Sunday, October 09, 2005

Managing Information

A friend of mine who is currently doing his MBA back in India wanted to know how I manage my "information flow" especially news and how to save time doing it.

The following is what I wrote to him. One thing to note is that there are several other attributes to the ones I mentioned that I would do. How would you manage your stuff?

The response starts below:

What you has asked me about is "efficiency"?

How do you get the most information in the least possible way?

Much more important than that is "effectiveness" which is what I will dwell on first and the go to efficiency.

It is very important for somebody to realise that whatever is published is not the truth. Especially with political news. This could be true for management stuff. In the case of financial stuff it can be mingled.

For example: The stock market moved a couple of hundred points. The financial press informs us with stuff like "due to the FII activity the stock market has moved" or "due to the fall in the NASDAY the tech stocks in India has fallen".

It is always important to understand that facts, information, analysis, opinion are different things. you need to understand the difference and be conscious about it while you are reading anything. Sometimes we can take analysis or opinion as facts.

The different types of information is important but more important is that we "trust the sources" from which we get the information. Especially in terms of opinion.

Let me give you a good recent example of what I mean. I am not sure but if you have heard about the recent Sun-Google press meet. There they have stepped forward to form a pact in which Sun will distribute the Google toolbar with their Java software. Google promised something vaguely of helping distribute Sun's Open Office.

Now see what the Times of India and the Indian Express reported.

[ ]

According to the Times of India, "Google has announced a strategic merger with giant Sun Microsystems, in a deal that is expected to create another dent in arch-competitor Microsoft's monopoly over the Internet."

Many of you will have spotted two pretty significant problems with this sentence. Firstly, Sun and Google announced an alliance, not a merger. Second, Microsoft does not have a "monopoly over the Internet". No-one does. Microsoft may have the lion's share of the browser market, but that's not the same as having a monopoly over the Internet. Besides, the Sun-Google collaboration is not so much about changing the dynamics of the browser market as it is about changing the dynamics of the desktop applications market.

The Indian Express fared slightly better, but they too seem to have witnessed a completely different press conference to the rest of the world. According to the paper, "Google Inc took a big step toward challenging Microsoft Corp's dominance in computer word-processing and spreadsheets with the announcement today that it would distribute Java technology from Sun Microsystems Inc." Wrong again - Sun will distribute the Google Toolbar when people download Java from Sun. So far, Google has not said it will be distributing Java. They are exploring other ways to collaborate, they say, but there is no firm news yet.

See the blatant mistakes these esteemed newspapers from India have made. They could not report a simple alliance. They could have just copied from the press release of Sun.

For my part, I believe a lot in Blogs. First I try to find the best blog sources that I can trust on various topics. Then I follow then. If they take me to a specific newspaper or magazine I follow it.

Google or Yahoo groups is a good source to follow as it is community based. I like Slashdot or in Australia for broabband information.

I also search for any specific topic that I want to follow and the read many sources on one big issue to understand the various viewpoints.

it is important that you find sources that you can trust. This may take a while but it is worth the effort.

The next part is "efficiency". This is what your question was all about.

I use as my preferred service for reading news and other stuff. I am not sure if you have heard but this thing called RSS or Really Simple Syndication makes it a breeze to folloe various sources like newspapers, magazines, Google or yahoo groups, blogs and even news searches through PubSub.

It makes it easier to follow various stuff.

To get an idea of the stuff I read I would suggest checking out my Bloglines subcriptions

Also, I follow the NyTimes etc but again mostly through articles suggested in blogs.

One last bit of people I follow are some "analysts" like Bon Cringley or Maunboussin etc.


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