Some of the regular visitors to this blog may have noticed that I have posted progressively less over the last 6 months. Recently my posting has almost come to a standstill. There's a lot behind this, which I've been trying to make sense of.

In short, it comes down to a sense of frustration I'm having with the amount of information I seem to have to deal with before anything actually gets done. As an example, besides spam, I get around 80 emails a day, all of which seem to require an urgent response. This is not good for someone who spends most of his time out the office working with groups. It basically means that most of my time in the office is split between dealing with email, and reading news so I can stay in touch with industry trends and innovations. This leaves very little time to spend working with my colleagues (at Huddlemind, Creative Commons and Muti) on important stuff like strategy. All this information feels like it's paralysing me!

In fact, this sense has sat with me for a while, and it's the primary reason why I've been so drawn to the study and practice of "Attention Economics".

So, regarding my blog...

Someone Has Already Said It

Perhaps the main reason I haven't been posting is because, quite honestly, everything I can think of saying has already been said by someone else online. And its not often that I have felt I could say it better.

For those who are interested in what I recommend reading, or what I find interesting, I would like to introduce you to my Diigo links which you can see in the sidebar on the right. There are some superb finds there, and they're all sorted by topic/tag.

I feel so full up with other people's information that there's barely enough space for me to form my own insights and share them.

Experiences vs Information

Maya Angelou once said: "People will forget what you tell them, but will never forget how you make them feel".

For people, like me, who believe that our Attention is increasingly scarce and valuable today, there is a cost attached to each new piece of information that we consume. Information consumes Attention. Despite my knowledge and understanding of "Attention Economics", I've been spendthrift with my own Attention. Now I have a bit of a deficit to deal with - each waking moment is currently spent processing the information I've amassed, at the expense of the experiences and interactions I could be having.

Information, by the way, is inherent in everything. It's just that we have come to prioritize encoded information - in the form of writing, sounds, and video - over real-world, information - in the form of experiences.

Reading and Writing

When I first started blogging, I enjoyed the sense of personal discovery through public disclosure. However, at some point the blogging became more about building an audience than about sharing ideas.

I can say the same about live chat, email, and meetings. My initial experience of these filled me with delight in the process of sharing ideas. They all now seem more like an obligation than a priviledge.

So in my attempt to reclaim my own sense of daily delight in my work and online pursuits, I am cutting down on all these attention traps, drastically. In their place, I hope to clear some space to experience and to reflect more, and to allow my own insights to emerge.

As my esteemed friend, Joe Botha, has said: "The true breakfast of champions is a low information diet".
AuthorDave Duarte
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Email inefficiency is probably a major contributor to the  technology Stress that some of us experience. Here's a couple of funny email auto-responders that I, ironically, got in a junk email:

1. I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. I may be a little moody so be prepared.

2. You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn't have received anything at all.

3. Sorry to have missed you, but I am at the doctor's having my brain removed so I can be promoted to our management team.

4. I will be unable to delete all the unread, worthless emails you send me until I return from vacation on 4/18. Please be patient, and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

5. Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged $5.99 for the first 10 words and $1.99 for each additional word in your message.

6. The e-mail server is unable to verify your server connection and is unable to deliver this message. Please restart your computer and try sending again.

( The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see how many in-duh-viduals did this over and over.)

7. Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system.
You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

8. Hi, I'm thinking about what you've just sent me. Please wait by your PC for my response.

9. I've run away to join a different circus.

10. I will be out of the office for the next 2 weeks for medical reasons. When I return, please refer to me as " Debbie " instead of "Dave".
AuthorDave Duarte
CategoriesEmail, Fun
130 CommentsPost a comment

I've been a bit erratic on the posting lately... I guess it's email overload - I took 3 weeks out of my usual schedule, and in the meantime a rather substantial backlog accumulated. I'm overwhelmed and frustrated. It just reminds me of my disdain for the way we use email.

I gave a lecture to an executive MBA class two weeks ago, and asked them how they deal with email. The answers were borderline ridiculous (although enlightening)! These people have so much on their plates that they can't possibly deal with all the email that comes at them, so they need to make intuitive decisions about what to respond to... Which means that alot of opportunities are being missed. And they know it. One person in the class had four assistants to help her deal with her email - basically all she got to see of it was a small stack of printed notes every afternoon, which she would take home, makes notes on and then hand in to one of her secretaries to transcribe and send along. WTF!?

This problem isn't going away either. I can only imagine the email overload increasing over time as the web becomes more and more integrated into people's work and personal lives.

Solutions? Here are some common ones:

  • More use of Instant Messaging,

  • No email should be more than 5 sentences long,

  • Use of Wiki's for planning among groups

  • Every email should be actionable and concrete.

  • Business and personal mail should be kept completely separate

  • Use social-networking sites to catch-up with old friends or associates

  • No more mass-mailing. Ever. Group info should be disseminated via RSS through a blog... if it's important for people, they will opt-in for as long as it remains so.

  • If it's urgent, call.

I think an additional filtering option would be useful: what if your email inbox could be viewed as a tag-cloud rather than a list?
The sender would be obligated to tag/categorise their messages. Could this work?

UPDATE: Checkout Taglocity (thanks Maz)

AuthorDave Duarte
19 CommentsPost a comment
Now that many of my friends and business associates are now my friends on Facebook, I have noticed a reduction in the amount of email I get from them. This is absolutely brilliant as far as I’m concerned.

Spam is a massive problem with normal email. Facebook answers this problem by only allowing people who you have accepted as friends to send you messages. Of course, you can also receive messages from groups, but if you ever decide you don’t want to hear from them again you can simply leave group.

The other issue that alot of people have with email is the amount of chain messages and emails not related to work that get sent around during office hours. But now people can simply add the stuff that they think is funny to their Facebooks and allow their friends to look at it when they find it convenient or when they’re in the mood.

I look forward to one-day reducing my inbox quota to single digits, and officially declaring email bankruptcy!
AuthorDave Duarte
CategoriesEmail, Facebook
18 CommentsPost a comment