49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
A rambling look at an important subject,
This review is from: Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (Hardcover)The big contribution of "Everything is Miscellaneous", I think, is the concept of "orders". "First-order order" is structuring, like the placement of sentences in a text or products on a shelf. "Second-order order" is classification, putting information into categories and subcategories, maps,, etc. "Third-order order" is tagging and other meta-data, which allow us to make our own categorization on the fly ("give me a list of all books in this bookstore, divided by century published and subdivided by genre"). It's a neat set of phrasing, and if the book is not remembered for anything else, hopefully that taxonomy will remain.
Where the book falls short, though, is in its own "first-order order", its organization of ideas; which may be sadly appropriate for a book extolling "messiness". The book jumps from topic to topic, introducing ideas and people seemingly (to my mind) haphazardly, and in a way that makes it hard to keep track of all that has been covered. A better system of organization might have been chronological. After all, the full possibilities of tagging, or "third-order order", have only been enabled by computers and the Web. How much more interesting could it have been if we could see the progression of techniques for ordering and taxonomy through time, as a function of improving information technologies? Have there been pre-computer attempts at tagging? You can get a sense for some of these issues by piecing out the historical anecdotes Weinberger places, but it would have been easier to see them in a more natural order.
On that note, I also think Weinberger gives too little time to historical attempts at classification. The book does contain interesting examples of thoughts about categorization, from the ancient Greeks onward, but too often Weinberger stacks the deck against previous generations, by bringing in such loaded examples as apartheid South Africa's classification of races or psychiatrists' old definition of homosexuality as an illness. That unfairness extends even to book classification, where Weinberger talks at length about the badly-designed Dewey Decimal System, but ignores the Library of Congress system, which is nearly as old and much better-produced.
Blogs, on the other hand, get a lot more attention in the book than I think they should: they do not provide meta-data at all but rather commentary, and those two are not the same thing. Weinberger does not clarify that distinction, and in fact at one point asserts that "everything is metadata". That's not true in any rigorous sense, and I think just further confuses the issue.
On other current technologies I give "Everything is Miscellaneous" a mixed review. Wikipedia gets a prominent mention, as it should, but there's no discussion of categories within Wikipedia, which is the biggest effort at what could be called "collaborative tagging", as distinct from the standard web model of every user creating their own tags. And there's a nice discussion of the Semantic Web, but none of semantic wikis; Weinberger missed a chance to think a little ahead of 2007 (I'm speculating here a little bit).
For an information-science enthusiast like me, just about any discussion of classification is interesting; however, this book unfortunately does not provide a solid or clear overview of the theory of classification, instead getting caught up in what I see as Web boosterism. Yes, the Web has changed a lot about categorization, but not *everything* on the Web has done that.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 31, 2009 5:32:19 PM PST
I would agree that this book appears to lack order...I might also add that perhaps it's an intentional reflection of the "third order" that Weinberger discusses in the miscellaneous environment that we know of as the digital Web. It certainly contains characteristics of Clay Shirky's book entitled Here Comes Everybody, in which he strives to give readers multiple examples that could be elaborated on, leading to a more cohesive conclusion.
Posted on Jul 9, 2009 11:15:46 AM PDT
Frank Kovac says:
Small murmur. Yes the LOC is better produced but one can question whether the system is better than the DDS if only because 26 letters are more burdensome than 10 digits. If the DDS were updated every 10 years with the Census most of its evils would be gone and the updates would provide employment for our sons and daughters who distressingly enough got into that field.
And, thanks to Weinberger's liberating influence, how about playing with a Wiki catalog.
Posted on Oct 29, 2009 8:12:11 PM PDT
A. J. Cecala says:
Perhaps Weinberger's most important idea in "Everything is Miscellaneous", is that knowledge and understanding are intrinsically dependent on the viewpoint of the observer. Understandably, information-science enthusiasts may find the book to be rambling as well as paradigm-busting. As an early piece of work on this subject (of the third-order), one might argue that Weinberger makes statements that are too broad and too strong. I disagree, if he's going to reconceptualize information-science, he might as well do so with gusto!
I agree that his examples are limited, but that is because the field is in its infancy. Yet, Amazon, Wikipedia, Flickr, and Zillow are not only successful, they are far superior to their competitors precisely because they embrace the third-order principles outlined in the book.
What the The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition did for the understanding of markets as conversations "Everything is Miscellaneous" is doing for the understanding of understanding.
Posted on Dec 22, 2011 11:54:45 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Apr 27, 2012 11:22:54 PM PDT]
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