Web Complexity Necessitates Tools That Simplify
So it should come as no surprise that I am incapable of reading anything intellectual at the moment. My normal daily activities require so much effort that I have no brainpower left to process anything beyond the absolutely critical. So, instead of books like the fantastically educational and engaging "Nudge" by Sunstein and Thaler, I am reduced to Lee Child : cotton candy for the mind.
Obviously, our particular circumstances are extreme, but entropy of this sort is not in any way unusual. Around the world, our lives are getting more complicated. Our information overload is getting worse, and, as the possibilities before us grow infinite thanks to the ready availability of ever-more-powerful technological tools, the need to focus, to pare down, and to exercise discernment becomes more than desirable; it becomes essential.
We've seen this before; it is the contractive phase of the innovation cycle, the counterpoint to the expansive phase that allows greater access to or generation of content. Printing press arises, allowing the masses to write books; editors and publishers arise, helping consumers identify the worthwhile reads. Internet arises, allowing anyone to create a website; directories and search engines arise, helping navigate the sea of information. When anyone can code an app, we need an Apple to rely on for quality and simplicity.
And now we are overwhelmed by the mass proliferation of our own user-generated content; we are drowning in our status updates, our tweets, our social graph, and our photos. The inevitable and necessary contractive phase calls for services, innovations, and technologies that centralize and simplify the way we navigate these technologies.
This is the backdrop against which a service like PhotoRocket, which launched at DEMO at the beginning of the month, gets serious attention. PhotoRocket is a service that makes it easier to use your other photo services. Install the app and suddenly you can right-click (if you're a non-designery PC user like myself) on a pic to share it on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and email in a single move. A new Flickr or Picasa would simply add to the noise; a tool that makes it easier to engage in your existing photo-sharing activities becomes a maintainer of sanity.
And, on a more serious note, it's the same backdrop against which a site like CrowdVoice, which collates and organizes voices of dissent in places like Yemen, Tunisia, and Egypt, becomes essential and lifesaving. Esra'a Al Shafei, the founder of CrowdVoice, spoke at TED; we were advised that taking her photo would put her life in danger. For activists like her, people who are literally putting their lives on the line to stand up for what they believe is right, the spare time to peruse Twitter and Facebook and forums and blogs is a luxury they cannot afford. They are running their revolutions, and concise, well-organized access to essential information, public sentiment, and breaking news can literally represent the difference between life and death.
Are you suffering from information overload? The easiest way to share your favorite make-your-life-simpler tools is on Twitter or in the comments.