What is the filter ladder?
I came up with this concept while talking to a Harvard professor I met at the airport the other day. He asked how I dealt with information overload and, as I explained it to him, I realized that his filters were higher than mine.
In other words, I was willing to read more crap than him. I’m willing to go through more bad books, more bad blog posts, and vote them up/down on things like Reddit, Digg, etc.
Basically his Slashdot comment threshold is set to 4 or 5. Mine is set to 2 or 3.
The result of this is a filter ladder, where you informally decide what level of crap you’re willing to deal with in order to receive information first, based on your personality, tolerance, patience, etc.
What does this mean for both of us? By definition, it means more orthodox ideas reach him and less crap. He only pays attention to reputed sources.
For me, it means I waste a lot of time, but I may see interesting ideas first. So I’ll find out before him about a big news event, maybe, but he won’t waste time sorting through stuff that’s not worth looking at.
Both of us benefit in different ways from what we decide on. He wastes less time, while I see edgier stuff. Know what I mean?
Another metaphor for this is “7 Layers of Heaven/9 Layers of Hell” theory of information filtration. If you think about it that way, it could go like this:
At the bottom are the demons (ie robots/daemons 😉 ) in the bottom level of Hell that go through the spam, then people that go through the new sections of recommendation engines, where there’s still a ton of crap to sort through.
Then there’s people that read blogs, then newspapers, etc. An we can follow this all the way up to the top academics that only read the papers the PhD students write (the highest level of “heaven”). This wasn’t where Thomas was, but I think you see my point.
Do you know what level are you at? Where are most of your friends? Do you see a big difference in results from being where you are?