Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The acronym TMI is often used as a way of expressing that someone just shared too much information with you, generally something embarrassing or private or that they just don't care about. I believe some of this comes because of an overload of information always flowing around us through computers and mobile devices, so we lose the ability to filter out extraneous or private information from that which should be communicated.

Given the large amounts of information that is put out there, since people do seem to just braindump it all onto various social media sites (or vetted news sites) in a way that's easily accessible by others, those who learn to actually mine the vast data fields will do very well for themselves in our information-based society.

While some people see these vast data fields as a wasteland, like the Abominable Snowman in Monsters, Inc., I would say, "I think you mean wonderland!" We should be able to take the plethora of information created by others and turn it into something useful. There should be no such thing as TMI, because the more data out there, the better we can harness it for the good of ourselves or others.

I'm occasionally made fun of for looking up information on my phone or a computer. Someone asks a question or wants a clarification about a statement made by someone else, and everyone just sits there thinking, yeah, someone should find that out. Then the conversation goes a different direction and everyone forgets there was something they wanted to know. So I look it up before forgetting what the question was. And I get strange looks for providing the answer. I'm the smarty pants because I googled it, when half the room could have also pulled out their iPhone or Droid and looked it up themselves. They're using their phones to text, so it's not like they're put away to be polite to the present company.

Isn't that why we have smartphones? I mean, it's cool that you can use your iPhone as a digital rattle to keep your kids occupied, but isn't access to Wikipedia, Google, Yahoo Answers, Twitter, etc. the best reason to have a smartphone? Nielsen claims that 25% of smartphone users don't even access any data on their phones and that 6% of users consume over half the mobile phone data. The rest of us are on that logarithmic continuum somewhere.

What other information is out there that we aren't using? If you have a blog (or any website for that matter), do you use Google Analytics to see who is coming to your site, from where, and for what? How long do they stay, what do they do while visiting, and do they actually find what they were looking for? Is that just another type of TMI that you don't care about?

Over the past 2-3 years, my two most consistently popular posts are on Pedagogy vs Andragogy and Surf the Channel. Coming in a distant third place is a post related to Cognitive Load Theory.

It's interesting, since I spent a lot more time writing the cognitive load post than I did the other two. Maybe the third place post was too long or too academic or too focused on the specific situation in which I was using it. Something I have been able to figure out, though, is that if you can find something that is an interesting or upcoming topic that not many people are blogging about, you'll get a lot of hits. That may seem obvious, but I only figured it out because I had data that told me. If you think I should have known that already, guess which of your blog posts are the most popular and then turn on Google Analytics and tell me how close you were after a month or two of collecting data.

I've been thinking for awhile now that I need to write another post on Andragogy, because I'm afraid that the one that several hundred people a month find just wasn't all that well written or informative. It was just a quick recap of an experience I had and a few comments on some of the basics of that area. I know a lot more about the topic now and knowing people are looking for that information and having a hard time finding it, I feel it my duty to help others make some sense of it.

They could find academic articles on it or take a class on the subject. They could go to conferences and talk to people using techniques based on these principles. But they don't. At least they're googling it, which many don't even have the motivation to do like I already talked about. So if that many people come asking the question, how many more are out there who don't even ask, because they can't be bothered? There's probably not much I can do to reach out to them, since I can't force my blog down everyone's throats. I should at least try to answer the question people who do find my site are asking.

So what does Google Analytics tell you? And what are you going to do about it?

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