If The Message Is Important, It Will Find Me

Matthew Ingram wrote a post a while back and quoted a market researcher quoting a college student who said:

If the news is that important, it will find me.

I think we've all experienced the changing distribution of news and information via social media and understand what that college student was saying.

But I've reached the same point with messaging as well. Like many of you, I participate in a host of messaging services; email, texting, BBM'ing, twittering, facebooking, instant messaging, and blog commenting to name a few of them.

It's become impossible for me to read every message that is directed at me. I try hard to get to all of my messaging but I've reached the point where I don't sweat it anymore. I know that I won't see every message that is sent to me and that's OK with me.

Our family uses BBM (Blackberry messaging for those of you not familiar with it) as our "batphone" and that is the one channel that is not cluttered for me. Unfortunately, right now my BBM software is not working on my phone, and I need to fix that.

But other than BBM, I've decided to take the approach that if the message is important, it will find me. It's very liberating. I'm curious if any of you are taking this approach as well.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Jeffrey McManus

    This philosophy seems totally crazy to me. It’s lemming-like. I mean, it may be that some of the “important” information is reaching you, but if you’re not actively searching, how can you know? And what about all the outlying information that may also be important? Finally, isn’t there value in knowing important information before it’s been bounced around and filtered through an echo chamber endlessly?

    1. fredwilson

      I do search. I’m just saying that with the explosion of messages we are collectively producing now, trying to see all of them is futile

      1. Jason Cronkhite

        Fred, I agree – there is only so much time in a day. I try to follow the ZeroInbox philosophy and if something is really important either I will prioritize the task or some body else will for you. I like to stay engaged in the myriad of conversations but, let’s face it – family, close friends, then professional networks get my attention before I partake in a virtual beer or banana someone sends me on Facebook. You might try OtherInbox.com for managing email better, as a user I find it helps alot.

  2. Catherine Ventura

    You make a good case for the development of a killer app aggregator that (intelligently) filters out auto DMs, duplicates, etc. Are you by any chance working on one?

    1. Apolinaras Sinkevicius

      Gathr.me folks are working on something like that. I’ve seen their demo, not bad stuff.

    2. fredwilson

      Not me

    3. Michael

      It shouldn’t be difficult to do. An AutoDM would be published almost immediately after you Followed a user. It wouldn’t be hard to create an addon that compared your Follow to a DM, and filter out any that were sent within seconds of yours.

  3. Ed

    It won’t all find you on time, everytime.

    1. fredwilson

      I know. But what else can I do? There’s just too much communication happening now

      1. Steven Kane

        wow, never thought i’d hear you say that fredwelcome to the other party i am founding (beside the Far Center): the Extreme Moderation Party.

        1. fredwilson

          My mom was there long before you steve. The words that stick in my mind are “moderation in everything”

      2. Jim Kerr

        Everyone filters the social noise in a different way. I follow only select people on Twitter, and I don’t really take part in Facebook. On the other hand, I read a large number of RSS feeds daily every email that enters my inbox.

  4. Prokofy

    If the main point of your message is, “I have email/Twitter/Blackberry bankruptcy because too much information is streaming in,” yes, I agree, that’s accurate, and yes, quite a bit of it can “find you” other ways, slower, or more directly, on the phone if not in email, etc.But ultimately, I find that attitude of this kid to the effect “you know where to find me” as the height of arrogant youthful ignorance, and it explains the incredible casual callousness of youth to domestic and international affairs these days.In the news business, or even if you are simply a thinking person, you go out and look for news actively, and more importantly, you look for multiple sources on the same story to try to see different takes on it and make up your own mind. You don’t wait for it to “find” you on Twitter.If you wait for the news to find you, it may only be one biased source. For example, what if the only news that got to all these kids was “the Jews are responsible for 9/11”? We would never want to live in such a world in which hateful propaganda, just because it had more reach, prevailed in reality (as it does in some countries with exactly this kind of hate media, such as Iran. People who wait for the news to find them get what they deserve.I think you have to distinguish between news that is news in the old-fashioned sense of what is in “newspapers,” and the “news” that Facebook now describes as “news”, by which they mean “updates in status of friends and family.”We used to be able to live without people calling us from the bus on their cell phones, and then from the elevator, to tell us they were on their way home. The updates could wait 45 minutes.Ever since I took away my kids’ cell phones (they were expensive, a cause of contention about minutes, and they never picked up when I called them — which was the whole point) — I talk to them more face to face. Sometimes, I try to find them first, before “the news” does.

    1. fredwilson

      My post wasn’t really about news. It was about the explosion of messages coming at us

  5. Jason

    it’s eventually going to be cross-platform synchronized information with filters. Android can accomplish this. it’s mobile, it’s desktop, it will be set top or tv integrated, eventually. the cloud apps work on everything internet. the filter is important. you have your batphone for the direct channel. i am sure you have filters for the rest (gmail labels and filters). the next step is the seamless synchronized integration across platforms and devices. the same filter of information no matter where you are or what you have.

