I just finished looking into EMC’s new term “informationist”. Chuck has been talking about it for some time now and it has generated a lot of interest. I have been reading through the laundry list of posts over on his blog (I’m sure you saw he is in my aggregator) and took the time to watch the presentation he put up a few days ago.

Chuck has been presenting the informationist point of view, why it is becoming important, and explains the technologies involved. I highly recommend you go to Chuck’s blog, download the informationist manifesto presentation, and take the 25min to watch it before reading on.



Now that you are familiar with the thoughts and theories behind the term, let me explain my opinion. To do that I need to start at the beginning……

When I think of a technologist, I think of someone who “does” technology, they are interested in and adept at understanding technologies and applying that understanding to non-technology things (such as business, personal, world, or other problems). In other words, I think of a technologist as someone who can wield technology in such a way that it is useful to whatever purpose they deem. That means a technologist who is interested in music may be a MP3 device connoisseur, a MIDI programmer, or an iPhone innovator….a technologist interested in…say, cars could be an zune integrator, a speed regulator chip programmer, or a self cleaning wheel creator. The point here being that technologists come in many breeds and are rooted in enjoying technology in whatever ways please them (and of course for some, whatever ways pay the bills).

When I think of an Information Worker, I think of someone who has things to do….business problems to solve, supplies to purchase, numbers to analyze, financial reports to wade through, emails to read, reports to write, and research to do. These people have historically had it rough! They have had a lot of information to wade through and not a lot of tools to do it. This is part of why they have become known as Information Workers….that’s all they do is work with information.

Now here is where I personally get confused….where does the term informationist come from?

The suffix “-ist” is explained in the American Heritage dictionary as(1)…

  1. One that
    1. performs a specified action: lobbyist.
    2. produces, makes, operates, plays, or is connected with a specified thing: novelist.
  2. A specialist in a specified art, science, or skill: biologist.
  3. An adherent or advocate of a specified doctrine, theory, or school of thought: anarchist.
  4. One that is characterized by a specified trait or quality: romanticist.

Hmm, to me this is someone who creates information or someone knows how information is consumed. Maybe someone who writes or tells people how to write speeches/blogs/presentations/etc. Maybe someone who works with Microsoft Office; despite my complaints of following the herd, MS has really made a lot of strides with the Office product. This is somewhere they are leading the world and don’t seem to be stopping. Maybe someone who consults on the iPhone (btw, we need an Exchange email sync for the iPhone so I can ditch my BB).

That doesn’t seem to be the position being taken here though…

An informationist is being portrayed as someone who has a lot of information to deal with, crossed with someone who needs to know how to make that information useful to information workers.

 The suffix “-itis” is explained in the American Heritage dictionary as(2)…

  1. Inflammation or disease of: laryngitis.
  2. Excessive preoccupation with, indulgence in, reliance on, or possession of the qualities of: televisionitis.

Hmm, this sounds a little more like it… be honest I wrote that in the title as a joke….but an excessive preoccupation with information…an indulgence in information…….a reliance on information……this is really sounding like it’s spot on to the problem being addressed here.

Companies that EMC is targeting are suffering seriously from informationitis! They have too much information that is managed in too many different ways. They don’t know how to consolidate their practices (now that their data has already been consolidated). Their business relies on this information to the core and business processes will break if the information is not accurate. They are indulging in poor information management practices that is leaving data insecure and un-retrievable.

So what do you call the person who is solving informationitis? A technologist that is focused on information (vs. other technical things)……hmm, I am not an English major…but I think technologist is still the term – a practitioner of technology – a data devotee – an acronym aficionado – an information technologist……

Then again Chuck, if your offering a 20% pay increase to change my mind…..I’d be happy to be an informationist :)


1. -ist. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from website:

2. -itis. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from website:

6 Responses to “Information-itis?”

  1. Chuck Hollis Says:

    Ha! Love the post …

    I think you’ve done me one better by extending the thought to “information-itis”. And I think it’ll be a useful way to describe the symptoms associated with poor information management.

    I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I’ve actually met people who self-describe as “informationists”. They see themselves as policy leaders in large, information-centric organizations trying to fill the gap between the business’ aggregate information needs, and the project-orientation of IT.

    I’d like to meet more.

    And I think you’re setting the bar too low at 20% pay differential. The folks I met didn’t look like they were hurting too much in the compensation department.

    Thanks again!

  2. joshmaher Says:

    That is interesting that people are self-describing as informationists. That certainly clears up the term better and the role you are describing is certainly rising in importance for organizations.

    Curing informationitis will be an interesting quest, how do companies discover this problem, what human skills are necessary to solve the problem, and what technology is needed to solve the problem….

  3. Curing Informationitis « Messaging….. Technology…… Life….. Says:

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  4. Information Infrastructure « Messaging….. Technology…… Life….. Says:

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