Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bill Gates on attention

In this interview by Jon Udell, Bill Gates had some interesting comments on information overload, attention, and personalization:
RSS things need to need to be able to look at their type in a slightly more predictable way, so you understand which application that things should show up in slightly better, have a little better filtering for these things.

Ultimately the whole problem of notification, of what is it should I be paying attention to next? Is it the e-mail that came in? The phone call? The bid we're supposed to make? That's actually a very deep user interface problem, you know, having all these things understand your context and their priority and who's saying that they think something is urgent. And then you just go to your computer screen and it's ranked for you. You know -- first pay attention to this, then pay attention to this.

That's the holy grail that these technologies are in service of, is that the thing where you always had to go find things, now the system is being a bit smarter for you in terms of now you're not polling the world.
We need help with information overload. We need a smart system that helps us focus on the information that matters. We need personalized information streams where our attention is directed toward the most interesting and important.

See also Sun co-founder Bill Joy's comments on information overload in my previous post, "Making sense of the chaos".

[Found on Findory]

Update: A quote from a May 2006 BusinessWeek article nicely summarizes the problem Bill Gates wants to solve:
[People] are simultaneously overloaded with information that comes at them from all directions, yet challenged to find the key bits of information they need.

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