And the answer to information overload is...


150 Really, that's the answer. It's a bit like 42, it's the answer to everything.

There's an interesting little conversation been happening the past week on a subject dear to my heart, information overload and attention. Fred started the whole thing with some commentary on this quote from Herbert Simon, a cognitive psychologist working with artificial intelligence.

"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it."

Fred asks how this affects RSS subscriptions, but i notice he's only subscribing to 100+ feeds, which is pretty minimal really. Currently im on about 400 or so, and yeah, it's waaaay too much.

Ross Mayfield takes the baton and actually puts a figure on the amount of feeds one can realistically keep up with without suffering information overload. He says it's 150, the limit put on the average minds ability to track personal relationships. And that link by the way, is quite a read in itself...

So, 150 huh?
Recently i've been slowly culling feeds again, refining my interests and generally being a bit more picky over who gets a slice of my most valuable possession, time. I've not been so successful so far, but im working on it.

Tolles, i forget his full name, over at Topix takes the opportunity to plug their service. It's a good point though, increasingly i've come to rely more and more on automated, or semi automated aggregation services to discover items of interest rather than single author blogs. The heaviest concentration of single author sites i have is my folder labled "personals", and it's right at the top of my list, right after "search". It's where i track friends and people i find particularly interesting, as opposed to news sources.

I've been using:

to lighten the load. The only trouble is, i keep discovering really cool things and subscribing to them!

Lifehacker suggests putting your feeds on probation. It's a great thing when you hear it, but trust me, it's shite in practice.

I don't have the answer to the attention problem, and i suspect noone does really, but using things like the above certainly can go someway to easing the load. I think the hardest part is choosing which feeds get culled, and which kept - i ditched my entire PR blogs folder months back and havn't missed it, but even the crappier Search blogs are hard to nuke, it just "feels" wrong...

Maybe that's what ross means when he compares feeds to relationships, it's like hurting a friend. I certainly do feel like i know both him and Fred, though i've only spoken to one of them briefly in email or on here i think - that's the way RSS and blogs work, you get to know the person you're reading - it's nice.

Still, 150 is the goal, and this weekend will see the RSS CULL to beat all RSS CULL's so help me god...


150 feeds, eh? I'm way below

150 feeds, eh? I'm way below that level on a daily basis, but if you made it weekly or monthly, I'm probably right there. If only there was some source that monitored all the feeds that are important to SEOs and combined them into one big meddley of information.... Some sort of watching system... for threads of information...

Well, I guess there isn't such a thing - but someone should get on that.

WAY WAY Below...

Anyone with more than 50 feeds must be willing to read any old mind numbing crap.

400 plus?

400 plus Nick? Keep up the good work!

system... for threads

I'm on it, Rand... it's a spare time project, so it's not there yet, but there's stuff going on behind the scenes and I'll get there allright. But, don't tell anyone as it's kinda secret :-)


In my experience the human brain is a wonderful thing. When faced with lots of items, or "overload", it just does the work for you automatically, shutting out everything that's beyond current capacity. Current capacity, as capacity is not fixed at some arbitrary level at all times (afaik, imho, fwiw).

As for 150, I don't really believe in a fixed number like that. There are authors that are more verbose than others, and some that you want to read more from than others (people you know personally and such).

Also, mimicking the mind is pretty difficult. For one thing it has double digit years worth of training. Second, it's an organism, meaning that it rarely performs the exact same task twice. Conditions change all the time, as (opposed to the controlled environment of programs) life is a pretty chaotic thing.

I'm actually even a bit sceptical that it would be perceived as a benefit if one would develop an "artificial brain-like system". In my experience, humans are far better at understanding stuff that's a lot more simple and a lot more regular than what goes on inside the brain.


and many of these I check rarely, some could easily be culled.

96 here

A lot of mine I dont read every day

It's not easy. I guess that

It's not easy. I guess that is why we appreciate that you do all the work for us Nick ;)

I'm down to 100 or so now which I scan, 30 which I read regularly.

To me, information overload

To me, information overload begins at .... hmmm 2 :)

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