“It’s only a teaspoonful,” I overheard the six-year old girl say in all seriousness as she explained to a boy in her class the nature of the contribution the male of the species makes to procreation. The look of horror on the boy’s face was positively comical as he reacted viscerally with the expression “TMI! TMI!”
For those of you who haven’t heard it before, TMI is the acronym for “too much information.” It’s often used when people disclose private details that one would really rather not know about in the ordinary course. I found myself saying “TMI” when I first read a terrific set of posts by Jim McGee, John Tropea and Jack Vinson regarding the benefits of information transparency among knowledge workers and the importance of making knowledge work more visible. Granted, I was “catastrophizing” as I imagined a workplace where every thought was expressed in writing before it could be edited for appropriateness or sense. I imagined my daily e-mail deluge multiplied many times over once I moved from messages directed at me to a stream messages directed to the entire firm. I imagined a tsunami of triviality swamping me daily as I struggled to be productive. I imagined having to hide myself in a technology free cave in order to get any work done.
I will confess that I love Twitter and use it daily. In learning to love it, I’ve come to understand that I cannot and should not try to read everything. Rather, I dip my toe in and out of the stream when I can. An important part of this behavior is learning to let go of the need to read it all, and trust instead that the important things will rise to the surface repeatedly and capture my attention in due course. That’s easier to do in your leisure life than at the office, where I (at least) feel obliged to read everything that my colleagues send me. What happens when I start receiving a general flow of information rather than the current more limited (albeit sometimes overwhelming) targeted flow of e-mail information? How do I protect myself from missing the important stuff while suffocating under the irrelevant?
What’s your experience with activity streams work at work? If you’re using them at your workplace, what can you tell us about how they improve or clog the arteries along which your information flows? How do you find the important amongst the trivial?
[Photo Credit: Fredshome]