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This publication contains my personal views and not necessarily those of my clients. Since I am a lawyer, I do need to tell you that this publication is not intended as legal advice or as an advertisement for legal services.
  • TMI

    “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]

    Published on June 25, 2010 · Filed under: Knowledge Sharing, Social Media; Tagged as: , ,
    17 Comments
  • http://twitter.com/lehawes Larry Hawes

    Agree, Mary. We can't try to consume the entire information/activity stream that is rushing past us. Your questions highlight the need for precise filters that can help us extract the information we need from the stream, rather than hoping we find something useful whenever we have a chance to actively wade in. I would be interested in knowing what specific filtering parameters others think are important to establish.

  • JimMcGee

    Mary,

    One key in dealing with this TMI problem is to think about generating and consuming data about work activities as separate phenomena.

    In the “real world” when knowledge work was easily observable, there were far more signals to process than any of us had the capacity to process. What we were all pretty good about was learning what to ignore. In the current environment we don't yet know how to distinguish data points worth observing from those better left ignored.

    We're very early in learning how to make knowledge work observable and in learning how to filter that down to a manageable and valuable stream of signals that I get value out of monitoring (presumably you will get value out of monitoring different signals in the stream).

  • VMaryAbraham

    Larry -

    Perhaps the answer is a Tweetdeck type tool for the enterprise, where we can
    choose specific groups to follow carefully while preserving our access to
    the general stream. However, even with such a tool, I can imagine there
    could be an enormous amount of information to absorb from the core group
    unless you had agreed protocols for disclosure in place coupled with good
    filters.

    Like you, I'm eager to hear from folks who have been living with this level
    of information transparency at work. Presumably their experience has taught
    them how to survive (and even thrive) in the face of all this information.

    - Mary

  • VMaryAbraham

    Jim -

    Thanks for putting this in perspective. If I understand you correctly,
    we're in a transition phase between the old and new modes of working.
    Consequently, we have yet to learn the new etiquette or best methods of
    coping in the new environment. As we work through this transition, I hope
    we all take advantage of social media tools to share lessons learned. I for
    one am very keen for some education in this area.

    - Mary

  • VMaryAbraham

    Larry -

    Brian Tullis has written a blog post on this issue as well and is promising to write more based on his own experience of “observable work.” Here's a link to his post: http://nextthingsnext.blogspot.com/2010/06/obse

    - Mary

  • http://twitter.com/briantullis Brian Tullis

    Hi Mary. Great post. I had been trying to come up with a post myself, and you finally inspired me to take a short break from work and do it.
    http://bit.ly/9urSvz

  • VMaryAbraham

    Thanks a million, Brian. It's great to be in conversation again.

    As you'll see, I've left a comment on your post and will reiterate here what
    I said there: please do write more about how you've learned to tame the flow
    of information in your activity stream at work. I think many of us like the
    idea of observable work and understand the value of information
    transparency. However, many have a quite reasonable fear of suffocating to
    death under all that information. Any guidance you can provide would be
    much appreciated.

    - Mary

  • http://www.ppcsoft.com/blog Atle Iversen

    Hmm… I feel that the knowledge is drowning in information these days, and Twitter is teaching people the bad habit of “throwing things out there” without really thinking about it, and also teaching people that most information should just be ignored (“dip your toe in it”).

    There has been some discussion around being able to filter all the information to avoid information overload, but maybe we have been too focused on filtering the information coming IN, instead of focusing more on filtering the information we send out ?

    If I get “noise” email from people I know, I tell them clearly that I'm not interested, and try to teach people to at least mark their email-subjects so that it is easier for ME to filter their email if THEY are not willing to do it ([fun], [joke], [important] etc).

    I believe what we need is LESS information with BETTER quality instead of the other way around (which is how things are now)…

  • Pingback: McGee’s Musings : Observable work – more on knowledge work visibility (#owork)

  • http://info-architecure.blogspot.com driessen

    Nice post, Mary. I posted about this topic – in a more general way – some time ago: http://info-architecture.blogspot.com/2010/03/e
    Every now and then the amount of information overwhelms me, but usually I'm OK with it. I just set my filters up and trust them. Most of the time I can. One of the things I'd like to see is to have my work and private streams merged into one stream (or maybe not all but the one's I want to see in one stream). Due to firewalls, authentication, etc. this is not easy or possible…

  • VMaryAbraham

    Atle -

    There's definitely an element of good citizenship about this. Each person
    has to be disciplined about what they share. Otherwise the system will be
    clogged with trivia. That said, one person's trivia may be another person's
    insight so perhaps we shouldn't self-censor too much. The point is to
    create enough ambient awareness to improve efficiency. Finding that balance
    is the challenge each group and its members face.

    - Mary

  • VMaryAbraham

    Thanks, Samuel. You're brave to consider merging your work and private
    streams. That approach could be overwhelming!

    Can you tell me more about the types of filters you've implemented? As
    you've undoubtedly seen from the comments to this post, several of us are
    interested in setting up some filters and would love guidance from others on
    this.

    - Mary

  • http://info-architecure.blogspot.com driessen

    You're welcome, Mary. I write a post about the filters I set up shortly. I've been writing about it on my blog quite a bit, but the posts are scattered. Let's see if I can filter them out and bring them together. A large part of my filter is by applying the 'Gettings things done' workflow to all 'stuff' that comes at me.

  • Pingback: Library clips :: Enterprise microblogging needs a facelift to rival email :: July :: 2010

  • http://americanleisure.cz.cc American Leisure

    I wanna find more info about this, anybody could?

  • VMaryAbraham

    Delete.

    VMaryAbraham
    AboveandBeyondKM.com

  • Pingback: Library clips :: Spontaneous conversations across levels of hierarchy and departments…email or microblogging :: September :: 2010