Now that networked media offers us infinite choice about the way we slice and dice our questions, queries and requests, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. While trying to book a holiday this year for myself, my good lady and two small daughters I found myself with so much information and so many options that I felt like I was playing three-dimensional chess. That country with this accommodation for price one or this country with that accommodation for price two? Booking through this service directly with separate flights or that agent all-in? Whilst this country’s currency is strong against the feeble pound its prices are lower than that country which has a weaker exchange rate but is more expensive. This resort is a longer flight but the weather is good, while this option is nearer but will there be sun? And last, but not least, there was my five-year old’s very specific request for a pool with a curly-whirly slide. After a week or so of research using what felt like about four hundred different websites and services, we had narrowed the choices down to about twenty-nine and I don’t mind admitting that my brain froze. Camping in Wales, I thought? ‘I’ll look on Mumsnet’, said my good lady. Now I know that Mumsnet is a vast community and has become the UK’s barometer for what is and is not acceptable in terms of parenting, as well as who should be the next Prime Minister. However, I wasn’t too sure that it would be much help in solving our cryptomatic holiday quandary. However, about thirty minutes later I received a link to a resort that I opened with very little enthusiasm only to discover the most perfect place imaginable that met all the criteria and some. ‘It’s got a good write-up on Mumsnet’, was the message that came with it. And that I believe is what Clay Shirky is referring to when he says that...
...to avoid information overload we just need to find better filters.
I think it’s also why Google are so worried that Facebook’s social search is in fact going to become the first port of call for people looking to solve complicated queries.
It turns out that despite having half of the world’s MBAs locked in Mountain View writing algorithms capable of organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful, it has yet to upstage the knowledge and insight created by six hundred thousand of the UK’s female population sharing their experiences online. And, let’s face it, it probably never will.