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A while ago I did a post called Attention Overload where I theorized that “information overload” wasn’t the “problem” of the internet, but the way information distracts us. The logic goes that if you learn to filter out what’s important to you, being overloaded with information is a non issue. So the real problem is “attention overload”. 

Clay Shirky in the video below says what I was trying to get at so elegantly and so much better. A big part of his argument is that since the days of the printing press we’ve been saying that we have an “information overload” problem, but the difference from those days from today, is that the costs of production were very high. This pressured publishers to filter out for quality, so they won’t lose money. In todays’ world of blogs, wikipedia, and twitter, that pressure to filter out is no longer a priority since the cost to publish is zero. 

This is why he concludes that it’s a “filter failure” problem.  He explains that a century year old problem can’t be a problem. If you have the same problem for so long without resolving it, it’s not really a problem. It’s they ways things actually are. 

He talks about other filter failure examples of “inbound” and “outbound” information, with particular examples of Facebook’s newsfeed and groups. It’s a very intriguing talk. The video is 24 minutes long.

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