Experiencing Information Overload?

January 10, 2011

Have we reached the point of total saturation? Where our search for information leaves us not wiser but more confused, lost and unsatisfied? Not long ago, I remember when the internet first made its presence in my life, before the era of Yahoo, Bing, and Google. Where any attempt to search for information would lead you down so many dark pathways that you would eventually give up and head back to the library. Yes, we have come a long way, baby… but have we come too far?

And no, I am not going to comment about online content that is not fit for human consumption, or at least not the humans I like to hang around with. I am all for “Freedom of Speech” as protected by our mighty constitution but sick is sick and that is that!

I am, however, talking about the fact that we may be reaching the point where the sheer weight of  information, with much of it conflicting, might just outweigh any benefit. And like its twin, sensory-overload, it may lead to a complete system shutdown.

Example # 1: Online medical sites  ask you for your symptoms and Viola, they give you a long list of possible diagnoses. The only problem is that the results can run anywhere from a common cold to advanced terminal lung cancer. Want to really start to worry? Make a visit to one of these sites next time you have the sniffles.

Example # 2: Ever tried to find a simple recipe online? Your search leads you to so many variations of what it is you wish to cook that you may end up stymied and order pizza instead.

Example # 3: Real Estate, my specialty. I am currently working with a lovely international couple  buying their first home in the US. Being engineers, they began searching for information months ago. Every online inquiry took them in another direction until they did not know where to go next. They had discovered so much data that it no longer made sense. That is, until they found me. And yes, they found me online – a subtle irony to this post that is not lost on its author.

It took us hours to wade through their spreadsheets and pages of questions and concerns. Afterward, we then did something you cannot do with a click of a mouse … we left the information highway and went off-road (offline) by visiting the communities, the builders and the homes themselves. Nothing really beats being there and having an expert along for the ride.

As a Realtor and a fairly tech savvy one at that, I know online resources have undoubtably helped the real estate process. With great sites like www.HAR.com, www.Realtor.com or www.ChristiBorden.com (sorry, couldn’t help myself), today’s consumer can discover an amazing amount of data about almost everything you would want to know about a home, a community, a developer, a builder, etc. In fact, they are an invaluable tool for me as well.

But is the information itself enough? Does that mean that I am no longer needed in the process? The experienced Realtor brings specific knowledge that cannot be found by Google, negotiation skills that are not offered by Yahoo!, and a level of expertise (needed to shepherd a transaction from contract to close) that is not found with Bing.

How do we handle information overload? I think adding the human factor will always the answer.

Technology is Great… Except When it isn’t!

January 7, 2011

by Christi Borden

Yesterday, we experienced an issue with our email and were taken off-line for the better part of the day. Does the thought of being “off-line” even for a moment send chills down your spine? It was an unexpected event that was beyond our control and as professionals, we dealt with it… At least some of us did.

Funny how we get so wrapped up in today’s technology and tools that we forget how to get things done IRL (in real life). Some may have decided to take the day off. I mean, how can anything be accomplished? On the other hand, some decided to plug ahead using now-antiquated methods of communications such as fax and … gasp… the landline telephone. 

This, of course, got me thinking that we all probably need to have a contingency plan for the tools that we use everyday to get business done:

  • Cell Phone: Do you have access to a second phone? I keep a second line for my team and can always carry that line if my primary phone decides to take a bath. Cell phones are a lot like cats: Attracted to water, cannot swim and will make us pay dearly if we drop them in.
  • Email: If we lose our Outlook and email capability, do we have a “printed” version of our clients’ contact information so that we can at least give them a call or a text to let them know we are still there for them, even if our email is not?
  • Computers/Data: What do you have to protect your data? External hard-drives are fine until it fails and loses all the photos from your trip to Europe … failed utterly and completely. Gone! Of course, I had reused the memory cards thinking my precious photos were safe. Gone! Sigh… Now, I use an online backup system but keep my photos on my memory cards as back-up to the back-up. Redundancy is my new middle name. (The bright side is it gives me another reason to return to Rome… as if I needed a reason.)
  • Ourselves: Finally, what is your back-up if you fail or become incapacitated? I discovered the need for this when I broke my ankle several year’s ago and realized that my clients’ needs went on even when I could not. Make sure you have someone who can easily take over in the case of emergency and that they can weed through your office to find your files. Disability insurance is also important to look into so that you might remain somewhat solvent during a time of crisis or incapacitation.

So what did yesterday’s little experiment in Murphy’s Law do for me? It reminded me that while technology and tools may fail, we need to act like Scouts and “Be Prepared”. 

What is your back up plan?

Top Texting Shorthand for Business

July 17, 2009
Texting is no longer just for teenagers. Here is a guide to some of the most common business text messaging terms, acronyms and shorthand:
AFAIC – As far as I’m concerned
ASAP – As soon as possible
BRB – Be right back
BTW – By the way
DD – Due diligence
DRIB – Don’t read if busy
EOD – End of day
EOM – End of message
FYI – For your information
GMTA – Great minds think alike
IM – Instant message
MOTD – Message of the day
NRN – No reply necessary
NWR – Not work related
OTP – On the phone
P&C – Private and confidential
QQ – Quick questions
SME – Subject matter expert
STD – Seal the deal
TBA – To be announced
TBD – To be determined
TIA – Thanks in advance
WTG – Way to go
YW – You’re awesome