Nathan Zeldes, David Sward, and Sigal Louchheim argue that information overload and "interrupt-driven" workers cost companies in productivity, new ideas, increased number of errors and job dissatisfaction.
After months of fidelity to NetNewsWire, the excellent news reader for the Mac, I'm switching back to Google Reader. The reasons for getting drawn back include peer pressure (everybody's doing it) and the social features (the 'Share' button beneath every item), as well as not requiring a manual refresh. The automated refresh makes it harder to reflect, but that's what leaving your computer at work is for. Google Reader still needs authenticated feed support, but at least in my case the only stuff requiring a password is work-related, and I appreciate that the separation between the browser to a desktop application leads to separation between work and play, something I value more than I let on. I also like subscribing to people's shared items, so other than Darren Barefoot and Kevin Marks, could you please publicize the link for me to paste in? (Especially interested in reading the perspective non-white or non-dude peopel, or both, since my reading list is currently at 100% gwai lo.) I'd love to know what my readers are reading.
(What about my URL? I'm afraid it's going to change at some point in the future so naturally I'm working on an overwrought solution to that.)
Talking to Darren about his shared items, he reminded me of the 'Trends' section, which shows what you've read as opposed to marked as read. After about 3,000 entries (over slightly less than a week), it looks like I read pretty much everything that crosses my path. This is most certainly not true. The number is closer to %50, if that. I'd love to know what I see but don't read, much like how in iTunes I can (but don't) know what songs I'm likely not to listen to after hearing the first bit. iTunes keeps track of which songs were skipped, and if there were a way to tell Google Reader "yup, saw it, don't care" then I can get stats on what I'm paying inattention to. Over lunch, Mark noted that Google reader marks as read things that you've passed, and suggested Google Reader could flag as 'seen-but-not-read' any item that you spent less than 2 seconds—or whatever—looking at. That probably won't work for most intense information consumers, nor will it work for me, simply because there are photos and take me about 2 seconds to see and "read" and maybe there's a post with one sentence that contained significant wit and brevity that it took me less than the alloted time to consume.
Joel Sposky deconstructs a blog post written by someone who I can never understand either.
there's a problem in the workplace when the interruptions intrude on tasks that require real concentration or quiet reflection. And there's an even bigger problem when our bubble of connectedness stretches to ensnare us no matter where we are. A live BlackBerry or even a switched-on mobile phone is an admission that your commitment to your current activity is as fickle as Renée Zellweger's wedding vows. Your world turns into a never-ending cocktail party where you're always looking over your virtual shoulder for a better conversation partner. The anxiety is contagious: anyone who winds up talking to a person infected with CPA [continuous partial attention] feels like he or she is accepting an Oscar, and at any moment the music might stop the speech.
I think that “attention is infinite” statement needs a little more unpacking. I do think it is infinite in the sense that it is within everyone’s grasp, in principle, to pay attention to as many topics and areas of life as do exist. This is an extension, for me, from the Buddhist idea that everyone has the capacity to reflect on their actions, to make their lives meaningful in ways that are ethical, and to make changes in themselves that enable them to choose a life that they have reason to value. So “attention is infinite” is actually a very humanist statement, in that I think the patterns of human behaviour, whether this be in relation to the greater environment, equals, superiors, subordinates, can all be subjected to mindfulness, contemplation, and aligned with longer-term commitments to sustainability and happiness.
To his list of exercises for paying attention, I would add "look at things as if you had a camera in front of your face".