Riding the Information wave

I woke up Monday morning excited to have another day off as we finished up our May Day Holiday. I started a pot of coffee and then headed to the computer to fire it up for the day. Another 85+ (20c) sunny day in Shanghai. As the computer loaded I went to my netvibes home page, which has become my new one stop information gateway to the web. Then I saw the number of articles waiting for me in my tabs. A total of 189 things I need to read today. My heart sunk and I started shaking my head.

Why is it I feel bad that I have to read this stuff? Nobody’s forcing me too, yet I know that if I don’t I’ll get “behind”. Lucky for me Weblogg-ed is at the top of the list and pointed me to this posting at Creating Passionate users.

You can’t keep up. There is no way. And trying to keep up will probably just make you dumber.You can never be current on everything you think you should be.

WOW isn’t that the truth. You just can’t keep up in today’s information world, but then again should we even be trying? We talk about teaching students how to access information when they need it, not learn everything now. Do I really need to know all 50 states and capitals, or do I just need to learn how to find them when I need them. When did trying to keep up become so important.

It’s not just me, I listen to some of the conversations in the hallways. “Have you seen the latest Nokia?” “You don’t have that game?” We are in a time and place where information is created and goes out of date faster than we can learn it.

It just goes to show we can’t learn it all, so what do we do?

I had an e-mail conversation last week with a friend where he stated “I just can’t keep up, and I’m so far behind now that I don’t even know where to begin.”

Where do you begin, how do you “catch the wave” and then stay on it. Kathy Sierra gives some good suggestions of where to start:

Find the best aggregators
Get summaries
Cut the redundancy
Unsubscribe to as many things as possible
Recognize that gossip and celebrity entertainment are black holes
Pick the categories you want for a balanced perspective, and include some from OUTSIDE your main field of interest
Be a LOT more realistic about what you’re likely to get to, and throw the rest out.
In any thing you need to learn, find a person who can tell you

I told my friend that you need to think of information as a wave. A constantly changing, flowing body that you are never quiet sure how it’s going to turn out. I’ve spent a little time at the beach although I’m no surfer, I think riding the information wave is much like surfing.

In surfing you sit in the water and wait to catch a wave. You let little waves go by and even some waves that you aren’t sure of that turn out to be MEGA hits. You wait patiently until you find the one that you want. You then try and catch the wave and ride it for as long as you can. Eventually two things will happen. 1) the wave will get the best of you and throw you off or 2) you ride the wave until it ends. Either way you find yourself paddling back out to start the same routine over again.

Catching the information wave is no different and why it makes it easy to get on it at any time. Sure you might have missed the summer of 2005 when the waves were perfect, but you are here now ready to catch the right one. First you set up an aggregator and you choose a couple of blogs and other news sources to follow, you find a topic that interests you and you start following links to more information that interest you; the wave either grows and turns out to be a great ride full of information, or it can turn out to be a dud. With time of course you learn how to pick out better and better waves. The problem comes when you try riding more than one wave which ends up putting you in the middle of two waves going nowhere. You become indecisive over what to read, where to click, not wanting to waste valuable time, in the mean time you end up with 189 new things to read.

What we need to keep in mind is we can always paddle back out and catch the next one, but unlike real waves, information waves become filed, and can be taken for a ride whenever you need reminding of exactly what that wave was about.

harold, (2006). Retrieved May 4,2006, from Flickr.com Web site: http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=87450277&size=s

RightCoastNJ, (2005). Retrieved May 4,2006, from Flickr.com Web site:
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=56321146&size=s

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