IORG Overloaded 2014 Conference Highlights

IORG Overloaded 2014 San Francisco

I recently was privileged to attend the IORG Overloaded 2014 Conference held on June 7th in San Francisco, organized by the Information Overload Research Group.

This was a gathering of academics, researchers, practitioners, and technology solution providers, focusing on the challenges faced in our growing battle against "Information Overload".

IORG Overloaded 2014 was led by Jared Goralnick, Executive Vice-President of the Information Overload Research Group and Founder and CEO of, a web application that addresses Email interruptions.

Here is a brief synopsis of the key presentations:

"Rhythms of Attention, Focus and Mood with Digital Activity": Dr. Gloria Mark

Dr. Gloria Mark presented the preliminary results of two recent research studies she has conducted on the impacts of digital technologies on information workers and members of the millennial generation. The research focused on areas such as interruptions, stress, and work focus. A key finding of her research was that time spent on computers and amount of multitasking is associated with higher stress levels, although time spent on social networks is actually associated with lower stress levels Email has also been found to be the largest source of interruptions, and when people are cut-off from Email, they are actually less stressed, focus longer, switch less between tasks, and are happier. The research also highlights the important differences between an internal interruption (one in which an individual self-imposes on themselves) compared to an external interruption (one in which someone else interrupts you).

Dr. Gloria Mark is an active researcher in the areas of Human Computer Interaction, with specific focus in the areas of task switching, working spheres, interruption research, and Email processing. She is a Professor in the Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine.

"The New Information Overload: How the Explosion Became Mainstream and What We Can Do About It": Jonathan Spira

Jonathan Spira discussed the impacts of information overload and interruptions on knowledge workers, discussed how society has shifted to an "Age of Impatience", and the impacts of excess information, digital technologies, and ineffective use of media on our lives.

Jonathan Spira is the Former CEO of BASEX, an information management and research firm, author of "Overload! – How too much information is hazardous to your organization", and is currently the Editorial Director of Frequent Business Traveler.

"Electronic devices in meetings? They're less disruptive than you'd think": Dr. Bob Marsh

Dr. Robert Marsh provided an overview of a research study he conducted on the impact of interruptions of electronic devices on recognition of information from a formal presentation. The study found that although interruptions do impact your ability to recognize and recall information, "interest" in the topic is actually as important as 'interruptions" in performance of recall of information.

Dr. Marsh is an Associate Professor of Operations Management and Management at the John F. Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.

"Information Overload—It's about the role": Nima Niakan and Faith Chiang from FirstRain

Nima Niakan and Faith Chiang demonstrated some of the capabilities of FirstRain, a solution which allows you to utilize powerful search algorithms to quickly isolate "relevant information" from across the internet that meet very specific criteria as defined by businesses and organizations. The applications of the solution include such areas as market intelligence, business analysis, and customized news alerts, and it is in wide use by a number of large clients and corporations.

"Replace the Email protocol with a to-do protocol": Dr. Stanley Rosenchein

Dr. Rosenschein discussed the development of tools, systems and methods that help individuals and groups plan, execute, and coordinate activity through shared action protocols and smart personal assistants. The model utilizes collaborative networks, automated agents, and external events and focuses on the creation of a systemic approach to managing information and moving from closed technologies such as Email to a collaboration-based system that utilizes open and extensible protocols.

Dr. Rosenchein is the Founder of BranchTime Technologies, former Director of the Artificial Intelligence Center at SRI International, Consulting Professor at Stanford University, and founder of two other technology start-ups.

"The Love Triangle of Overload: Technology, Information, and Design": Dr. Josh Hailpern

Dr. Hailpern led a discussion on different approaches to designing novel solutions around searching and identifying relevant information. He demonstrated "Echo", a solution which allows users to quickly find salient documents and opinions across multiple documents and "You Pivot", which is a contextual data search tool that allows you to search and browse your history (digital and real world) by items such as a song you were listening to or a website you were reading at the time.

Dr. Hailpern is a Research Scientist at HP Labs in Palo Alto

"Twenty Years of Information Overload Solutions": Dr. Nathan Zeldes

Dr. Zeldes led a discussion on the current challenges of information overload, highlighted the challenge today as the overall "communication culture", not just the Email or information overload.  He also provided a review of the current state of technology solutions and approaches to managing information overload, including software solutions, automatic classifiers, and other types of tools, all which are highlighted in his new book "Solutions to Information Overload: The Definitive Guide"

Dr. Zeldes is co-founder and the president of the Information Overload Research, currently provides training, consulting, and speaking engagements through his firm NathanZeldes, and was previously a manager and principal engineer at Intel Corporation.

The IORG Overloaded 2014 conference also featured several workgroup sessions, an ad-hoc "unpanel" which discussed a number of topics, and some spirited discussions and debates across many aspects of information overload, its sources, and potential solutions.