Posted by: Don Linnen | 28 September 2007


Too much information.

You know the feeling. It’s usually when your wife starts talking about female medical issues or your Uncle Hiram in Niceville starts telling you about all the desert choices at the retirement center.

But there’s another, more insidious, danger from TMI besides being grossed out or bored to death. It’s called reinventing the wheel.

Two things affecting everyone in the commercial and nonprofit world this century:
1) how do you do more with less?
2) how do you sort through the tons of information available today?

This isn’t rocket science folks. Whether you’re trying to avoid starting a redundant teen pregnancy center in a single zipcode or trying to build a high tech immigration data base to protect our borders. What you need is to find who’s done this before you. Chances are good that someone has tried. Maybe even succeeded.

The problem is, how do you find out what’s been done so you’re not starting from scratch or building something new that turns out to be not so new?

I can’t help you a whole lot with the past, just encourage you to look and dig and talk to others before you start spending lots of time and money on a “new” idea. But starting now, I can encourage you to start using “tags.”

This is a popular concept in Web 2.0, but even this isn’t a new concept. In 1989, my mentor persuaded me to include keywords in the subject line of EVERY email I sent. It’s easy to do. It only takes a little discipline. Once done, it’s amazing how easy it is to search for just the right email you need.

It’s also amazing (and frustrating) how many emails I get with little or no information in the subject line. Heck, sometimes they’re even asking a question about an email written hours or days before without attaching the old email. I’ve noticed that sometimes I have another distraction or thought after I sent that email. Until my clairvoyance gets perfected, you’re just wasting time and bandwidth.

So here’s the deal folks. Starting right now. Take a breath. Put a significant word or two in the subject line of each email you send. This helps sort the clutter into categories. It helps bring order out of chaos. It gives you the opportunity to tell people you are practicing folksonomy (your new word for the day).

It you want to see how well this works, check out the folks at Technorati. They’ve done incredible work by getting the masses to put category names on blogs, photos, music…pretty much all the garbage – and treasure – that’s on the web today.

Trust me. It’s gonna help your life get simpler. And it’s gonna make it a lot easier for those following you to discover your brilliant ideas and apply them to changing the world. You might even get credit for it. At the very least, it will help you find the recipe for Uncle Hiram’s favorite, homemade cough syrup.

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