The tools of the information addict

There are a few tools that are crucial to the working of the information addict.

In order to understand the information addict you first need to realise that information research and pursuit isn’t some kind of aimless pastime, it’s a very serious business. There is a purpose to all of this activity and that is to find really useful information and in so doing to gain insights and knowledge that others probably haven’t seen. But the real join is in the hunt.

PisaYou might think that Google was the main tool for the information addict, but it isn’t one of the primary tools. it’s a good secondary tool for finding further information on a given topic. But it’s not a primary tool because it required a question and this information addict doesn’t normally know what the question is before he gets started. The really useful tools are the ones that provoke a question that might lead to a new discovery.

The really useful tools are those tools that provide information without being asked a question, while still prompting a question.

For me these tools fall into two discrete areas:

  • Statistics
  • Feeds

There are so many statistics around that there is always something new to be gained from them. The statistics on this blog are a case-in-point. These statistics serve two purposes. They allow me to gain insights that I know are unique to me; there’s only me with access to them. These statistics also allow me to branch out into all sorts of other discoveries. “Why is that blog popular?”, “Why do I get visitors from…"?”. I have access to all sorts of statistics, and they provide all manner of stimulus.

Feeds are different. Feeds provide a constant stream of provocation; they are streams of information. Blogs, facebook, linkedin, twitter all provide a constant flow of things that may, or may not, be interesting. The “may not” is important, if the information was always 100% relevant there wouldn’t be any joy in the hunt. Addiction always has some element of “pursuit” to it, even if the result, once caught, isn’t worth bothering with.

Google, and other search methods support these two information provoking methods by allowing a chase to continue. It often doesn’t even matter where the chase is taking you, it’s the chase that is the important and the addictive part.

Confessions of an Information Addict

"My name is Graham and I’m addicted to information."

There I’ve admitted it, and as they say admission is the first step in the recovery process.

Silverdale and Morecombe BayA little while ago I wrote a blog making a joke of how I could waste a while day doing absolutely nothing at all. There’s another saying: "many a true word said in jest" and, as you’ve guessed, there is a good sized dollop of truth in that post.

I could, if I allowed myself, waste hours scanning for information, feeding on it, searching it out, getting to the end of a chase.

I don’t think I’m alone in this issue, so I thought I would share some of my journey and why I’ve got to the point where I call it an addiction.

This morning was a wonderful example of the issues that I face. Today I had two presentations that needed to be completed for sessions later in the week. I knew how long they would take, and what needed to be done. Did I sit down and get on with it – did I heck – I fed my habit, scanning blogs and emails and enjoying a trip down a few information rabbit holes. I did eventually get the presentation sorted, but just in time, and with just about enough effort.

But is addiction too strong a word for it, aren’t I just doing my job. Well I  also know a good deal about addiction. One of the things that I do outside of work is to help with a group that supports people in need, some of them struggling with addiction. There are a lot of parallels, but I’ll leave that for another time.

I’ve been looking for a new series for a while now; sometimes the obvious answer is the one directly in-front of you.