Monday, November 22, 2004

We Have the Information You Want, But Getting It Will Cost You: Being Held Hostage by Information Overload. This article is by Mark R. Nelson. It appeared in ACM Crossroads Student Magazine, 1.1 September 1994. This is an older article (10 years now) but it still has some interesting points.

From the site:

The Information Age has arrived and with it comes a daily assault of increased information. Society is being held hostage by a battery of information which threatens to exceed our ability to manage it. Information overload costs businesses and individuals valuable time, effort and additional resources...and the cost is rising.

Wurman [20] writes, ``a weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in seventeenth-century England.'' In today's society, the success and survival of many companies and individuals hinges upon their ability to ``locate, analyze, and use information skillfully and appropriately [10].'' Our proficiency at generating information has exceeded our abilities to find, review and understand it. The problems associated with the explosion of information are exemplified on the ``Internet-turned-Information-Superhighway.'' The volume of information on the Internet has exceeded the ability of most people to find the information they need. The tools to support resource identification and use have not increased in effectiveness as rapidly as the quantity of available information has increased.

Getting the Right Information at the Right Time

In settings like the Internet, there are a wide range of information sources located in many different places. In order to more effectively locate the information which is most useful, there are a number of tools and centralized resources that might be useful. To reduce confusion when searching for information, a person should know what tools are available and how to use them. Information on the Internet is posted in a number of different formats located at thousands of sites. Information is stored in and across sites and can be referenced geographically, topically, by keyword or by random chance and exploration.

Information can be found in bulletin boards, Usenet news groups or within ``gopher-space''. One problem with many Internet resources is that most are hard to find. There are many resources available on the Internet, but finding them is not easy using the tools at hand. Schwartz [18] talks about the importance of resource discovery. He emphasizes that ``if users cannot discover resources, they get only a fraction of the potential benefits of a network.''

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