsors for their support.  Microsoft was the event’s Platinum Sponsor.  Gold sponsors included Bluenog, Cincom, CubeGuard, Dow Jones, IBM, Information Overload Research Group, Nordic River, SAS and Siemens. Silver sponsors included Creative Good, Feintuch Communications, HyperOffice, Permessa, Xerox and VirtualPBX.

We plan on making the event archive available for Web access so, in case you missed it, stay tuned.

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

ClearContext, Microsoft, Nordic River, Xerox, and Xobni win Basex Excellence Awards for Information Overload Innovations

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by David Goldes

Five companies who have developed products or services that address the problem of Information Overload – ClearContext, Microsoft, Nordic River, Xerox and Xobni — have won Basex Excellence Awards.

The “Baseys” were presented today at the Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event, being held on the Web. This year’s awards recognized companies with industry-leading products or services that focus on the problem of Information Overload.

“These companies and offerings exemplify the types of products breaking new ground in the fight against Information Overload,” said Jonathan B. Spira, Basex’ CEO and Chief Analyst, at the awards ceremony. Executives from each company participated in the conference’s Visionary Vendor panel prior to receiving the awards.

The Basey winners were honored for a broad range of innovation:

  • ClearContext: For tools that control the inbox, aggregate project information, and reduce Information Overload;
  • Microsoft: For Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010 and for inbox features that help reduce Information Overload;
  • Nordic River: For TextFlow and its ability reduce Information Overload through a collaborative authoring environment;
  • Xerox: For multiple contributions in search and categorization as well as a continued emphasis on Information Overload; and
  • Xobni: For tools that improve inbox management and reduce information and relationship overload.

In addition, a special Basey was presented to Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group and Intel’s former Information Overload czar, to honor the significant fundamental contributions he has made to research in Information Overload.

David M. Goldes is President and Senior Analyst at Basex.

Information Overload Awareness Day

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

“What can we do to call more attention to the problem of Information Overload?” is a question I hear almost daily from managers at companies who have recognized the extent to which the problem impacts their organizations.  As of now, I have a much better answer than I previously had: participate in Information Overload Awareness Day, a new workplace observance that calls attention to the problem of information overload and how it impacts both individuals and organizations.

Yes, you can wear a button or a T-shirt (we’ll have those next week) but that’s only the first step.  On August 12, the day we’ve set aside to focus our attention on the problem, we are holding an online event that will permit us to do a deep dive into different ways that Information Overload is adversely impacting knowledge work and knowledge workers while also spotlighting possible solutions to help managers and policymakers cope with loss of productivity.

Information Overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks.  Organizations of all shapes and sizes have already been significantly impacted by it; according to our research the problem costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lowered productivity and throttled innovation.

The event features a variety of speakers including noted authors Maggie Jackson (“Distracted”) and Mike Song (“The Hamster Revolution”), executives from such companies as Dow Jones and Morgan Stanley, a CIO from the U.S. Air Force, and Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group and the former executive in charge of addressing the problem at Intel.  (I’ll be there too, of course.)

While a few people put their heads in the sand and say this is not a real problem, the costs are quite real and the problem is only going to get worse.  By 2012, the typical knowledge worker will receive hundreds of messages each day via e-mail, IM, text, and social networks.

Simply put, companies need to focus on what can be done to lessen information overload’s impact right now.  We’ll look at the latest research and solutions and cover areas including managing e-mail, calculating Information Overload exposure, improving search, and managing content, just to name a few.

The cost of the event is $50; attendees who promise not to multi-task (i.e. IM, e-mail, or text) during the event will receive a 50% discount.

Companies are invited to sponsor Information Overload Awareness Day by enrolling as Designated Sites.  This allows all of their employees to attend at no charge and demonstrates their commitment to helping solve the problem.

Tweet this: Information Overload Awareness Day Aug. 12; event to present latest research and solutions; http://www.informationoverloadday.com/

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

Assess Your Organization’s Information Overload Exposure

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 by David Goldes

Information Overload costs companies billions of dollars in lowered productivity and throttled innovation and its impact on the bottom line isn’t something you can ignore. But how much does it cost your organization?

Information overload causes:

  • Diminished comprehension levels
  • Lower individual efficiency
  • Compromised concentration
  • Lost opportunities

Raising awareness of the problem is the best first step so, as part of our Basex InfoBox series of online events, we are inviting you to attend a workshop on Assessing Your Organization’s Information Overload on Friday, March 13, 2009 at 12:30 p.m. EDT/9:30 a.m. PDT.

You are invited to attend as our guest.

In this one-hour session, you will learn:

  • How to begin to assess your organization’s exposure, financial and otherwise, to Information Overload
  • What tactics and strategies other companies are successfully using to fight Information Overload
  • How to assess the toll on knowledge workers
  • How to lessen the impact of Information Overload on the bottom line
  • Six key ways to help reduce the impact of Information Overload on your organization right now

Be sure to join us on March 13.