  6. Edward

    I let serendipity work its magic and push items my way. Although I occasionally browse headlines on my phone if I’m stuck somewhere and bored, I always have a browser full of tabs, a stack of books, and earmarked magazines lying around. All of it on the recommendation of others through twitter, email, word-of-mouth, a handful of blogs, etc. Indeed, being unchained from the need to know all, all the time and instead let others act as my filter is liberating.

  7. vadadean

    The truly important evades me unless I invest in its discovery. It’s all the crap surrounding it. Urgent stuff commands my attention. Things deemed important by others incessantly ping my attention. Routine commitments get their share of my attention. It’s only when I filter the pseudo-important that I encounter the things that rock my world.

    1. fredwilson

      Right. Trying to read and reply to everything will only lead you to missing the truly important stuff

  8. Allen

    Far too many good ideas have been missed because the person who needs the idea didn’t actively seek it. Messages are the same, if you are not out beating the bushes for that new idea you’ll either miss it or be the last too know.If you think of the time to read the messages as money and the speed as getting the ideas quicker then the old saw “Speed cost money, how fast you want to go” was never more accurate.

  9. Dru Wynings

    This post reminds me of my father. He would rarely, if ever, answer his cellphone, as his personal philosophy on the topic was “If it’s so important, they’ll call back.”I think the same can be said for the flood of incoming information. If it’s so important, they’ll make sure you get the message one way or another.

  10. tweetip

    depends on if i’m watching or just listening.

  11. Charlie O'Shea

    If the message doesn’t find you, then how would you know whether it was important or not?

    1. fredwilson

      If you are stuck in receive mode, you can’t go find the truly important stuff

  12. A Gibbins

    A selfish approach.

    1. fredwilson

      Do you have an alternative to suggest?

    2. Pavan

      and to ask the man not be selfish would be in our selfish interest; which is kind of hypocritical..

  13. Robert Seidman

    Some of these comments have me wanting to mash up a “Leave Fred Wilson alone!!!!” video. 🙂 I am surprised at the tone of some of the comments. I think perhaps people took it to an extreme with the quote of “Important information will find me” and extended that to the (perhaps logical in some alternate universe) extent of “…so I don’t have to do ANYTHING!”.Fred’s message was pretty simple and he wrote it clearly. He can’t respond to every e-mail, blog comment, blog post referencing one of his posts, tweets, etc. He’s not declaring any kind of bankruptcy, he’s simply accepting the truth that it would be impossible to stay on top of all of that, so he’s not making it a high priority to even try. That seems completely sane to me.Fred is NOT going to stop actively seeking out information, and the very important information that he is NOT seeking out, WILL still find him if it’s truly very important.

  14. Frank C.

    My genius idea: use multiple email addresses. Specific purpose for each address. You check em when you want to.Very web 1.0. Works great.

    1. fredwilson

      That sounds like a recipe for ditching a lot of messages in mailboxes I’ll never check. I do that with facebook already

  15. gwong

    I totally agree with you Fred.Of course, we can do our very best, but I was speaking in another conference and highlighted that we are not only information overflow from media (news, online, print, tv), but also messaging overflowed..In fact, personally, before I started using properly twitter (I created the a/c in 07 but only started using it in 08), I did NOT read one blog (yours included!) despite being in TMT/Finance/Gaming.However, I cannot live without the shorthand of twitter, which does get me some Gems of blog (like yours and many others)..Still, we are overflowed with info/messaging.. Personally, IMHO, there is a big opportunity for a ‘unified’ messaging, but not ‘aggregate’…I love the interactivity of BBM also, its also my msg. of choice. ;)Have a great weekend!

  16. Oliver

    Dear Fred,This thought seems absolutely correct in its analysis. The factor most people might forget with today’s real time delivery mechanisms is not that the channel or the speed of deliver is significant, but the content of the message. And that is exactly the point. You as a person have specific needs. Your trusted network of people around you is aware of it and thus will forward information of interest – if necessary at high speed and through the one channel they know you use.In fact, looking at my incoming communications through all kinds of e- or real time delivery (I use quite a few) I have to admit that hardly any is conclusive for me to act upon. They require increasing engagement and follow up from my end, that is if I believe they are important, in order to find out what is actually of real significance. In truth, for every aspect that is vital to myself, face to face or at least the phone are the only acceptable forms of communication if speed is a needed quality. Otherwise I would love it to be a written letter and I strongly hope it will be for some occasions.Funnily enough, I am not that old yet (I believe) but I did business in times when even a fax was not a relevant tool for important messages. And the world turned, I seem to remember, just as fast as today.

  17. Rylan Hamilton

    My generation (I am 29) forgets what a phone call is. We spend 30 mins typing an email when a 5 min phone call is all it takes.

    1. jarid

      It’s even worse. It’s 30 mins for the first message. Then another 30 minutes for the response. And then another 30 to clarify what you meant originally. etc.

