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Summary:

As a freelancer, I spend most of my time trying to manage information overload. However, despite this obsession with efficiently gathering information, there are also times when I actively seek out that overload. While a fire hose of notifications and feeds can be too distracting when I am working on client work, if I am looking for inspiration, I want to see as much information as possible in the hope that something will catch my eye and provide the inspiration that I need to kick start a new blog post or some other effort.

Here are a few of my favorite tools for embracing information overload.

As a freelancer, I spend most of my time trying to manage information overload. Like Charles, I use spaces to quarantine focused work from other distractions, and I have some tricks for efficient RSS reading, creative uses of RSS to increase efficiency, and filtering techniques to help reduce the time I need to spend consuming information. Despite this obsession with efficiently gathering information, there are also times when I actively seek out information overload.

While a fire hose of notifications and feeds can be too distracting when I’m working on things for client, if I’m looking for inspiration for a new blog post or new venture of some sort, I want to see as much information as possible in the hope that something will catch my eye and provide the inspiration that I need.

Here are a few of my favorite tools for embracing information overload. Please beware that these tools are known to sap productivity and suck up precious hours that can never be regained! Use these techniques at your own risk.

FriendFeed NotifierFriendFeed Notifier will send you pop-up messages every time one of your friends posts something to FriendFeed or comments on a post. For maximum information overload, make sure that you select the following options: show updates when someone comments on my posts, show updates from my home feed, and show posts and all comments. For the wimpier among us, you can choose to show updates only from a small list of friends or show posts only.

Tweetdeck or other Twitter clients with notifications turned on at full blast. I’ve talked about using reduced notifications with Tweetdeck to get targeted notifications for groups and searches, but for the full effect, you can also get notifications for the “all friends” feed (in other words, notifications for every single tweet). If you set this up right, you can get duplicate notifications for all of the tweets posted on FriendFeed and the tweets coming in through your Twitter client. I’m joking! I suggest only using one of the two options presented so far at a time, unless you really are a glutton for punishment.

Snackr gives you a scrolling RSS ticker with news from your feeds. You can even import everything from your RSS reader and have huge quantities of information scrolling across the bottom of your screen all day. I admit that would probably be a bit much. I took a subset of my feeds with my favorite tech news blogs along with a few interesting people, and I imported that subset into Snackr.

Snackr

What are your tips for embracing information overload?

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  1. I wrote a custom parser to distill my RSS firehose into 3 word chunks which are projected onto the window behind my computer at 100msc intervals. These are grouped into topical categories in space and color. This ensures that my visual bandwidth is constantly being increased.

    Twitter, I have going through a TTS system, with my friends in the left-front, followed in the right front, trending topics dead center, and search topics take up the rear, conferences on the left, other interests on the right. This ensures my auditory capacity is constantly being challenged.

    On my desk, a dazzling array of multicolored orbs indicate my server status, heart rate, caloric intake, current weather (windows? that’s software), project status, IM status, and how many people are watching my live feed.

    I have also attached electrodes to my legs which give me a mild electric shock when I get a new email or im which has lent me an almost precognitive awareness of when I will be contacted next. These are rated progressively, so that an angry client message carries much more voltage then your common spam. Another array of electrodes are attached to my tongue, which, after some training, I can now use to read a stock ticker.

    Finally, I have a fish eye projection of my netflix/hulu/youtube queue filling up my peripherial vision, the audio of which I have pumping through a cochlear implant.

    All in all, I’ve have increased my personal bandwidth from 1 meg a day to what I estimate to be nearly 1.21 gigs per hour. I take stimulants when I wake up, and use sedatives to sleep, drop dead for 3 hours at a time. However, I estimate the total amount of information I absorb in a given day is around 25 gigs, weekly, 177, and hopefully by the end of this year, I will have taken in almost 10,000 gigabytes of information. That’s the entire Library of Congress up there, in one year. I’m gonna have one up on Google pretty soon!

    Oh, I forgot to mention. I’m doing all this while operating a 20 ton motor vehicle that I drive cross country for a living….

  2. What to read on the GigaOM network Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    [...] Potato” with your iPhone 3GS? (TheAppleBlog) Acquia Search now out of beta (OStatic) Embracing information overload [...]

  3. I am using my social network as an active filter more and more. Twitter (Seesmic) and FriendFeed are helping me to accomplish this.

  4. Blogging Elsewhere at Fast Wonder: Online Community Consulting Sunday, July 5, 2009

    [...] Embracing Information Overload [...]

  5. Information Overload can really consume a lot of your valuable time, affects productivity badly. I really had a huge problem in managing my emails until, I found Taroby http://www.taroby.com It allows you to manage you mails really smartly, and saves you a lot of time. Taroby helps you to move notification mails from various social networks to specific folders which you’ve created for it, automatically. Taroby has lots of other features which makes it an ideal tool for teams in SMEs to manage Information Overload.

  6. And this is the reason I read webworkerdaily.com. Marvelous posts.

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