David M. Goldes is president and senior analyst at Basex.

IBM’s WorldJam

Tuesday, May 29th, 2001 by Jonathan Spira

Invited: 320,000 of your closest friends.

Over the past few weeks, I was one of the very few outsiders to be briefed on – and view in action – WorldJam, a 72-hour-long online community event hosted by IBM to which all of its 320,000 employees were invited.  Although I will be writing about this in greater depth in an upcoming research report, I wanted to share some initial observations and insights with you.

WorldJam is a set of tools and an environment that were integrated to support a 72-hour online community brainstorming session.  The goals were threefold:

1.)    To tackle ten “thorny” business problems
2.)    To report to colleagues on best practices
3.)    To “jam” with friends and colleagues

For the past nine months, IBM, under the direction of Mike Wing, IBM’s Director, Worldwide Intranet Strategy and Programs, has been planning and rehearsing this marathon community event. Wing’s Corporate Intranet Team worked in conjunction with several other areas of IBM, namely Corporate Marketing, IBM Research, and Strategic Web Application and Technology (SWAT).

There are several levels at which one can view WorldJam.  First, the technology itself.  Second, the issues which were at the heart of the WorldJam discussions.  Third, the collective knowledge and wisdom of the company which WorldJam brings together for 72 hours.  And fourth, as an extraordinary scientific experiment in online collaboration, and the ramifications which it raises.  Today I concentrate largely on the first.

At the core of WorldJam were ten asynchronous discussion databases, or forums, each led by a moderator/expert in the field, assisted by trained staffers.  Each forum had a topic and a question, e.g. “Supplying the Glue: More than 25% of IBMers are ‘mobile’ – telecommuting, working on customer premises, teaming with geographically dispersed colleagues.  What do you do to avoid ‘IBM’ = ‘I’m By Myself’?”.

The next logical issue to tackle was how people might participate in WorldJam.  By the end of WorldJam, over individual 50,000 employees had stopped by; it will take a while to study the statistics in greater detail, but, even in a group of 50,000 people, participation runs along the lines which one might expect.  Some IBMers would stop by and  mine a few nuggets.  Others came to impart and share their knowledge.  Others hunkered down and jammed, and still others formed breakout groups which launched real-time (synchronous) discussions relating to one of the ten topics.

The WorldJam project can be viewed in four phases:
- Preparatory/planning (9 months)
- Live (72 hours)
- Immediate Follow-up (several weeks)
- Long-term resource (infinite going forward)

WorldJam also offered diversions, including “branded” music, and games, which were two applets in the Thinking Tools section called “Words” (a kind of online refrigerator magnet game) and “Music” (a nod to WorldJam’s musical heritage?).

One of my favorites pieces of technology was the WorldJam Activity Map, which uses IBM Gryphon Server technology [which is based on Java Messaging service (JMS)].  IBM describes Gryphon as a publish/subscribe message broker system, the type which could be used for real-time online sports score distribution.  Here Gryphon tracked visitors on the WorldJam site.  The Activity Map also used a custom-statistics server and a JDBC Data Access API.  The statistics themselves were stored in DB2.  Activity Map created a geographic record (i.e., a real-time view of the world) of participants’ activities, and a forum-by-forum record (created by connecting to the Gryphon server and subscribing to the statistics channel) which fed real-time activity, then displayed a geographic record of participants’ activity and a forum-by-forum participant record.

Another personal favorite was a  tool developed for WorldJam, the “JamBroker,” which uses XML and XML Parser to create and match groups of people for a random jam.

The discussion forums used Lotus Notes and servlets, which integrated Notes content together with HTML all on one Web page.  The discussion functionality (comments, replies, voting, etc.) was all managed through Notes, which stored the information in a Notes database.  Servlets generated and managed the moderator’s comments which appeared on each of the ten forums.  Every discussion forum page contained an applet referred to as a “digital heartbeat,” which tracked user activity in real time.  This sent its information back to Gryphon.

Although time will tell how WorldJam and its wealth of intellectual activity and knowledge will be both viewed and utilized in future, the WorldJam team was already making notes for WorldJam’s progeny.  A few ideas I would add would be to add foreign language support (after all, it’s WORLDJam), and to consider having a specific opening and closing activity, both to warm participants up, and to give an appropriate ending to such a landmark event.

The scope and magnitude of a WorldJam-like event is an investment that very few companies could undertake.  Of those that are in fact able, none except for IBM has undertaken an online community/knowledge management event on this scale.  IBM effectively invited all of its 320,000+ employees to not only participate in pragmatic discussions with the possibility of immediate impact, but opened the door for all to partake in embarking upon significant cultural change, with all IBMers taking an active role in their own destinies.

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


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