  18. Dan Ostermayer

    Fred, I think that theory is best described as “selective ignorance”. Most news is utterly meaningless and by applying the filter of everyone else you free up your life to do important things that don’t involve chasing the news.The best way to practice selective ignorance is to refuse to read or watch the news for one week. You will realize that YOU DIDN’T MISS ANYTHING, and that people will bring up news stories during lunch that you don’t know about and you can learn about them and talk about them then.The second thing you will realize is most of the time you are just reading news to procrastinate from doing something that you have to do or for pure entertainment. To fill this void of news you can read a book that might expand your knowledge in a more complete less headline scattered way, exercise, learn a new skill, or spend time with family actually paying attention to them rather than checking the internet in between conversations.I think you are on to a more liberated way of life.

  19. Rik Wuts

    Yeah i hear ya – up to a point. For me, a lot of messages are people trying to connect me to someone, or asking me to connect them to someone. Missing out on those regularly would mean devaluation of my network. It’s like when you depend on information to do your work (aren’t you happy to be one of the first people to learn about twitter, Fred?): you need to get it before everyone else does.So, basically, we’re back to using the ‘urgent’ button in email in a truthful way 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      I agree about networking. Its critical and I’d rather be meeting new ppl than doing email

  20. Siminoff

    This goes to the golden rule, “He who has the gold, rules”. For what you do, this is a great approach, if someone can not get figure out how to get their message to you then they have already failed the first test anyway.I am on the other side, I constantly need to figure out creative ways to get my messages delivered…

    1. fredwilson

      I think you are pretty good at that!

  21. zerobeta

    I agree to an extent. I think these days, w/ Twitter, et al. you can set up a “portfolio” of different news/information sources that you can passively manage. Like a portfolio of stocks, the success of a such a strategy relies on the quality, and diversity of the news sources you have within the portfolio.

  22. nycstartupfiend

    Blackberry needs to improve BBM – it feels like a piece of software that has not had an update since it came out. But when it works, it’s great and for me, a reason not to leave Blackberry.

  23. Grace Ryan

    If someone wants my response on something – they will find a way to be sure we connect. That’s been my approach since I started communicating. Consequently, I also believe it’s important, not to mention polite, to acknowledge receipt of a message (e mail, voice, ect.). When I am the one sending the message, I understand that it is my responsibility “manage” the communication. If I want to be sure the recipient has recieved my message & I I have received an acknowledgement, I follow up. I tend to believe that all voice messages are listened to, at least to the point where the caller states their identity & reason for calling. So when in doubt, pick up the phone an call!

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t check voice mail and I almost ignore it entirely

      1. markslater

        i have not checked VM in over 3 years – i think it was you that put me on to simulscribe – job done.

        1. Siminoff

          Glad that you are enjoying SimulScribe (now PhoneTag). Even though email is a troubled service, traditional voicemail has simply no place in our world.

          1. fredwilson

            Amen brother. Voice mail sucks!!!!!

  24. William Mougayar

    All this speed and real-time streaming stuff is making us “hyperactive”, and that’s not our nature (mostly).For e.g., I get hyperactive reading Scoble on FF- he’s like on steroids constantly (with all my respects to how he does it- but that’s his job, and he’s not the model for most of us). Getting radical may not be the best approach necessarily,- perhaps OK as a pause to regroup, re-think, re-organize and assess. Smarter aggregation & streamlining of services might be an approach. One can’t keep up with the panoply of choices.

  25. Justin Breitfelder

    This is true to an increasing extent, isn’t it? Something important for the communicator to keep in mind. This is the essence of integrated marketing communications more or less, right? Consistency across media with the knowledge that not only does it take time to get a single message through the clutter — but neuroscience has proven that repeated communication is needed to change neural connections and behavior. And I think this applies not only to business but to personal communications as well. Could be a good little mantra to keep in mind when communicating.

    1. fredwilson

      There’s a reason that I blog every day

  26. Ari Herzog

    Damn straight. You’re referring to what I call social proof.Suppose I didn’t follow your blog. If your blog post is important enough for me to see, I’ll hear about it. The news works the same way; I haven’t manually flipped through printed media in months (other than sporadic journals that aren’t online). I don’t even need to stare at boston.com or nytimes.com to see what’s happening; enough people are tweeting, facebooking, and otherwise sharing important trending topics that I get my news by social proof.

    1. fredwilson

      But can social proof extend to person to person communication?

      1. Ari Herzog

        Sure it can. All it takes is one person to say something about you for other people who never heard of you but respect the other person to start taking notice in you.

  27. Felicia

    Thumbs up for Blackberry. Our family also use it to keep in contact when I am traveling around the globe for http://www.spunkjunks.com

  28. kidmercury

    this is because you are a blog star boss, unpopular people that no one likes dont have this problem. most people are unpopular and do not have many friends. and their mom probably doesn’t love them either.but i think what you need is more of a “home.” something that allows you to put your contacts into usergroups, and gives them access to different messaging means so that you can prioritize accordingly. sounds like what you are doing with BBM serving as your family “batphone” is sort of an attempt to do that.

