“Limited Sending Rights” as Solution to Information Overload?

Can you imagine a world where we only received the information that is relevant to us? A world without time-consuming screening, where we only got the news – and all of the news – that we really care about?

Why don’t we have this world today?

The easiest answer is that the current filtering techniques aren’t advanced enough, and more work needs to be done to improve them. However, in this article I would like to argue that we should not only try to fix the receiving end, but the sending one as well.

Today, no matter what “information stream” we subscribe to; be it newsletters, RSS Feeds, newspapers, TV etc., most of the time we will also receive a lot of irrelevant information. Just think about the newsletters or RSS Feeds to which you currently subscribe. While they do contain interesting information from time to time, they also contain a lot of information you don’t need to know, correct?

The reason for this is, I believe, a structural one. For all “streams” today, once the connection between sender and receiver is established (e.g. subscription to a newsletter) the sender can send us as much information as he or she wants, until we cannot stand it any longer and unsubscribe (or switch channels). There is no direct “control” over the sender to only send the important information, beyond the “threat” that his or her subscribers may jump overboard.

What may initially sound as a benefit to senders actually turns out to be a disadvantage for them as well, because the subscribers are increasingly reluctant to subscribe due to the fear of information overload and senders don’t get as many people to subscribe as they could.

For example: Let’s say you come across a preview site of a new Web 2.0 service that offers to inform you when the service has been launched. How should the webmaster of the site offer to inform you? The most common methods are email alerts/newsletters and RSS Feeds. However, they each have disadvantages from a subscribers’ perspective, leading to fewer subscriptions:  


The idea put forward in this article is to introduce “limited sending rights” for senders, whereby the sender defines a maximum number of messages he can send. That way subscribers know that the sender will not “use up” his sending rights for sending irrelevant information.

For instance, in the above example the webmaster could setup a feed (let’s call it “Private Feed”) on a neutral platform that allows only one message to get sent in total (with a message like “Site has now launched!”), after which the Feed gets automatically deleted.This solution has several advantages from a subscriber’s perspective:Advantages of private feeds

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2 Responses

  1. Abhi says:

    working on a similar idea: http://genzmag.wordpress.com/

  2. Tim Wilson says:

    You’re opening question is a good one. Too much divers info overload is a huge challenge and time waster today.

    Quiet time in the mind from endless distractions such as email and feeds is part of the answer, and time spent on minor things takes away from the major things.

    Your solution, though not a 100% solution, sounds like it would be an improvement. It certainly is a move toward being more intentional and specific which I see as a positive thing.

    I’ve wasted far too much time and energy not paying attention to my attention which can get scattered too easily- but it’s of my own doing.

    Gradually, I’m learning to separate myself from the info overload “noise”, and then focus on one thing for awhile. This alone can quite literally double or triple results- and it feels quieter and more focused.

    Thanks Nicolas

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