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Jo Pearce
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble.
Hacking Your Head
Managing Inform...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
What is Information Overload?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
“Surviving the collision with tomorrow…”
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
“…there are discoverable limits to the amount o...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Information Overload
Anxiety
Hostility
Senseles...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
A soldier falls asleep “while a storm of machin...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The overwhelming office?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
20 million words of new technical
information a...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
After reading the information for that one day
...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Information Fatigue Syndrome
Poor Concentration...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
There is always a lot to learn
Information over...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
How do we learn?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Working Memory Long Term Memory
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Working Memory
Processes Information
Active Thi...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Long Term Memory
Enormous Capacity
Cannot engag...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Results of learning
Knowledge Retrieval
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Schemas
Multiple Elements Single Schema
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Novice Learner Schemas
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Experienced Learner Schemas
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Understanding Our Limitations
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The Magical Number 7 ± 2
(George A. Miller, 195...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The Magical Number 7 ± 2
(George A. Miller, 195...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The Magical Number 7 ± 2
(George A. Miller, 195...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The Magical (but finite) Number X?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Schema=
Novice Experienced
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
How do we work with our
limitations?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Cognitive Load Theory
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Defines cognitive load as the total amount of me...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Total cognitive load is comprised of three type...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task ...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task ...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Epic
User Story
TaskTaskTask
User Story
TaskTas...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Imposed by distractions or tasks which are irre...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Try working somewhere quieter…
…or wearing head...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Reduce the number of tools or libraries to a mi...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Imposed by distractions or tasks which are irre...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Load imposed by tasks which are relevant to an ...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Repetition = Practice
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Context Variation
Tree?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Load imposed by tasks which are relevant to an ...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
We constantly need to learn…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
But there are limits on our ability to learn…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Manage
Intrinsic
Load
Increase
Relevant
Load
+
...
Jo Pearce
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble.
Thanks!
Any questions?
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Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload

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There are limits on our ability to learn and process information.
Overloading ourselves with information can impact productivity by
causing psychological and physiological stress.
In this talk I relate some findings from the world of cognitive
psychology that can help us understand how, as developers, we might be
overloading ourselves.
I'll also describe some simple techniques to avoid suffering
information overload or imposing it on others.

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Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload

  1. 1. Jo Pearce @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble. Hacking Your Head Managing Information Overload
  2. 2. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk What is Information Overload?
  3. 3. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk “Surviving the collision with tomorrow…”
  4. 4. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk “…there are discoverable limits to the amount of change that the human organism can absorb” “…without first determining these limits we may submit masses of [people] to demands they simply cannot tolerate.” Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, 1970)
  5. 5. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Information Overload Anxiety Hostility Senseless Violence Physical Illness Depression Apathy
  6. 6. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk A soldier falls asleep “while a storm of machine gun bullets splattered around him” not due to physical tiredness, but a “sense of overpowering apathy”. Soldiers became hypersensitive and would “hit the dirt” at the slightest stimuli, increasingly showing anxiety and anger at the slightest inconvenience. The effects of overload in WWII
  7. 7. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  8. 8. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The overwhelming office?
  9. 9. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk 20 million words of new technical information are recorded each day. Jackson, W. (2001). Information overload and managerial roles: A naturalistic study of engineers. At 1000 words/minute, 8 hours/day this is six weeks of reading.
  10. 10. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk After reading the information for that one day you would have fallen behind by 5.5 years! Jackson, W. (2001). Information overload and managerial roles: A naturalistic study of engineers.
  11. 11. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Information Fatigue Syndrome Poor Concentration Hurry Sickness Pervasive Hostility Stress Depression Lowered Immune Response “Burn out”
  12. 12. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  13. 13. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  14. 14. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk There is always a lot to learn Information overload is a learning problem!
  15. 15. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk How do we learn?
  16. 16. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Working Memory Long Term Memory
  17. 17. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Working Memory Processes Information Active Thinking & Learning
  18. 18. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Long Term Memory Enormous Capacity Cannot engage in thinking or learning processes
  19. 19. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Results of learning Knowledge Retrieval
  20. 20. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Schemas Multiple Elements Single Schema
  21. 21. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  22. 22. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Novice Learner Schemas
  23. 23. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Experienced Learner Schemas
  24. 24. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Understanding Our Limitations
  25. 25. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956)
  26. 26. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956) Working Memory Information In
  27. 27. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956) Overloaded Working Memory Information In
  28. 28. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The Magical (but finite) Number X?
  29. 29. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Schema= Novice Experienced
  30. 30. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk How do we work with our limitations?
  31. 31. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Cognitive Load Theory
  32. 32. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Defines cognitive load as the total amount of mental effort being used in the working memory Describes a universal set of principles for managing cognitive load that lead to efficient learning. What is Cognitive Load Theory?
  33. 33. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Total cognitive load is comprised of three types: Intrinsic Load Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load Germane (Relevant) Load
  34. 34. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task being performed. e.g. Learning to juggle 10 balls is inherently more complex than learning to juggle 3. Intrinsic Load
  35. 35. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task being performed. Manage by breaking large tasks into smaller ones! Intrinsic Load
  36. 36. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Epic User Story TaskTaskTask User Story TaskTaskTask User Story TaskTaskTask
  37. 37. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Imposed by distractions or tasks which are irrelevant to the goal. Coping with a loud environment Unfamiliarity with a development tool Unreadable code e.g. Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load
  38. 38. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Try working somewhere quieter… …or wearing headphones?
  39. 39. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Reduce the number of tools or libraries to a minimum…
  40. 40. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  41. 41. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  42. 42. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Imposed by distractions or tasks which are irrelevant to the goal. Manage by reducing the number of irrelevant distractions and tasks! Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load
  43. 43. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Load imposed by tasks which are relevant to an overall goal. Repetition and context variation give us the skills to apply knowledge in a wider variety of situations. Germane (Relevant) Load Helps us to connect bits of information and form more complex schemas
  44. 44. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Repetition = Practice
  45. 45. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Context Variation Tree?
  46. 46. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Load imposed by tasks which are relevant to an overall goal. e.g. If the goal is to promote better understanding of a codebase Vary the areas of the codebase a developer works in Pair junior developers with those more experienced to gain varied perspectives and skills Germane (Relevant) Load
  47. 47. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk We constantly need to learn…
  48. 48. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk But there are limits on our ability to learn…
  49. 49. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Manage Intrinsic Load Increase Relevant Load + Reduce Irrelevant Load + = Efficient Learning & Increased Productivity Cognitive Load Theory
  50. 50. Jo Pearce @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble. Thanks! Any questions?

There are limits on our ability to learn and process information. Overloading ourselves with information can impact productivity by causing psychological and physiological stress. In this talk I relate some findings from the world of cognitive psychology that can help us understand how, as developers, we might be overloading ourselves. I'll also describe some simple techniques to avoid suffering information overload or imposing it on others.

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