    1. fredwilson

      I predict that more and more people will have this problem (or already do)

  29. Tony Bain

    I understand what you are saying. But to someone trying to contact you who is sending something “they” feel is important I think it says something different. This reads that they better send multiple emails, tweets or any other channel then can because increasing the volume increasing the odds that you might actually read one of their messages!

    1. fredwilson

      That’s exactly what I am saying

  30. daryn

    To some extent, yes, but there’s a lot of interestingness that you’ll miss if you only listen for what’s important.I’ve learned to let go a little. If I’m offline for a few days, I’m not going to catch up with my tumblr dashboard, or all my missed tweets. C’est la vie, the important stuff will find me… But there are certain people and blogs (like AVC) that I follow closely, and I try to never miss the message there. And I still spend a ton of time seeking out things that may not be deemed important, but the discovery of which make me happy.Regarding BBM, PIN-ing was my favorite thing about having a BB. A very small group of people had my PIN, so combined with having PIN messages set as level 1, I could always count on them to rise above the noise. DM-ing could take that role, but I follow too many people and there isn’t that extra level of control yet.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree daryn

  31. C. Beanie

    I haven’t watched tv for years. And i do find that the important stuff does find me. In reality, less than 10% of all the digital hoopla is worth anything.

    1. markslater

      right i feel the same way

  32. juandissimo

    Strange, but I do find all of this talk about “arrogance” and “selective ignorance” kind of interesting – do people actually read all of their snail mail? I suspect that most of us have opted out of receiving as much physical mail as possible – and what about the national “Do Not Disturb” registry for our land lines? Am I missing the “opportunity” to glean valuable information and insight from these sources? Perhaps – but it’s a trade off I’ve decided I was willing to make. Occasionally, and I do mean very occasionally, I go on an “information diet” (No papers, no tv, no talk on the radio and (yes no phone – I turn my phone off until I make a call myself) – this pisses friends and associates off no end but it is my gentle way of reminding others and perhaps more importantly myself that one of these days this earth will be forced to continue to revolve without my presence – I’m just not so important in the overall scheme of things that I need to be plugged in and turned on 24/7/365.

    1. fredwilson

      Maybe that’s what I am saying too

  33. markslater

    i reduced down to a simple sony ericcson mobile fone (google latitude still puts me in tangarang jakarta) about a month ago as i gave my G-phone to a friend in Indonesia. i decided to go ‘off-grid’ as far as all the data services etc – to experiment and pay close attention to my ‘productivity’ in the absence.its been extremely liberating, and i have to say my productivity has not been affected at all – in fact now with more time to free think about the things swirling around me at work – i have become more focused.I absolutely DONT miss any of the social apps – and have stopped bothering people with facebook posts such as ‘in traffic’ and ‘wow just saw a shooting star’. I have said before that i see no lasting value in these services – its all stuff that exists in the eddys of my lifestream that is just not that important.i also believe i have done those who i meet with a benefit. I am no longer the rude bell-end that sits in the room twiddling with a device and asking for a restart of the point. I literally have got to the point where i will get up and walk out if someone picks up a device. my phone sits there – occasionally it rings and i don’t answer – unless its my wife who is 7 months pregnant – there is simply nothing so important that i should interrupt someone – if there was i would not have taken the meeting. Its a courtesy and its also far more productive to focus on the meeting for 30 straight minutes without any interuption – try it.I have also done society a favor. I can see you now when you walk in to me on the sidewalk and i can avoid you because your head is buried in your device.i hopefully can also see you when you decide to text or check your email while driving your car.i wont interupt your backswing tomorrow when we take on 18 at Red-tail.i have found that i have got a lot more ‘me’ time and i am enjoying it.I will go back to a device when someone can allow me to “live by me” – only acting when i take an action, really truly semantically or contextually knowing what i like, want etc and extracting only the important stuff out of these information eddys and pulling them in to the main flow of my lifestream. I want restaurant deals for last minute eating decisions, i want loyalty points for taking any actions socially, i want small amounts of social exhaust information about my 15 friends not my 600, i want a social concierge that acts on my action and doesn’t try and find me and invade my attention.finally – i want a total separation of my work from my personal lifeAnd i am very happy with my decision to distance myself from the collective social flatulence that has everyone in a bunch right now.if you are like me and have a laptop and professionally live in the cloud, and are pretty much guaranteed to be in front of yours, or a screen every 2 hours or so of every day – i challenge you to tell me what productivity you yield from getting the bombardment? as i said – if my wife goes in to labor she will call me.

    1. fredwilson

      Congrats mark. I envy you. But it has not stopped you from engaging in this community. That makes me feel very good

      1. markslater

        and i do so through my i google feeds or through disqus. In fact i have now found i go straight to disqus to see if anyone found what i posted remotely interesting! disqus is slowly taking away my impressions of your blog fred – what does this mean?but to the point – as a reader of the blog – i dont feel the need to have my device shake when someone posts, responds, or you blog.

