Information Dominance

I read this article with a strange mix of fear, humour and envy. Essentially the guy running the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (who is now working at the NSA) seems to have a bit of a nerd streak in him. From the article:

... a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a "whoosh" sound when they slid open and closed.

I don't have a room that looks like the bridge of the Enterprise (although I wish I did) but I do have my own problems with Information Dominance. Here are some of the (more prosaic) tools I use to manage my information taps.

Digg Reader

Digg on Android

I still prefer RSS feeds over sources such as Twitter, Facebook or Google+. It's nice to see the whole article (or at least a significant summary of it) rather than a simple hyperlink.

I really, really miss Google Reader - it had a nice simple interface both through the web and through the Android application. It didn't get in your way, it just let you read the contents of your feeds.

I started using TapTu when Reader shut down and, like many of the newer RSS readers, it tries to present the feed content in a magazine format which I find more annoying than helpful. When Digg Reader recently released an Android application I switched to it very quickly.

Digg Reader has a very similar interface to the old Google Reader and has a lot of integration to the core Digg site. They have gone to a lot of effort to make it easy to share and store interesting articles as well as finding similar stories to the ones you are interested in. All in all this is a good tool to get through large amounts of information coming in from blogs, sites and other RSS sources.


Evernote on Firefox

Interesting articles I find in my RSS feeds get put into Evernote where I can group them, add comments and organise my thoughts. Sometimes these are saved for reference purposes (the Evernote plugin for Firefox can show search matches in your notes alongside the normal Google results which is very handy) or batched together for project ideas.

There is a very nice Android client for Evernote so I can add links directly from Digg Reader, GMail or any other app that allows sharing as well as adding my own notes as ideas come up. Evernote is very useful as an idea dump but it is important to allocate some time each week to sit down and go through what you have stored and spend the effort to categorise and group everything.


Trello on Firefox

Trello is a Kanban like system for organising tasks. Developed by Fog Creek Software (the company founded by Joel Spolsky of Joel on Software fame) it's a very high quality piece of software and free to use.

Basically you represent your tasks as a set of cards which are organised into lists on a board. A new board starts out with three lists - To Do, Doing and Done. Essentially cards move from left to right (To Do -> Doing -> Done) as their status changes. The trick is to keep only a small number of cards in the Doing list and concentrating on those tasks.

I tend to add a fourth list called Ideas that I can populate with things that I would like to do but haven't made any firm plans about yet. I find this visual approach to tasks very useful - I only allow myself a maximum of three items in the Doing list and move them out when they are completed or if I'm held up due to some external cause (waiting for parts to arrive or for work to be done by someone else). In the later case they get moved back to the To Do list.

If the ideas list gets too long I know it's time to filter it down and archive some of the more far fetched or complex ideas. Sometimes the idea no longer appeals and doesn't seem as exciting as it did when I first thought of it. It means I haven't wasted time on a project that I would eventually drop half way through.


So there you have my information flow. Although I don't exactly dominate the information coming in I at least manage to collate it into a useful output. The three tools I talk about above provide a nice, simple workflow for me on both desktop and mobile platforms. Hopefully they can work for you as well.

I still want an Enterprise bridge in my lounge room though.