Help! TMI – Out of Control Data

Remember when… time was aplenty, laughter came easy, stress was not commonplace. The pace of life was much slower and relaxed.

Today, with our instant access to data, we have quickly become victims of ‘Too Much Information’. Our minds have become overloaded with many small bits of fragmented information. This leads to our chronic condition of attention deficit, incomplete thoughts, and lowered ability to filter and focus on the important stuff.

What is TMI? TMI is defined in Wictionary.org as ‘An expression indicating that someone has revealed information that is too personal and made the listener or reader uncomfortable.’ And in UrbanDictionary.com as ‘way more than you need/want to know about someone’. In the information realm, this can easily be translated to mean ‘much more data than you need or want to know, causing you to feel overwhelmed, unfocused, and/or missing the relevant point’.

It needs to become the responsibility of everyone that collects, distributes, authors or disseminates information, to take some time to pre-filter and combine it into what is really important. In our eagerness to be helpful, heard, and published, we are all too often guilty of contributing to the ‘Too Much Information’ situation.

Perhaps we should take a lesson from Twitter – – if it can’t be said in 140 characters, it might be too much! Well, that is a bit extreme for sure, but makes the point that we should carefully consider the information we distribute. Providing ‘Too Much Information’ can actually backfire, reducing the ability for our brains to process the data. With a little planning, we can convey information that is quick and easy to decipher. A good way to do this is by using summarizing techniques.   Less is More.

What is Summarizing? Summarizing is the ability to produce a condensed version of information. The summary should only include important elements. This requires you to spend some time thinking about the information, determine which parts are more important, and which are less pertinent. Summarizing can be applied to textual data such as articles and reports, as well as information in the form of tabular data.

There are many methods and techniques for summarizing, but most include the following steps:

  • Review the data
  • Organize and categorize
  • Find common themes, patterns, and relationships
  • Prepare the summarized version

On the technical side, there are many tools that can assist with summarizing:

  • Excel pivot tables are a great way to summarize spreadsheet data. These work well for small to moderately large sets of data.
  • Database tables, such as SQL, can handle large volumes of structured data and can produce summarized data using query sorting, grouping, and sum functions.
  • Big Data solutions are well suited for handling very large amounts of unstructured data. It can effectively handle the ever increasing needs of capturing large volumes of diverse data from numerous sources, quickly manipulate and summarize it to meet a variety of purposes, and deliver relevant information to the end user.

Information overload can be solved. It just takes some time to plan and determine the right solution that will help you convert TMI from ‘Too Much Information’ to ‘The Most Important’.