In telecommunications, the channel noise level is the ratio of the channel noise at any point in a trasmission system to an arbitray level chosen as a reference. In genealogy the channel noise may be anything that is a distraction from doing research on your family lines. Telecommunication channel noise may contributed to transmission errors or even a blocked signal. In genealogy, if there is enough noise, you may not get any research done at all. So what constitutes channel noise for a genealogist?
In some cases, technology itself can become a form of channel noise to accomplishing basic research. For example, when I turn on my computer in the morning (yes, I am one of those who turn the computer off and on) I find my iGoogle page with Google Reader of the overnight blog posts and some news from a news reader. Almost always, I am instantly distracted. Of course, I have to see the latest developments in genealogy around the world such as Ancestry.com's purchase of ProGenealogists and other such happenings. Before I know it, I have spent a half hour or more and gotten no work done at all. This morning it was reading about someone falling off a cliff at the Grand Canyon. Not a very productive work topic.
Because I am partially deaf, I have no problem tuning out a lot of physical background noise. But at the same time, I have so many opportunities to be distracted by the remaining technology, my iPhone, the iPad, the TV with cable, the computer with iGoogle, that sometimes I find I have spent hours and not accomplished a thing. It doesn't help that I also have so many audio files, pod casts and images crammed onto all my computers and iPhone that I could listen for a month without repeating or read books for the rest of my life.
So how do you get control of the technology and not be controlled? As a society we are not very good a controlling our compulsive behavior. According to Nielsen Media Research's latest report, the average American household watches 8 hours and 15 minutes of television in a 24-hour period. The average amount of time per individual (over the age of 2) is about 4 and a half hours or over 35 hours a week. According to Nielsen, 59% of the population surf the Internet and watch TV at the same time. Now, if you measured my own TV time, it would probably be less than 5 hours a week, but if you factor in my time on the computer, the total might be over 40 hours a week. In any event, every hour spent watching TV is basically subtracted from your life's ability to do more genealogy.
There are a lot of online helps for controlling a TV habit which for many has become a serious addiction. But as genealogists, we need to understand that we all have a limited amount of disposable time to spend doing research. Watching TV or being involved in other non-directional entertainment media, subtracts time from that available for research. If you do have a TV habit, try reading some of the self-help material online. Here is an interesting article about breaking the TV habit.