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Infoglut: The Disease of the New Millennium

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Information, the very thing that makes it possible to be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, or any other kind of information worker, is threatening our ability to do our work. How's that for irony?

The global economy may run on countless streams, waves, and pools of information, but unrestrained, that tidal wave of data is drowning us. It washes away our productivity and creativity, swamps our social lives, and can even shipwreck our relationships. Information overload isn't just about having too much e-mail, voice mail, and text messages. It's a much more complex problem, and its effects take a toll on companies' bottom lines and on their employees' well-being.

Academic researchers have been studying the problem for years, and at last organizations are beginning to wake up and take action to mitigate it. In the latest issue of IEEE Spectrum Magazine, Nathan Zeldes, former Intel manager and now president of an international nonprofit tackling the problem, talks about training and behavioral-change programs, attempts to set up quotas and encourage alternatives to e-mail, experiments with interruption-free "quiet time" blocks, software tools that attempt to address the problem, and other prescriptions for curing infoglut.



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