The ambulance down in the valley

Basex is a tech research and reporting company whose regular newsfeeds I scan and, from time to time, report from. They track and report on information management and particularly on solutions to “information overload”.

Jonathan Spira’s TechWatch newsletters focus often on an issue which afflicts most of us – too much incoming information. The list is long: not just email but blog updates, tweets, personal network posts, messages through other applications, and more. These days, it’s not just the inbox although we can choose to flow a fair amount of it that way or to keep it out.

Well … There’s an old story about a road along a dangerous cliff, with a regular series of accidents due to people walking or driving off the road. The local people decided something needed to be done, so they clubbed together and supported the provision of an ambulance to be permanently stationed down below in the valley. Till someone else pointed out it would be much better and, probably, cheaper to put a guard rail at the side of the road at the top.

That’s where we’re at with incoming overload; except that every attempt to erect a guard rail is frustrated one way or another. The volume just grows, and things fall off the cliff because they get overlooked. So the ambulance helps handle the results; and Basex recently profiled two ambulances.

One is Gist, which just launched (Google-style) a public beta service of an app which is web based, and which reads your email and all those other feeds, prioritises the content, and delivers you the top stuff. There’s a video on the Gist website which of course talks up the service.

The other, Liaise, is an add-on for Outlook that scans your incoming messages specifically for action items, and creates a to-do list. It’s not entirely automated; from the video, it looks as if the message originator has to select sending via Liaise to capture the key points (that’s not exactly how it appears from the Basex description; but Jonathan may have seen the actual product, and I haven’t). It does appear, once messages are set up in Liaise, to have significant capability for team, task and action management. Sounds brilliant, but I can foresee spammers figuring out how to craft emails that get actions into people’s lists.

And it just seems to me that if the number of similar tools grows (as Basex seem to think it will) then we’ll need a tool to manage the output from the tools …

• In the Briefing Room: Gist, Basex 17 Sep 2009
• In the Briefing Room: Liaise, Basex 24 Sep 2009
• Gist (you might want to go to the Blog, and page down for the initial launch announcement and video)
• Liaise

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