Thursday, February 08, 2007

My head is goig to explode!

Yes, it’s true. Not unlike the cycle of technology that has come “full circle,” I have now decided that my head will explode from “infoglut.” Remember that term? What do I mean by this? Think of the original use of computers in business. They were mainframes—big (physically), and they were centralized—one corporate brain that kept all the enterprise’s important data. Somewhere along came PCs—small and individual—creating fragmented brains all over the place. To manage that, the server/thin client model was born so that some of the information could be reined back in to the corporate brain. Today, the internet/intranet has exploded that model even more toward a future where a single brain can be envisioned. Think of your life—your spreadsheets, calendars, mail, photos, directions, etc., all hosted by Google.

Similarly, I am now mired in infoglut once again. How ironic for someone engaged in knowledge management, no? It goes something like this: years ago I had trouble reading everything I wanted to read—couldn’t afford all the magazines and journals, couldn’t carry them all around, and so on. Then along came the internet that at least allowed me to save my back and briefcase space (if not the expense). I could save my favorites and read stuff on demand even if I had only a few minutes to sneak the reading time in. I felt empowered to be able to control even my fragments of time—choice was good!

What I discovered though, is a corollary—too much choice is not good! Now I’m inundated by all the possibilities, which leads me back to the problem of reading everything I want to read. Listening to some of it would be helpful (think of podcasts), but even sourcing that content is a chore for me. RSS? For me that just means Really Swamped Sometimes. I was lucky enough to get an 80Gb iPod from my family for Christmas. In a month’s time, I’ve gone from 0 bytes of digital media to over 35Gb of stuff—songs, podcasts, videos, notes, etc.—and feel like I can’t keep up with all that now. Where did all that stuff come from? And why didn’t I need it before?

For a change, I made a conscious effort to read some printed material on a cross country flight this week from my home in Cleveland (where it was -1 degree when I left) to San Diego (where thankfully, it is considerably warmer). The local paper, Laptop magazine, Fast Company, and some car magazines (my favorites). What did I read? More about social networking. Blogging. Live mobile TV. Simulations. Second Life. That doesn’t even include some good advice from Jack Vinson and Dale Arseneault regarding checking out other similar topics and the “Info Islands.” By the way, in my last post, I promised to get out to Second Life—haven’t found the time yet.

Where am I going with all this? Back to the next generation. For me, applying technology has been something I’ve had to learn in my lifetime, and while I enjoy it, today’s and tomorrow’s knowledge workers are saying, “what’s the big deal?” After all, this is their life; what they’ve grown up with and have always known. So how will they work together? Connect? Stay connected? And how will they choose who and how to stay connected with? In previous posts others have responded saying that the incentive to collaborate is the same for any generation, and perhaps that is true. On the other hand, I still want to know if the technology enablement available today will change behaviors or motivations? And who knows what tomorrow will bring?

By the way, on a somewhat related note, I’ve decided that one of the reasons I don’t like to blog is the fact that I have to type this thing. As an industrial engineer in a previous life, the man-machine interface has always interested me. Typing has never been a skill of mine. When Tablet PCs first came out, I rushed to get one. Being able to communicate in my own (bad) handwriting has improved my productivity by orders of magnitude—but even that has its limitations. I’ve tried both the tablet PC’s built-in voice recognition app as well as the leading voice recognition software available, and have found them to be less than satisfactory, but maybe if I could dictate this blog, I might find it more to my liking.

One last thing: something I found especially enjoyable and satisfying recently was watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the bejillionth time—even if it was while sitting in a plane squinting at a tiny iPod screen.