        1. fredwilson

          I don’t care about impressions but I care about conversations

    2. Pavan

      I agree with you Fred. I have a philosophical note to add:There was and always is a lot of information in the world; it’s just that it is much easier to find today. And why does one require all this information; basically to use this information to do what he likes and be happy at the end of the day. Once you figure that out it is not imperative to stay on top of everything and know everything. And yes, if it is important it will surely find you; as a colleague of mine once said, “If the email is important, they will send it again.”

  34. Steven Kane

    Said it before and will say it again: Disconnected is the new cool.

  35. John Sharp

    I think the key phrase in your blog Fred is “other than BBM…” – in others words, there is a channel for your important messages (i.e. those from your family) to reach you.But what this emphasizes is the core problem: how do you separate “Batphone-quality” messages from mere blather?My father worked on a suicide hot-line for several years after he retired. The trick, he learned, was in looking for cues inside seemingly unimportant statements – because the sender wasn’t always conscious of the importance of the message, and was often unwilling to divulge the kind of information that would allow the situation to be properly escalated and resolved.I think this provides a really good example of today’s situation – the sender remains firmly in control of the “urgency quotient” of a message. Poor “importance flagging” has resulted in an overload of work for us as recipients. Family members can be trained in what is important. How can we train members of our networks to communicate to us the information that is important for us to know as recipients?

  36. Max Kennerly

    News, yes; ideas, no.A goldminer can’t sift the river all day, but they have to do some sifting.

  37. Steven Kane

    This post sent me scurrying to dust off some always lovely quotes from Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862):”Men have become the tools of their tools.””Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.””He enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul’s estate.””A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.””Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.”= and of course =”I have traveled extensively in Concord.”

    1. fredwilson

      Great quotes steve!

  38. Fahad Khan

    It is the urgency + channel + timing of the message that catches your attention, not importance.For example, I’ve tried to touch base w/ you a couple of times in the past one or two years but my message never made it through. I am not dissatisfied or upset because they were not urgent, although important. The day I’d really really need to connect w/ you I think I will very easily be able to get your attention via in-direct channels.

  39. MissXu

    I’d say that the important messages always gets through but it’s a matter of timeliness – recently, I was in an accident + the slow receipt of the message had a significant cost attached to it.

  40. leigh

    I totally do this on my vm@work. There are so many sales pple and others looking for ‘coffee’ chats to network etc. these days. I’m so crazy busy at work (i know i shouldn’t complain considering but there are days…..) that i don’t have time to write down a phone number or email address. I just figure, if it really matters (to me and/or to them) they’ll call back, figure out my email addy, find someone who knows me to introduce them or whatever.The one thing i can say that if they are persistent and the message finds me more than a couple times, I try to make the time to hear their schpeil. 🙂

  41. bigge

    From a marketing perspective I think there is a very important message being hidden here. People get tired from getting vampire bites on facebook and links to peoples’ party movies on youtube (that is only funny if you attended the party). But this is exactly how companies have abused the medias for ages.Companies, as well as our friends, need to realize that we don’t want information that doesn’t relate to us in some way that we find interesting.So I think your remark is important. Wether you are a friend or a company, start thinking from the recievers perspective.Other than that, I think social media are simply amazing and I don’t get stressed at all from it. But on the other hand, it all started when I was like 15 or something like that, so to me it is actually natural. It is our natural behavior going mediated as I see it. Or to out it another way, it is like putting the 17th century town square in our computers. However, nobody likes somebody who simply scream meaningless things, in the town square nor online.

  42. Carl Rahn Griffith

    I have noticed a tendency in an increasing number of people where they are becoming Life-Traders in real-time; I have succumbed to it also – ie, there is a risk of losing a holistic view to many facets of life/business/relationships when too concerned with the ‘real-time’ – to me this echoes the knee-jerk reactions on the markets with often illogical volatility in the value of a stock, based on the real-time rather than empirical evidence, objectivity (with a smattering of subjective gut instinct) and analysis/research/projections. Profit-taking/selling short/bullish/bearish with our real-time lives?I had an interesting chat with a friend a few days ago re: Twitter/Facebook/et al – re: how many people in old-world ‘real’ jobs use these services? We were helping out at my in-laws new home where they were getting a new driveway laid and the 4 tarmac guys were rendering the scalding hot tarmac in driving wind and rain and i wondered – as i looked out the window (whilst posting a trivial Twitter on my BlackBerry) – “do/will any of these guys use Twitter/Facebook?” – a quick straw poll was 100% no/no interest, unsurprisingly. When my Twitter stream is sometimes awash with self-important Social Media commentary I often think a Twitter from a ‘real person’ would be rather welcome … ;-)What concerns me is the danger that much of the noise out there is from people detached from much of the ‘real’ world – these new mediums have a place and (at the moment) seem seismic to culture – but, are they, when they don’t engage with many people in the ‘real’ world?Not sure what i am really saying here, but, to end (sorry, at last!) – a couple of quotes from an old boss of mine: “The graveyard is full of indispensable people” and “There is no such thing as an urgent email – if it’s urgent, you’ll phone me” … in our real-time/hyper-reactive world they are not bad maxims to bear in mind, from time to time.And the next time you see a builder/lorry driver/policeman, ask yourself – ‘I wonder what they would say on Twitter?’

