I Have Firehose A.D.D.

September 17th, 2007 8 Comments

450px-firehose.jpgRich pinged me over IM this morning with some interesting articles comparing hedge funds to software companies. See here and here, really interesting stuff, possibly worth a blog post later, but not the focus here.

I got through O’Reilly blog post pretty fast; it’s about 400 words. I started the NYT article, but once I got past the fold, I saw that the article was 3 pages long, gasp. After I saw the article was 3 pages, I bailed entirely; so, even the 870-some words on the front page were too much. I told Rich over IM, “i can’t commit to more than 1 page”.

I can’t even commit to capitalizing letters.

This isn’t a new problem at all. I think I stopped capitalizing in casual emails in 1997, and it seems like only n00bs capitalize in IM. More recently, I’m noticing that I actually read less of a feed item before hitting j in Reader than I did before, and this has to be due to the fact that I subscribe to too many feeds and feel the odd need to clear the deck as often as possible, i.e. “read” them all.

So, I’ve got a bad case of Firehose A.D.D. i.e. “drinking from the firehose” has caused my attention deficit. I’m not sure of the phrase’s origin, but I fondly remember it from UHF. The title of one of Stanley’s games was “Drinking from the firehose”, literal in every sense of the word.

Information used to be a more tightly held commodity, i.e. newspapers and broadcast news, but the Interweb now allows us to get all kinds of news and analysis about an nearly infinite number of topics anytime we want. Sounds like a good thing, but is it?

I try to consume so much information every day that I feel like I can’t commit time to reading more than a few paragraphs (maybe 1,000 words at most) at any given moment. All the while, I collect articles, posts, and analysis in a list that I (eventually) promise myself I will read completely with full attention.

But do I ever have time to do that? Rarely, and usually, the content is pretty stale by the time I read it.

I do use some anti-distraction kung fu when I need to concentrate, e.g. log off IM, shut down email, etc., but I do this for real work, not FYI-type reading. That usually gets pushed into a weekend, and typically, something interrupts me, like desire for free time.

Everyone has information overload problems, and everyone’s trying to solve them. What’s the answer? It’s getting worse too. I was IM’ing an Oracle guy recently who he said his niece actually says ‘omg’ in conversation. The texting generation can’t even be bothered to speak in full words now. Sure, it may be about cool points now, but later on, what happens when real words are gone because no one learned them or can read them?

This isn’t as outrageous as you may think. I think the need to consume, distill and analyze massive amounts of information is actually making me dumber because I can’t focus anymore. Or maybe I just need to admit that I can’t read/learn/hear everything and try to pick the best sources of information. That’s an equally tough question to answer.

How do you cope? Do you find yourself more scattered than ever? Are we over-inundated with information? Sound off in comments, full words only plz.


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8 Responses to “I Have Firehose A.D.D.”

  1. Jason K Says:

    I agree that we’re over inundated with information and technology has been both a blessing and a curse in this way. I think each individual needs to consciously decide what truly deserves their attention. There’s an undeniable pressure to be “in the know,” which contributes to Firehose A.D.D. We have to accept that it’s okay not to know everything.

  2. Jason K Says:

    I agree that we’re over inundated with information and technology has been both a blessing and a curse in this way. I think each individual needs to consciously decide what truly deserves their attention. There’s an undeniable pressure to be “in the know,” which contributes to Firehose A.D.D. We have to accept that it’s okay not to know everything.

  3. Jake Says:

    Therein lies the rub for me, i.e. I feel like I should know everything. Maybe we should start a support group.
    Jake

  4. Jake Says:

    Therein lies the rub for me, i.e. I feel like I should know everything. Maybe we should start a support group.
    Jake

  5. Meg Says:

    what??? I can’t hear you .. I’m reading too many blog entries from you guys to know what you are saying.

  6. Meg Says:

    what??? I can’t hear you .. I’m reading too many blog entries from you guys to know what you are saying.

  7. Tom Says:

    I don’t agree with the characterization that only n00bs capitalize in IM. My use of capitalization and reluctance to use abbreviations in IM, especially IM with coworkers, is my silent protest against the trend towards declining writing skills that can be directly attributable to IM and text messaging. I have a child in high school and talking with her teachers, they tell me that the quality of writing among her peers is declining and this decline can be directly attributed to the pervasive use of IM and text messaging.

    I may not be the fastest talking person in IM, but there is never any doubt as to what I am trying to say. And because of my insistence on typing everything out, using proper capitalization and punctuation, my typing skills have improved, such that I can communication as fast as most people I talk to and they don’t have to spend the mental cycles deciphering the alphabet soup that a lot of people use in IM today.

    As far as information overload, I agree that there is a lot of information out there today, but most blogs are not worth the time it would take to read them. Too much noise, not enough signal.

  8. Tom Says:

    I don’t agree with the characterization that only n00bs capitalize in IM. My use of capitalization and reluctance to use abbreviations in IM, especially IM with coworkers, is my silent protest against the trend towards declining writing skills that can be directly attributable to IM and text messaging. I have a child in high school and talking with her teachers, they tell me that the quality of writing among her peers is declining and this decline can be directly attributed to the pervasive use of IM and text messaging.

    I may not be the fastest talking person in IM, but there is never any doubt as to what I am trying to say. And because of my insistence on typing everything out, using proper capitalization and punctuation, my typing skills have improved, such that I can communication as fast as most people I talk to and they don’t have to spend the mental cycles deciphering the alphabet soup that a lot of people use in IM today.

    As far as information overload, I agree that there is a lot of information out there today, but most blogs are not worth the time it would take to read them. Too much noise, not enough signal.

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