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Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room Hardcover – January 3, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Marc Benioff, chairman, CEO salesforce.com, bestselling author of Behind the Cloud
“Led by the Internet, knowledge is now social, mobile, and open. Weinberger shows how to unlock the benefits.”


John Seely Brown, co-author of The Social Life of Information and A New Culture of Learning
 “Too Big to Know is a stunning and profound book on how our concept of knowledge is changing in the age of the Net. It honors the traditional social practices of knowing, where genres stay fixed, and provides a graceful way of understanding new strategies for knowing in today's rapidly evolving, networked world. I couldn't put this book down. It is a true tour-de-force written in a delightful way.”
Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“With this insightful book, David Weinberger cements his status as one of the most important thinkers of the digital age. If you want to understand what it means to live in a world awash in information, Too Big to Know is the guide you've been looking for.”
Tony Burgess, Cofounder, CompanyCommand.com
“David Weinberger’s Too Big to Know is an inspiring read—especially for networked leaders who already believe that the knowledge to change the world is living and active, personal, and vastly interconnected. If, as David writes, “Knowledge is becoming inextricable from—literally unthinkable without—the network that enables it” our great task as leaders is to design networks for the greater good. David casts the vision and gives us excellent examples of what that looks like in action, even as he warns us of the pitfalls that await us.”
David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States
Too Big to Know is a refreshing antidote to the doomsday literature of information overload. Acknowledging the important roles that smart mobs and wise crowds have played, David Weinberger focuses on solutions to the crisis in knowledge—translating information into new knowledge by exploiting the network.  Based upon the premise that ‘knowledge lives not in books, not in heads, but on the net,’ Weinberger outlines a bold net infrastructure strategy that is inclusive rather that exclusive, creates more useful information—metadata, exploits linking technologies, and encourages institutional participation.  The result is a network that is both ‘a commons and a wilds’ where the excitement lies in the limitless possibilities that connected human beings can realize.”
Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus
Too Big To Know is Weinberger's brilliant synthesis of myriad little debates—information overload, echo chambers, the wisdom of crowds—into a single vision of life and work in an era of networked knowledge.”


About the Author

David Weinberger is a Senior Researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for the Internet and Society. He is the author of Small Pieces Loosely Joined, Everything Is Miscellaneous, and a coauthor of The Cluetrain Manifesto. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465021425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465021420
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Corwin J. Joy on April 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The premise of this book is that somehow networked organizations and networked thinking will lead to better, smarter decisions. As long as we include a sufficient diversity of opinions and experience in the networks helping us make our decisions we will arrive at better, more informed answers. In fact, as the amount of information explodes, these networks will be the only way to manage all the information we are creating.

Here's the problem. I don't think anyone will dispute that reaching out the to internet to search for knowledge can get reasonable answers quickly. Also, running contests where many experts are involved can get good results. The problem is, if you are solving a real problem at the end of the day somebody actually has to do the work to get an answer. A "network" isn't going to magically come up with an answer. Also, reaching out to a wide group on the internet often results in the same stupid *wrong* answers to a problem being circulated around and around and around. Networks can just as easily work in a negative direction recycling stupidity rather than knowledge. There doesn't seem to be much of a role in this book for sustained critical and deep thinking about a problem to arrive at a solution. This doesn't make sense to me since much of human progress continues to come from sustained hard work by individuals working to achieve expertise in an area and focusing on a single problem at a time. This book makes some good points about how our relationship with information is changing to rely more on networks of our colleagues or friends to filter and absorb the massive amounts of information created every year. However, the author's confidence that networked thinking and organizations will magically solve many of our problems is happy nonsense, in my opinion.
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Format: Hardcover
Having his background in philosophy, perhaps no one had expected David Weinberger to write a book on a topic that is at the heart and soul of librarians, i.e. cataloguing and classification. In the modern notion of the term this is called metadata. When Everything is Miscellaneous was published in May 2007, at first it was as if some war was waged against Melville Dewey's classification system, especially the class 200 for Religion. Some protagonists in the field such as Peter Morville responded with an apt blog entry arguing that "Not Everything is Miscellaneous". In his book, even more in his several book talks, Weinberger mocked not only Melville Dewey and Michael Gorman but also Aristotle, albeit with a great caution. In many ways though, the book has slowly been well received and cited widely in the library and information science literature. The book would be considered as disruptive in its argument against some of the conceptual foundations of library and information science, mainly classification and categorisation systems. In Everything is Miscellaneous, Weinberger called for a total rethink of not only the notion of classification systems but also the very definition of metadata. For him, "metadata is what you already know and data is what you're trying to find out" (Weinberger, 2007, p.104).

Now his new book is out as of early January 2012. Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.
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Format: Hardcover
A few reviewers complain that this book is a bit scattered and lacking a clear, explicitly stated, thesis. I somewhat agree with them, so let me try, as best I can, to give you what I think the author's core message is.

In the vein of philosophical postmodernism, David Weinberger's underlying idea is that what we come to call knowledge changes in 'shape' with the media we are using to convey and absorb it. And for quite a long time, we have been using the media of the printed word, in scrolls, books, magazines, academic journals, etc. And the consequence of this is that knowledge appears to be somewhat neat, tidy, and resting on foundations. Thus, I go to a library to get a book (which is published only after a rigorous peer review or editing process), and read its very linear argument where one chapter builds on another to reach a conclusion. When needed, the author cites authorities in footnotes, which I will seldom check myself because of the time and energy (if not monetary) cost involved. And while the author can anticipate my objections, we are having a one-way conversation where the author is talking to me (and where I can talk to myself in an 'inner dialogue' but not to the author).

Now, Weinberger writes, since the technology is changing, how we think about what knowledge will surely change also. First, it is becoming glaringly apparent how little information any one of us can absorb. While information was abundant with books, this fact was somewhat 'hidden' because only a fraction of all total information was published, and only a fraction of that was carried in libraries and bookstores, and only a fraction of that was ever seen by any individual reader.
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