The Filters Are Clogged

filterA line I heard way back in the good old days of the emerging Internet was that doing research on the Net was like "trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose."  There's just too much information out here.

Over the years, all of us have developed ways of filtering the content.

One of the things that was doing back in 1995 was acting as a web search engine. But it was also a web directory and eventually it diversified into a web portal. Those were the days of Yahoo!, MSN, Lycos, Excite and Altavista and they all saw part of their role as filtering the "better" content to users.

Now, Google is the big player. It began with search, but we all know that it tries (and often succeeds) at doing much more with the information on the Net.

As Web 1.0 became Web 2.0 and we were hit with a lot more content produced by users on blogs and other sites, some of those people also became "filters." In fact, we have thought of Serendipity35 as a kind of filtering service. If you like this blog, it may be because you like what we select to feature in the posts. Or perhaps you subscribe to just one of our RSS categories from the sidebar, filtering only posts about "openness" or only those about "educational technology" or "eLearning."

The point is that all of either create filters using tools like RSS feeds, or Twitter or Facebook groups or rely on others who we trust to filter and find the best things.

But the filters are clogged. The information is overloading the filters.

I have created several Twitter accounts simply to keep my different lives apart. For example, I created one account just for the poetry people I follow. And within that account I had to divide them up into groups such as "publishers" so that when I click a link I might actually be able to read the posts rather than be confronted by hundreds of updates that I cannot get through.

I have had to drop some people I follow on Twitter simply because they fill up my feed. You could spend your day just following the posts of a few Twitter accounts on technology like Mashable who has almost 2 million followers and has made about 23,000 posts.

And the same thing happens in Facebook, in your Google Reader and was especially apparent in the dreadful launch of Google Buzz which threw a bunch of people you have some contact with into your Buzz following list.

Maybe you can't handle the flood of posts from a site like ReadWriteWeb, but you're okay with reading about the one or a two that I read and report on. Unfortunately, MY filter is becoming clogged too. I'm not sure I can get through all the content on a site like that and even filter out a few topics of interest.

Clay Shirky says that this is not a case of information overload but "filter failure" and I agree. There has always been more information (books, movies, newspaper, magazines...) than any one of can handle. We have always had our filters and they have always involved people - parents, teachers, librarians, mentors, friends, colleagues - in some way.

Talking about social networking use by teenagers in schools, Lisa Thumann found that because there were so many options for students and teachers to use, that there was no agreement on what works - and there was frustration that probably causes some to just not use anything. "Yet another place to have to check for information," she concludes.

How do we fix the filters? What filters do you use?


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