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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Information Overload


This is the age of Information, nay – it is the age of Information Overload. We are inundated with all kinds of information – useful, not-so-useful, wrong, misleading and outright false information. The situation is so bad that there is an Information Overload Research group! (URL: http://iorgforum.org/).

How do we deal with this overload? There are several ways and the British Medical Journal published a humorous essay on this topic. In summary, the essay lists five different ways people deal with this problem. Here they are, together with an appropriate metaphor for each strategy.

1. The Ostrich strategy, which needs no explanation;  

2. The Pigeon strategy, which is hanging around with others who read, and pick up bits of information here and there;  

3. The Owl strategy, which is to stay with a question doggedly, and refine the question and reflect;  

4. The Jackdaw strategy, which is a mixture of the above two – some scavenging and some real effort;

5. The “inhuman” (the authors probably meant non-human) strategy, which is to make use of machines and publications, which synthesize and catalog. In medicine, there are such publications. For example,  UptoDate and BMJ Point of Care.

Reference:  BMJ 2010;341:c7126. December 15, 2010

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