The importance of information in business is higher than ever. We’re living in a global economy and your next competitor can come from anywhere in the world. You need to stay on top of what is happening in your field. But how do you do that?
Access to information nowadays is not the problem. But finding what you need is becoming harder and harder because there is so much of it as we have more sources and more people publishing than ever before. However there has always been more information than we can consume so it’s not the information in itself that is causing the problem. Well, in fact it’s not a problem… it’s a fact.
“If you have the same problem for a long time, maybe it’s not a problem, maybe it’s a fact”.
Let me explain the ‘problem’ of information abundance via a metaphor. The survival of a school of fish is based on the principle that when a predator is overloaded with information (fish) he cannot focus and single out a prey. The mere abundance of fish makes that he misses everything! This is the case with information as well. Information overload refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information.
Watch the video below to hear what Clay Shirky is saying about this at the Web 2.0 Expo. Clay Shirky studies the effects of internet on society and is the author of two books on this subject.
There is so much information coming at us from different people and different sources that we need filters in order to focus on what matters. Without filters we won’t be able to deal with any of the data. Like the shark in the metaphor we are likely to miss. When information went online these filters disappeared for a great deal. Before not everyone could publish their thoughts (a publisher would select for quality) but today anyone can start a blog (without someone filtering).
So where do we get those much needed filters? Filters can be a computer program or a human. The best filters probably combine the strengths of both.
An example of a mechanical filter is the Google search algorithm. Google indexes all of the web and lists websites in order based on a secret formula. Search has been a great way to find information for a long time. However, in search you’ll have to know exactly what you’re looking for in order to find what you need. Also, sites that apply search engine optimization tactics to their content rank higher in search as compared to sites that don’t (but perhaps have better content).
And what if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for? You just want to know about emerging trends, new product releases that you don’t know the name of, mergers between competitors you thought were irrelevant etc. You want a system that tells you what is happening, without you specifically looking for it.
Human filters are people that are subject matter experts and point us to the relevant pieces of information. It’s like they are curating the web, much like a curator in a museum curates art. Who are the human filters or content curators for your subject? How can you find them?
Step one is to first identify who’s talking about your subject. You can use Twitter search for this. The next step is to look for people that get retweeted a lot and have a large following. These are indicators that other people think their tweets are interesting en worth looking at. This way you find the curators that are perceived as influential about their topic; you can find them easily using BuzzTalk.
Discovery engine BuzzTalk combines human and mechanical filters into one system
BuzzTalk gathers information from sources that are either recommended or shared between humans. Every source is checked and only when it meets certain quality standards it is manually added to the database. This is the human component. Currently over 55.000 manually checked sources from 100 different countries are monitored.
All publications are tagged based on several parameters such as sentiment, mood state, Reuters’ OpenCalais tags such as person, position, company, product, region etc and happenings (BuzzEvents) such as bankrupcy, sanctions, fraud & forgery, illegal business, product release etc. This is the mechanical component that enables you to slice and dice the publications and find the information you need. This is how you can focus, tune in and catch fish… or critical business information.
Watch this video below about how BuzzTalk captures and labeles information. The video focusses on Twitter, but BuzzTalk also captures blogs, news sites, forums and scientific journals. You can use BuzzTalk as an information system for business, that keeps track of emerging trends, competitors and the public’s opinion about products and services. Managing information has never been easier.