A definite case of data overload

“It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world” alleges Iain Murray, (MW October 25). Apparently, “society seems caught in the grip of mental syndrome fever”, as more and more bogus – Murray implies – maladies are discovered or invented every day.

One of the examples he cites to substantiate his whinge is a new research report published by Reuters Business Information called: Dying for Information? An investigation into information overload in the UK and worldwide. Omitting to mention that this report is based on an indepth survey of over 1,300 people in five countries, Murray dismisses its extensive findings by counteracting them with his own highly expansive survey involving a respondent base of one – namely himself.

It is child’s play, he would have us believe, to flick through a newspaper and read only the articles that one perceives as pertinent or interesting. His proof? He does it.

It seems that Murray has somewhat missed the point when he asserts that the report “ignores the human ability to discern, discriminate, and select”. Of course managers conduct these activities continuously throughout the working day, but the fact remains that the amount of information through which they have to trawl for relevant items is becoming unmanageable.

One of the main findings of the Reuters report is that information is now available through an ever-increasing number of media, including e-mail, voicemail, online information services and corporate databases. Of respondents, 42 per cent believed the Internet will be one of the main causes of information overload over the next two years. Furthermore, businesses now operate within a culture of information: internal communications, communication with customers and suppliers, and communication between branch offices have all grown in volume and perceived importance over the past ten years.

Perhaps Mr Murray is suffering from the very syndrome about which he is so disparaging. After all, it seems reading and digesting the executive summary of this report proved a little too much for him.

Tim Dennis

Managing director

Reuters Business Information

London EC4

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