    1. fredwilson

      There are 200mm ppl on facebook around the world so it seems to me that social media is mainstream now. Not sure that twitter can get there but I sure hope it can

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        The demographic mix is evolving, for sure, Fred.It’s an interesting question re: how Twitter will penetrate a broader mix of people/lifestyles – will be fascinating to watch it continue to evolve.Re: Facebook – yes, it is very mainstream but it is interesting how the use of it varies dramatically by types of user – many people simply use it as a glorified Rolodex it seems to me; am not sure that is the target-market for FB? Most mainstream people I have spoken to locally who have started using FB have done so because they have migrated from (eg) MySpace or (eg) Friends Reunited.Interesting straw-poll (another, and a somewhat larger/more diverse sample size than the 4 tarmac guys referenced earlier) I took a few days ago – approximates, but interesting as a real mix of people in our village (who are a diverse bunch of ‘real’ people):Facebook users: 60%, Twitter users: 5%, SMS users: 90%, Email users: 60% (and declining, as mainstream people use Facebook more to communicate 1:1/trusted groups, and don’t need general email for business/etc).I’ve got a few of them to agree to try Twitter and will be fascinating to see what they make of it ….

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks for evangelizing!

  43. Matt Blumberg

    I generally agree, though the problem with this approach is that frequently a message will have to show up multiple times in multiple channels to reach its audience, which just snowballs the problem.

  44. Courtney Benson

    Definitely set up categories and do my best to review and respond. I think you get to a point where you realize that you need to separate yourself from the clutter. Agree with Mark Slatter about meetings – one of my pet peeves. If it’s my meeting, I’m like the airlines no electronics during takeoffs and landings.

  45. elginthompson

    Given the waves of daily clutter we must avoid to be reasonably productive, I have adopted the same philosophy. It’s a defense mechanism in an always on world. When I’m on the run I don’t bother with CNN.com or receive constant news updates via email (email is too intrusive) … I check trends at Twitter, my stream at Facebook or Digg. While not fool proof, there is a natural curation process to trending topics. If an item strikes me as interesting, I diligence it further through my various information services. The takeaway is that I’m in control of my time and how I choose to allocate it.

  46. Leonard Kish

    Judging by the volume of comments here, I see your point. The major trend seems to be that social networks are evolving into very effective information filters on multiple fronts. It’s happened with news and content, why not with message receiving?It’ll be interesting to see what other types of processing social networks evolve.

  47. Jon Michael Miles

    “Not technology, but rather identity.”Fred – You bring up another great point. The first thing that popped in my head was the Towers. I was on a plane to New York that morning from DC, and even then on the plane, the message found me.I have several open channels and one private channel. The open channels are email, Facebook, Twitter and my blog comments. I used to be an ICQ/AIMer when I was working at a dotcom. Our entire customer base used it, but now I only chat via Facebook, occasionally opening Adium – which I just noticed now propagates Facebook status to the window. ( Now if I could get Tweets from the folks I’m following there, that would be great..)My private channel is actually my phone, in that I always pick up the phone when my wife calls. Always. That doesn’t mean a long conversation, but I always answer.And that actually brings up an interesting point in that my messaging management is much less about technology and more about identity.

    1. fredwilson

      My wife and kids are basically the only phone calls I answer

      1. mr fred follower

        you dont answer the phone when a portfolio ceo calls you??????????????? oh thats right you are too busy blogging and being a twit, oops i mean tweeting mr fred, oops i mean mr all important.

        1. fredwilson

          They don’t call me. They email me. Then we meet face to face and talkI hate the phone

  48. Dave

    I’ve owned a successful and stable web company for over 10 years. I’ve never owned a cell phone. I only use IM for inter-office communication (none of my clients or friends know my screenname).This still leaves my office land line, email, Twitter, Google Reader, and Facebook.Important stuff finds me. However, even with this moat to keep all the garbage out, lots of non-important stuff still finds me.

  49. ShanaC

    So any secrets of getting in touch ;)On a more serious level- I would say this is why I am fully shemirat shabbat- otherwise I would be an addict.And on a further note: It is aother reason why social media can sometimes be grating against the nerves.Not all news is relevant at all times, and I only want to check certain kinds at my leisure, without my variations of my identity intermixing too much..I want a multiplicity of identities. I wouldn’t mind having a Disqus profile- but not if I could not separate out by the kinds of places I comment.(Frankly, I don’t think people care much that I follow the Orthodox Jewish education crisis, for example, or that I plan on commenting on art….)Hence- the grate of too much at once about too much, rather than bite sized chunks that are manageable and topical.

  50. Andrew Warner

    Fred, to me that’s a big problem in search of a profitable solution.What I’ve found is that if the *messenger* is determined enough, the message will get to me. Many of the people I want to talk to use one channel (Facebook, or voice mail, or something else) and they would never think of trying to reach me more than once because they assume if I didn’t respond I must not care.I still look forward to the day when we all have a unified, single inbox.

