Social Media Overload: Be Smart About It!

Complaints about social media information overload remind me of alcoholics griping about all the drinks they’re being served. It’s not the bartender! It’s you!

For instance, TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld writes today about information overload. The post got a lot of play. And it’s instructive that Erick’s post was an outcome of using the desktop client Twhirl to manage all his Twitter and FriendFeed updates. Apparently Twhirl and AlertThingy are in some sort of desktop feed arms race (Sarah Perez coverage, RWW). Yup – you can always be “plugged in”.

So what’s the answer for information overload? Here’s what I’m doing for FriendFeed.

Prudently Add FriendFeed Subscriptions

I’m still adding people to my FriendFeed subscriptions. It’s still early, and I’m enjoying the flow of updates. Before I add a subscription, I take a look at each person’s activity streams. If the streams look like something I’d like to follow, I subscribe. If not, I hold off. Pretty basic, unoriginal policy eh? Yet it does cut back on the stuff you don’t want.

Strategy: subscribe to that which will interest you to reduce the noise factor


There aren’t enough hours in the day to constantly monitor the flow of activity through FriendFeed. I’ve got a day job plus kids that keep me plenty busy. So I check in on FriendFeed only occasionally.

This means I’m missing plenty of updates. But I do enjoy what I can see. I call this serendipity. The discovery of information at a given moment in time. That’s still a pretty good experience with FriendFeed.

Strategy: embrace serendipity, recognize you can’t possibly consume all updates

Focus on a Few Specific People

When I do have time, I will look at the activity stream for specific people to whom I subscribe. I’ll go to their profile and catch up on things I missed. I couldn’t possibly do this for everyone I follow, but I can do it for a few.

Strategy: closely follow the updates of only a few select people

Create an RSS Feed for Updates Matching Your Interests

FriendFeed is a fantastic research and discovery application. With a bit of a hack, you can create RSS feeds of FriendFeed updates that match pre-selected search criteria. For instance, I follow FriendFeed activity streams with the term “enterprise 2.0”.

This way, I stay on top of updates that interest me without having to monitor everything. And RSS is persistent, centralized, and easily viewable.

Strategy: use RSS to follow updates on topics of interest to you

Careful with AlertThingy and Twhirl

Installing AlertThingy or Twhirl as desktop clients makes FriendFeed streams constantly visible. If you’re already suffering from information overload, this is the equivalent of an alcoholic strapping on a CamelBak filled with bourbon. Access is just a sip away.

These apps remind me of the Bloomberg machines used by equity traders. Traders need to be constantly on top of the news. Missing key information by just one minute can cost them big dollars as the market moves quickly.

Are activity streams that important? No – unless you’re one of the big-time professional bloggers who needs to break, or react to, a story quickly. Otherwise they’re just too distracting and contribute to the information overload. As Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins of Mashable writes (about Twitter, but also applies to FriendFeed), That’s Why It’s Called Work. If They Called It Twitter, They Wouldn’t Pay You.

Strategy: don’t install or at least occasionally turn off AlertThingy or Twhirl

That’s what I’m doing. What are your strategies for managing the social media information deluge?


See this item on FriendFeed:


About Hutch Carpenter
Chief Scientist Revolution Credit

9 Responses to Social Media Overload: Be Smart About It!

  1. Pingback: How do you read your feeds? (Yet another flimsy pretext to talk about myself.) « Unisyc.

  2. Pingback: How do you read your feeds? (Yet another flimsy pretext to talk about myself.) « Unisyc.

  3. engtech says:

    I manage my Friend Feed information with scripts. Here’s how:

  4. Jack Causee says:

    “Online Social Networking” is a waste of time. I got an account the first month Facebook was around. Yeah it was cool for a week or so. hhhmmm, a message board with pictures.

    Its too bad I’ve had to sit through 5 years of hype as 40+ pretends to pioneer a new field, “social networking”.

    I much prefer services like http//

    They keep me informed but I don’t have to make a lifestyle out of communicating with people in an ineffectual world.

  5. Pingback: links for 2008-04-19 | mad dog in the fog

  6. searchyogi says:

    while getting updates relating to specific terms is a good idea, I think there needs to be a tool that need to show interesting information – You don’t know what good stuff you might be missing. One of the tweets (don’t remember who! – information overload) suggested that there should be a ranking of some sort. For example: 200 people read this post and these should flow to the top. Almost like digg. Alert thingy is asking users to rate “like” a post/tweet. I am assuming they will use this to surface more popular info.

  7. bhc3 says:

    @searchyogi – I saw Robert Scoble asking about ways to see only FriendFeed updates that had comments on them. The idea is that the presence of comments would be a filter on the content.

    It still doesn’t guarantee you’ll see something you like, but if (i) the content has interactions around it; and (ii) it comes from someone in your social network, that’s a good start toward filtering.

    Eventually, someone will figure out collaborative filtering based on your previous views to provide a way to show only relevant things to you.

    BTW – I like your blog.

  8. searchyogi says:

    @bhc3 – I am glad you liked my blog. thanks.
    # and quality of comments is definitely a good parameter to gauge how relevant the original post is. I would love to see posts surfacing based on my previous behavior. An interesting area to explore.

  9. Pingback: Serendipity, Simplicity and the Art of the Stumble « Unisyc.

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