Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Too Much Information

I don't know about you, but often I find that the Web provides too much information. Let me explain.

Anymore, when I read a book or watch a video I make notes about things I want to know more about. I can't help it -- I'm curious. Just in the last few days, this list includes
magnetar SGR 1806-20

statistics on water levels in Lake Mead?

Neil Shubin and HOX genes

okra - sliced, fried?

The problem is, the Web allows you to look all these things up, and then some. You can follow them each for hours.

Before the Web, you'd wonder about any of these, and then dismiss it, as each would entail a trip to the library, finding an encyclopedia, or the Reader's Periodical Digest, and then you'd spend even more time finding them, xeroxing, and in the end you'd never find exactly what you wanted anyway. Except sometimes maybe by chance. How did people live like this?

Now, if you Google "Lake Mead water levels," you immediately get this graph, which is updated in near-real time.

Fine, except then you need to look up Lake Powell, and then you're wondering about the population gain in New Mexico, and recent drought statistics, and whether Intel is taking too much water from the Rio Grande, and there's no end to it.

In some ways it was much easier before the Web.

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