  51. Devi

    To Markslater,I adopted your approach approx a year ago, and I have not missed social media. You will find your life is less cluttered, and you will realize what constitutes important information.To the others who suggest this behaviour is lemming like, I suggest that social media is causing us to be far too self interested. Delusions of self importance are created and sustained by 24/7 monitoring of our FB, twitter, etc accounts. No one really cares what you have to say. What makes you think anyone is going to say something about you or to you that requires your immediate attention? What makes you think anyone is going to say something about you at all?Everyone’s talking; no one is listening.

    1. fredwilson

      But this comment thread is social media too. And yet you and mark are here (thankfully)

  52. Pessimist

    The solution is of course to not spend time on messages from social web sites and perhaps also IM. The threshold for sending a message is much lower than other channels (like email)Just make it clear that if it’s not on email, you will probably not see it. Then you will have only one channel to read. Spending time on X amounts of social sites and then complaining that you have too much input seems a bit silly to me. Just cut down the number of channels to a comfortable level.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s the opposite of where I am going. I am ingoring email more and more and spending more time on blog comments (like this one), twitter, and other places where I can find people who are interesting and relevant to me.Sitting back and responding to what comes in is a bad strategy

  53. Perry

    My working definition of “news” is something I didn’t know. Whether the news is that the latest iteration of the iphone is available or that I discovered a facet of human nature from a 400-year-old Shakespeare play, it is fresh information. For me the trick is less to discover the news and more to apply it, for the act of the sponge is two-fold, soak up and wring out – striking the balance of learning/applying. And discriminating between useful news and wallpaper information is an on-going challenge. Maybe the test is “how’s my life?” If its direction and fulfillment are satisfactory, then the messages and news are generally capturing my attention properly. If not, perhaps change is needed. We are never going to get all the news and messages we could turn to advantage. So my response is yes.

    1. Rick Peters

      One problem with assuming that the truly important messages will find us is that truly important messages do come from people without the Type A personalities that drive persistence. Several problems come to mind:- the message’s importance is critically time dependent and it did not find its way to us within that timeframe.- having persistence in messaging (multiple messages targeted at us to get ‘to us’ so we respond) just increases the root volume of messages and the overall noise.- each of us is very busy already so if we need persistence to reach someone it also will increase our outgoing message load.- messaging modalities are age and job-type dependent, as many comments have suggested. The younger and more techie the sender the more chat/SMS/Twitter/Blog comment the communication will be. As you get older or more management oriented, the more email, voicemail, admin assistant filtered the messaging.- lastly, as has also been suggested, social media and tweet traffic have become overbearing. Too often the ‘volume’ of the conversation is deadly and the key points get buried.What we need is the ability to filter, either messages or the sender. The problem with filtering the messages, as you have so well pointed out, is it leaves us dependent on checking too many channels. Filtering the sender, through an integrated gateway/inbox, would allow us much greater control and not trap us in the message type age and demographic quandary. The other issue is privacy and IP protection in communications – something that blogs and tweets, and even email and transcribed voicemail, are not ideal for.As other commenters have also pointed out, once we are involved in multiple discussions – personal, work-related, Boards, committees, political causes, and social causes/charity work, we cannot expect all of them to adapt to our preferred channel. I don’t personally think it’s fair to tell a CEO’s admin that if they need something signed that calling me or texting me is the only way to reach me. I also do not want all committee or design/engineering work to be collaborative real-time (Google Wave is very cool and will be very useful, but not for all conversations!) – each of us needs to compartmentalize that work and dole it out to ourselves when our crazy schedules allow. The art of collaboration is to get work done, not to spend endless time in meetings – virtual or otherwise.As a VC and popular blogger (keep it up!) I think you can understand that you can make it ‘harder’ to get ahold of you. You can force people to be their own filter in that if they don’t try hard enough to reach you it could not have been that important or they don’t have what it takes in persistence to be an entrepreneur. I would prefer a tunable set of filters and great communications software and services.Part of what we need to filter out is the noise that is keeping us from the communications we really want and need to be having across all modalities. In the end, each modality has its uses and none of them do it all.

      1. fredwilson

        No question that filters for news and messaging are a ‘next big thing’.

  54. Pete Warden

    I waited on commenting, but then a sentence from your next post resonated:”The most interesting people you can meet are the outsiders, the up and comers, and the hackers who can’t afford to lay out $4000 to attend an event and are never going to get an invite to an event where you have to know somebody or “be somebody” to get in.”I don’t have a solution to offer you, but it does make me a bit sad that the VC filter makes it tougher for the less persistent and connected to reach them. Not all the teams capable of building great companies have the chutzpah and networking chops to get on the radar. I’ve had to learn those skills, but I still know lots of truly brilliant people with world-changing ideas who wouldn’t make it past the filter.You and the other blogging VCs are part of the solution, no-harm, no-foul meetings are a great help too, and I can’t propose any better process, but the inefficiency and waste inherent in it bothers my engineering soul.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s why I am no longer going to try to read every message but instead put myself out there ever more in contexts where I can meet that special person can change the world

      1. Pete Warden

        I think that’s fantastic, I’m just saddened that you’re forced to trade-off the random serendipity of email.

