It's Twitter's fault. No, it's Facebook, or email, or—wait, social media is about people, so it's our fault. There's just too much to keep up with these days, and more people are pointing it out. Rubel crashed. Scoble cried uncle. Calcanis went bankrupt. And everyone is talking about signal-to-noise ratio. As in, if you want to get the good stuff (the signal) in social media, you have to pick it out of a lot of junk (the noise). They're right, but that's just the start.
Yes, words are useless. Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble! Too much of it, darling. Too much! That is why I show you my work. That is why you are here.I had an idea of reframing the increasing burden of information sources using thrust-to-weight ratio and exploding rockets, leading to thoughts about how to scale efforts to keep up, when—out of the blue—I realized that it's more like Lucy in the chocolate factory.
Edna Mode, The Incredibles
(RSS subscribers, click through for the video.)
The signal-to-noise metaphor is all about source selection and filtering—finding the information you care about amid all the other stuff. The chocolate factory is about scaling processing capabilities—what you do with the signal once you've separated it from the noise.
Bodies or tools
Improving S/N is crucial, but it's only the first step. As the total volume of relevant, useful information increases, you have to increase your capabilities to keep up. Your options are the usual suspects: bodies and tools. Adding bodies is easy to understand, if a bit unworkable on an individual level. Even the most diligent worker can't work more than about 28 hours a day.
Which leaves tools. On an individual level, that includes email automation and using RSS to bring information to you. The new lifestream aggregators, such as FriendFeed may fit this description, though honestly, I've been too busy to try them.
In organizations, you get to choose between bodies and tools, but you're still limited by that 28-hour day thing. Do you add people or invest in better tools to know what's going on (or do you declare market intelligence bankruptcy in the face of the overwhelming riches of available data)? Do you hire an outside company to track it for you? How do they answer the bodies vs. tools question, and what does that mean to you?
(If it's all too much, these questions go to the heart of the research and consulting that I offer.)
What do you do?
This topic is perilously close to the human vs. computer analysis question, which we'll come back to soon. For now, what tools do you use to keep up with the growing flood (at the individual or organizational level)? Is it still about improving signal-to-noise for you, or have you reached the point where the signal itself is too much to handle with your current methods?