This morning I read an interesting article at Mises called “Matt Drudge and Information Overload”. This article documented the opening comments presented at the Mises Institute’s High School & College Seminar: “Inflation: Causes, Consequences, and Cure” by Jeff Deist, President of the Mises Institute.
One item in particular that jumped out at me had to do with the getting and sifting of data:
“Now sifting wasn’t always the most important part of learning. Getting information used to be the hard part of learning. Having access to information used to be the hard part. Just ask your parents about this time, a very dark period that actually represents the vast majority of human history: the pre-Internet age!”
The preceding comment is spot on. Without having to ask my parents, I recall what life was like pre-Internet. Information was scarce and most effort was placed into retrieving information. A trip to the library. A request for an interview from someone respected in their field – telephone or in-person. The daily newspaper. Yuck.
Now compare this with the present state of things. I now have more information than I know what to do with. Information is available from my e-mail inbox, Twitter feed, RSS reader, as well as blogs to name a few. This isn’t even considering the widespread Internet, emerging Internet products and services, and mainstream media sources. In terms of quantity, there is plenty of information available.
This is where sifting comes in. Sifting takes quantity and transforms it into quality. Less information but higher quality. But what is quality? Sure there are objective measures such as journalistic standards, audience size and retention, and reputable sources which certainly add to quality. But quality may be subjective as well. What I may perceive as quality information, you may perceive as useless. This is in part due to our personalities, interests, and goals. Quality changes with time as you evolve.
Quality sifters are invaluable to cutting through the clutter and noise. They take lots of information and reduce it to a manageable level, say to perhaps one e-mail message or feed article a day. The key is to find sifters that are in alignment with your interests, values, and standards. The tighter the alignment, the more valuable the information. Finding quality sifters takes time. I start by following a source that sparks my interest. Over time if they hold my interest, this strengthens their value as a trusted source. If the sifter is not well aligned, that becomes apparent as well. Again, this changes with time and an informal review of sorts should be conducted periodically to ensure the information you are receiving from your sifters continues to remain in alignment with your personality, interests, and goals.
Conversely, you can become a sifter as well. How to do it? It’s actually quite simple. Begin by creating an online presence such as a blog and/or Twitter account and begin posting and redistributing information that you value. I am against the conventional advice of playing it safe. Do not go for a politically correct approach. Your online presence should be an authentic, non-sterilized reflection of you personality, interests, and goals. You will most certainly offend people, but on the other hand you will most certainly attract people. You will begin to find your kind of people. The more authentic your presence, the stronger the alignment between you and your followers.
1. Ayn Rand. The Fountainhead:
2. Seth Godin. Tribes:
3. The Mises Institute. Matt Drudge and Information Overload: http://bastiat.mises.org/2014/04/video-matt-drudge-and-information-overload/