  55. obxerve

    Yes of course, I am the centre of the universe and thus messages that are important to _me_ will find me. Maybe. The challenge is, “important” is subjective and consequential.If I am not that important, then messages that are important to _me_ may not find me at all. (Obviously, importance is rated differently in different contexts. I may be important in one “circle” and otherwise in another.) People don’t care if I get the message or not, since I am not that important. The more important I am, the higher the chance are that other people care to enable messages that I deem important to find me.Ironically, the more important I am, more and more people will try to do just that. Which consequently leads us to the dilemma that Fred was facing in the first place: a deluge of messages that other people deem important for Fred, but Fred actually does not care about.How to prioritise is an interesting read, if you have a couple of minutes.

    1. fredwilson

      But maybe the most important message for me will come from someone who most people would think is the least importantThat’s why I don’t want to spend my life in an email driven worldSocial media helps me find those people more easily

      1. obxerve

        Point well taken. Interestingly, maybe we can draw a distinction between the message and the medium. Importance is a variable of the message. Email (or social networking platform or disqus) is the medium. You’re using social networking platform or disqus as some sort of alternative medium to email.What about email add on that enables users to better manage or assign importance to the messages that arrive in the inbox? Gabor Cselle (ex-xobni) is working on reBoxed and reMail.I have not personally used either; my inbox is not that bad, so I never thought that they would add value to me. But for someone like Fred, it may hit a sweet spot. Looking at what reBoxed and reMail are supposed to do, technically it is feasible to combine both plus personalised “importance” filter rules so that the inbox content is always prioritised.It may work.

        1. fredwilson

          I’ve switched to gmail and I am waiting for google to give me an alternate way to sort my inbox called relevance (and/or importance). They see what and who I reply to, who I write to and how often. I can’t believe they haven’t done this yet

  56. Michael Altschul

    I tweeted a related challenge a few weeks ago: “Anyone able to keep up w/ work email, perso email, FB, RSS, Twitter, WSJ, NYT? & have social life? & actually work? Pray tell” Add to the mix: blog comments, phone, SMS, vmail. In short, we live in a world saturated with information and we struggle to keep up with it all.Fred, you propose a solution: let the important stuff find you and let the critical stuff (from family) know how to find you (BBM). Which is fine…for you. I would argue that if *you’re important enough*, the important stuff will come to you.For the other 99% of the world, we have to adjust to situations and the preferences of those around us. Until someone (Google? GC + Wave?) can integrate this mess, employers and older family members will be dictating my communications for the foreseeable future.

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t think so. We have to get away from email and engage in places like this instead

      1. Michael Altschul

        Amen to that. We agree on the goal, differ on timing and means perhaps.What I’m saying is that there are bottlenecks of communication that will prevent us fully disengaging from old school sources, like email, to achieve our goal. Mainstream adoption of new forms of communications will, like any technology, take time. It will also require a better solution IMO, likely something that can help transition the non-early adopters. Until we invest the time and resources to convert these bottlenecks to our preferred communications platforms, we’re stuck with the old.

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll check all of this out. Thanks mark

      1. Mark Essel

        There are some grammatical accidents but the authors point was worth looking at (I’m more guilty than most in that dept). I’m trying to get my head around how almost.at defines the events in an automated fashion, either people are registering them online somewhere, or he’s got some pretty amazing semantic tool that can identify events from other trending keywords/hashtags.

  57. GiordanoBC

    One of the best channel for trusted direct communication, IMHO, is Twitter’s DM, since only people I follow can send me one. Naturally it has the limitation of 140 chars, which doesn’t allow for particularly articulate messages, but it can be used in combination with an email, to make the recipient aware of it, or a link to a longer message can be sent through it.In fact, since this is one of the few channels that allows only people I’m genuinely interested in to message me, an idea would be for Twitter to enable email clients to use it as a filter: the client would recognize that an email is from a person I follow on Twitter and mark it as important, or even send me a DM notification on Twitter itself. In fact, the latter could be developed as an indipendent Outlook plug-in. Anyone wants to do it? 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      Great idea.

  58. matthew

    I am not taking this approach. More of finding the messages, I use stumble upon and twitter. Have to look for what is important, otherwise I will not find it.

  59. patmcgraw

    My hope is that the news finds me after someone else has solved the issue…and some day I hope to realize that dream. 🙂 Until then, I scan what I can and respond to those that seem most important. I refuse to spend too much time trying to stay on top of the never ending flow and I refuse to feel bad about it.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s where I got to recently, particularly the part about feeling bad

  60. Sara F.

    Catching all emails is difficult. As a small business owner, this blog post makes me realize my monthly newsletters and promotions may end up in the deleted file also! So I began a search to find what makes people open emails and I came across this web site that has a bunch of information about internet and email marketing. I suggest anyone who is a small business owner check it out. It has helped me! http://www.wbsonline.com/re