Information overload can lead some people to tune out messages altogether.
Such noise makes us even more dependent on technology to help us communicate. Without software to help filter and organize based on factors we deem relevant, we'd drown in the deluge.
Guess what? Email is dead. (Blogging is dead, too, by the way.) Considering this is a blog about email, that's pretty funny.
This article from the Wall Street Journal takes a shocker headline and then writes a basic Information Science 101 essay about new web 2.0 technologies and how people are starting to use them. Ho hum stuff, really.
The truth is that email is not dead, and neither is face to face communication or the letter delivered by the postal service. They are all different forms of communication we have in our toolbox to help us communicate with the people in our lives. The newer forms, status updates and advanced collaborative tools are probably here to stay as well. And like most tools they can work or not depending on how we use them. They can add a new level of richness to the communication experience, or can just add a bunch of noise to our day.
What makes the difference is how we organize the information. We have tools here too - tagging and filtering.
Here is an example - people at a conference agree ahead of time to use a certain hashtag or keyword to identify their posts about the show. Then you can look at the Twitter page for that hashtag (the #keyword) or search on the keyword in a blog reader or search engine to see all of the posts related to that conference. Tagging is adding meta data to our information. Meta data is "information about information" and adds another level which is very useful for machine searching. By using tags we can help the dumb computers give us the information we really want instead of extraneous search results that are not exactly what we want but share a word or phrase. (Think about those annoying Bing TV commercials.)
The best next generation collaboration tools are probably going to be the ones that help people add tags automatically or more easily. Most people don't think about keyword analysis, they just want to update their status, post their pictures, and in general do whatever as quickly as possible. If your camera can automatically add a geotag to your pictures that describes where the picture was taken, and your photo sharing site such as Flickr keeps that geotag when you upload, then the tagging is automatic. Automatic is easy and people need easy in the world of "fire hose" information streaming.
The second half of the equation is filtering. The user has to learn how to use their software's settings to help it bring them just what they need. The less stuff left out, and the less extraneous stuff the better. The flip side of this is fine tuning what you share out to the world. Don't let your co-workers see that you drank 7 margaritas last night at the drag show for example. Use the groups feature of your social media tool to put people in personal and business buckets and share what is appropriate for each. Or, perhaps go the simple route and just post public information on the internet only. My guide - if you don't want your grandmother, boss, and next door neighbor to know, don't post it on the internet.
In conclusion, in this blog about email and collaboration, I posit: "Email is dead. Long live Collaborative Computing."