Information Gluttony

It has been a while since I last updated the Journal. But maybe that’s a good thing!

A bank of hard drives in a data centre

Image released under the Creative Commons by comedy_nose on Flickr.

There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every 2 days, and the pace is increasing…
Eric Schmidt (Google CEO)

For reference an exabyte is 1 billion gigabytes (about 4 billion of the latest laptops). Every digital click creates a trail of information: analytics tracking, server logs, browsing history, search history, previous purchases and recommendations. Add this to the content we choose to share: photos, articles, blogs, emails, instant messages, texts, Facebook Likes, Tweets, Diggs, Stumbles etc etc and the result is a vast quantity of data being stored throughout the world, every second of every day.

By 2013 the quantity of information on the Internet will double roughly every 72 hours.
Aaron Endre

This will inevitably lead us to a couple of quite serious problems. The first is how we choose, find or filter the content we consume and the second is the environmental impact of storing, transferring and keeping all this data.

Content Consumption

You have to wonder if the solution to this will be generating less content or finding new ways to filter it. Google are in a good position with search but there are many situations where search does not make sense. For instance on Twitter where you follow people who interest you but you may not always be interested in everything being said. This is the same for RSS applications. I subscribe to a large number of blogs and more often than not I am only interested in a just few of the posts each day. I have to scan through 100’s of articles to find the ones that really interest me.

Largely this problem can be solved with smarter technology. Personalised search, bookmarks and social graphs can be used to generate some very powerful tools. It’s more likely we will build these tools and continue to generate obscene amounts of content. But should we?

The Green Issue

We (toggle) were recently asked to consider joining a list of green agencies on Re-nourish. While we would love to be listed, in light of the above, can we really be a green company? We have over 8 terrabytes of storage space in the toggle office (not all of its used). All of our data is backed up here and across the internet to distant corners of the globe. We tweet, we blog and we share photos. We have handfuls of accounts across different web services. Each of these services generate more data for both us and our clients. Our server gets backed up in three different places and each and every web site we host gets larger month after month; using more bandwidth, more storage and more electricity.

How can we start to improve this?

Website Performance

Last week we began a new phase of website performance testing. We are now keeping a closer eye on ping times, load times and uptime’s of our sites and server. On top of this we are investigating WordPress and website performance gains. We have managed to decrease the load time of this site by around 3 seconds for the homepage and we will continue to make improvements on this over the coming month. Improved website performance not only reduces the strain on bandwidth, storage and electricity, it also increases conversions, user satisfaction and search engine performance. It’s certainly a worthy endeavour.

Say Less

When you say less, you get noticed more. There are a couple of blogs that I subscribe to that only post a handful of articles each year. The strange thing is I nearly always read them from start to finish. When they do arrive in my RSS reader it’s a real treat. The quality of the content is far more important than the quantity.

There are many blogs (that I will not name) that are quite obviously writing pointless articles aimed at search engine performance and riding current trends. These articles are getting easier to spot and are appearing more frequently. At some point the value of the things we share will have to be put under scrutiny (a completely separate issue).

Account Control

How many different usernames and passwords do you have? Which services are they for and are they necessary? We have always kept a list of the accounts we have. The list is useful to remember the variations of our username (toggle, toggleuk, togglelabs etc). The list has become even more useful though as we are now going to start closing any account that has not been used for a year. This should help curb the amount digital waste coming from toggle HQ and stop it extending into infinity. In short; close your old accounts. You remember that MySpace profile and Friends Reunited account? Delete them!

So, I’m about to hit “publish” and I can’t help but feel a little more digitally plump from the impending avalanche that is about be sent your way… and it’s not like the delete key can save us now with its over forgiving, trash can, revision saving, are you sure? nature.