Infogineering: The Basics

Infogineering™ is about how to make the information you create and consume more valuable. It provides a structured approach to better handle the information you deal with – either in your personal or work life.

For example, you’ve just spent 15 minutes writing an e-mail. You’re sitting there, looking at the screen, wondering how to make it better. Infogineering gives you a series of things to do just that.

Infogineering sets out to answer three basic questions:

  • What (exactly) is information?
    How is it different from data and knowledge?
  • Why is information valuable?
    Why is one piece of information worth more to us than another? Why do we pay more for books than for newspapers?
  • How do we make the information we create more valuable?
    What generic principles allow us to quickly and easily improve any form of information – e-mails, reports, letters, web pages, etc?

Why is it called “Infogineering”?

The word “Infogineering” is a blend of the words Information and Engineering.

Information comes from the word “Inform.” It gives us a way to store and transfer data and knowledge – and can be written down, recorded on video or audio or spoken. It could be a newspaper, an e-mail, a report, a voicemail message… even a scribble on a sticky-note. Anything that you can extract knowledge from. It could be designed for your own use, or for someone else.

Engineering is the modification of physical objects to change their value. Take a pile of wood, put it through a set of processes (cutting, drilling, screwing together) and you have a chair – which is generally worth more than the bits of wood on their own.

Infogineering applies the same principle to information. You take any piece of information, put it through a set of processes (the Infogineering Processes) and you change its value. The aim is to make it more valuable for the person that is going to be using it.

The Infogineering Model

The Infogineering Model lays out how data, information and knowledge lead to decisions. By understanding the relationships between these, and take a wider view of what is going on, we can use information more effectively in our work and lives.

Infogineering Model

For example, sensors across the world capture facts on the weather (data), then computers turn this into TV forecasts (information), from which we can know (knowledge) what the weather is likely to be tomorrow. We can then choose (decision) to cancel our hiking trip.

If either the information or knowledge we form from it is faulty – we could make the wrong decision.

Where does the value of Information Come From?

According to Infogineering, the value of any information source comes from:

  1. its ability to entertain us
  2. its ability to help us make the right decisions
  3. its tradability

Infogineering is not concerned with entertainment because that is in the realm of art and philosophy.

The main focus is on the decision-making aspect.

The decision-making and tradeability values are related – information workers are often creating information that helps other people to make the right decisions – and they “trade” this for their wages.

Infogineering is about reshaping information to help people make the right decisions as quickly as possible.

The Infogineering Processes

Infogineering has a series of Processes, which provide a systematic way to help you make the information you produce more valuable.

These include:

  • Customisation
  • Simplification
  • Disambiguation
  • Aggregation
  • Layered Complexity
  • Formatting
  • Colouring
  • Layout
  • Icons and Graphics
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