Has the signal-to-noise backlash started?

April 11, 2008

Interesting to read two posts in one day about the distractions of Web 2.0 services. Hugh MacLeod has deleted his Twitter account and Robert Scoble is finding that turning off his internet connection makes him more productive. I’m not quite sure why this is news (except because Robert wrote about it) but I entirely agree with his sentiment. There is something quite sinister and pervasive about these services, the way they dramatically reduce concentration times and continually pummel the mind in all different directions. What makes them worse is that they have apparently addictive properties. In Hugh’s case why would you not just switch off your Twitter alerts and never check the site (like I do)? To actually delete it is quite suggestive.

I accept that some jobs actually require a short focus but many jobs require a great deal of concentration, I can only begin to imagine what these services are doing to the productivity of the workforces around the world.

Joel Spolsky puts it very well:

“Here’s the trouble. We all know that knowledge workers work best by getting into “flow”, also known as being “in the zone”, where they are fully concentrated on their work and fully tuned out of their environment. They lose track of time and produce great stuff through absolute concentration. This is when they get all of their productive work done. Writers, programmers, scientists, and even basketball players will tell you about being in the zone.”

I think the worrying thing is that many of these services aren’t even mainstream yet. If these services are addictive then we are either going to need a lot of self control or employers are going to have to try and put measures in place. All for what appears to be an awful lot of noise and not much signal.

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