Archive for October, 2009

The risk of doing mail in a meeting

Posted on October 30th, 2009 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

Everybody “does mail” in meetings. These days it’s email, and earlier it was snail mail; whether the attendees sit with a glassy stare fixed on their notebook screens or they shuffle piles of paper, the impact on the meeting’s effectiveness is obviously negative. This is hardly new behavior… as a hilarious anecdote from ancient Rome illustrates. This is a true story, documented by Plutarch. The attendee in question is none less than Julius Caesar himself, who was standing in front of the Roman senate, engaged in a debate with his arch-opponent Cato (the younger). Someone came in and delivered a.. Read more

To attach, or not to attach?

Posted on October 27th, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

There I was, flying across the Atlantic and blogging. Continental now have AC power under every seat, so I could use my notebook as long as I wanted; and the first thing I did was clean out my email. Except for the few messages that included a URL and a description intriguing enough to make me want to check the full article they pointed at. For that I had to wait to be on Terra Firma. It would’ve been better had the senders pasted the entire article. Which reminds me that some years ago, the idea of sending pointers instead.. Read more

Mine eyes have seen the Glory!

Posted on October 26th, 2009 · Posted in Off-topic

No, sorry, not of the coming of the Lord. Earlier today, while flying over the East Coast, mine eyes have seen the Glory, a lovely but elusive optical phenomenon. I know what it is because of an old Scientific American article I’d read as a kid, which discussed meteorological optical phenomena, mainly rainbows of all kinds. The Glory was perhaps the strangest of the lot, and it stuck in my tender future-physicist mind. As you can see in the rather poor photo I managed on my Nokia, a Glory is a circular rainbow that forms on a cloud of water.. Read more

Should we remove the pesky Reply to All?

Posted on October 23rd, 2009 · Posted in Organizational Solutions

There are many technology solutions that help reduce information overload, with varying degrees of success; I’ll be reviewing many of them in this blog. But the simplest of these is this: remove the Reply to All (RTA) button from the email client! Technically, this is trivial to implement, a simple customization. But it is interesting to study the reactions the idea elicits. Reply to All is a major pain point in the enterprise; not that it doesn’t have many valid and useful uses, but there are always a sufficient number of people around who will send a Reply to All.. Read more

Making the case against Information Overload: a resource compilation

Posted on October 20th, 2009 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

Solving Information Overload in an enterprise is difficult enough; but before you ever get there, you need to convince management that they want to solve it. This would seem a no-brainer: managers are the worst hit when it comes to excessive email, so you’d think they’d jump at a proposal to solve the problem; and some, indeed, do. Many, however, fail to realize just how high the price is that their organization pays for the flood of messaging; and when I was working for Intel, whose culture asserts  that Data rules supreme, I had to bring data substantiating that price… Read more

Kinds of Information Overload

Posted on October 18th, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

My own background as a hi-tech cube dweller biases my perception of Information Overload to the aspect that is most immediately painful to engineers and managers in the industry: Email Overload. Indeed, the impact of the scores or hundreds of incoming message these folks receive daily is so painful that they’re seldom aware of the second major kind of overload that is complementary to email: Interruptions, the distracting beeps, bleeps and squawks of mobile phones, Blackberries, and incoming email. In fact, as we’ve computed at Intel, Interruptions are a bigger time sink than email; but they don’t accumulate like mail.. Read more

Does email really lead to suicide?

Posted on October 16th, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

A few weeks ago there was a spate of blog posts and tweets asking “Does email lead to suicide?” At the basis of this were reports that the management of France Telecom was taking action to stave a wave of employee suicides. One of the less sensationalist reports about this is this one, in The Independent; and even this one is titled “Exec: Email is causing killer stress”. So – is it true? As to the facts (an oft neglected little matter, facts): turns out that a France Telecom official was commenting on a series of employee suicides in that.. Read more

The first post

Posted on October 15th, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

And another new blog… like a newborn baby: you have high hopes for it, but you can’t really imagine what it will turn out like. You just have to nurture it as best you can, then wait and see. This one is dedicated to the big passion of my interesting career… solving the problem of Information Overload, a.k.a. Infomania or Infoglut. It is an area I’ve been active in since Intel’s switch from VAX terminals to IBM PC’s in the mid-Nineties, which enabled Email Overload to explode in our faces. I had just invented my job as Computing Productivity Manager,.. Read more