Here is a good question - will RSS help us to deal with information overload any better than we've managed to achieve with email? I ask this question for a couple of reasons:
- People are still interested in "learning" how to deal with email better - for a recent analysis of the situation, see Michael Sampson's series of posts on the topic that starts here;
- Even if organisations never reach the heady heights of Enterprise 2.0, the fact is that RSS will continue to grow in importance as an information management tool.
With that in mind, as Stu Downes asks, are we "Sleepwalking to data overload?":
"We need to be ready for this. Sooner or later the vision of everyone having an enterprise blog may become a reality. That in itself is a massive shift of information, or rather a massive addition to information (email isn’t going away). We need to think about how our information workers can consume the data efficiently and effectively. Even if enterprises don’t start blogging internally the immense volume of data in RSS feeds makes them the most useful tool within an information workers arsenal right now."
(Reading this I can't help be think of the Luis Suarez's blog roll, which he recently reduced from 700 to 448, not including another 250 non-blog feeds! Luis, I don't know how you do it!!!)
So does RSS have any advantages over email or will it simply contribute to more information overload on top of the current problems many people still experience with email right now?
If we go back to my own take on email information overload, summarised in a short article I wrote in 2005 (PDF, 81KB), I concluded then that:
"There are no quick fixes for dealing with e-mail overload. Taking control of your own inbox is an important step, but people in organisations need to work together to tackle this growing problem. Only as a group can you deal with eliminating the source of the problem and develop workable protocols to help reduce the e-mail burden on each other. So stop looking for six tips for e-mail success and focus on taking the three steps toward mastering e-mail overload in your workplace."
I think the same lessons will apply to RSS, but there are new opportunities with this particular communication technology to help reduce information overload through a combination of more open communication styles, content filtering, and content mining (look at Yahoo! Pipes for the possibilities). In other words, RSS could be used as a group communication technology where email is essentially peer-to-peer. In fact, using RSS in combination with email rather than as a replacement may be the best way to reduce and control information overload on both fronts.
However, on its own RSS will in no way be a magic bullet - if applied badly in organisations, people should be prepared for more of the same. In the meantime I can't wait to see how the email productivity advisors with their quick fixes evolve into RSS experts...