David Weinberger's "Everything is Miscellaneous" is the kind of book that binds together innumerable miscellaneous
threads and makes something new, coherent, and incontrovertible out of them. Weinberger's thesis is this: historically, we've divided the world into categories, topics, and hierarchies because physical objects need to be in one place or another, they can't be in all the places they might belong. Computers and the Internet turn this on its head: because a computer can "put things" in as many categories as they need to be in, because individuals can classify knowledge, tasks, and objects idiosyncratically, the hierarchy is revealed for what it always was, a convenient expedient masquerading as the True Shape of the Universe.
It's a powerful idea: from org charts to science, from music to retail theory, from government to education, every field of human endeavor is tinged with hierarchy, and every hierarchy is under assault from the Internet. One impact of this change is that it reveals the biases lurking underneath the editorial carvery of our systems. From the Dewey Decimal system's laughable clunkers (mentalist bunkum gets its own category, but Islam has to share a decimal with a couple competing "Eastern" faiths) to the Britannica's paring away at "old" biographies to make way for the new, Weinberger makes a compelling case for a new kind of knowledge that more faithfully represents the messy, glorious hairball of the real world.
This celebration of hairiness is just the tonic for the fights being waged today over whether bloggers are real journalists, whether Wikipedia is a real encyclopedia, even whether chaotic guerrilla armies are real armies or mere "enemy combatants." Weinberger shows that Internet messiness has a special quality that distinguishes it from meatspace mess. On the Internet, messiness can be used to make sense of the world: Flickr tags can be grouped (people lump "rome" and "italy" together, so they must be related) with other characteristics ("lots of people call this picture their favorite") and combined with search terms ("more people search for "italy" than "itayl," so the latter is probably a typo) and the most interesting pictures of Rome, Italy can be automatically surfaced, thanks to all the messy, uncoordinated, unchecked, unintentional meaning that the Internet's users infuse its pages with.
Everything is Miscellaneous is the latest inspiration from Weinberger, whose Small Pieces, Loosely Joined and Cluetrain Manifesto were important contributions to our understanding of the Internet. Weinberger's conversational style, excellent examples, and extensive legwork (the places he visits and people he interviews can best be described as wonderfully miscellaneous) give this the hallmarks of an instant classic. And unlike many business/tech books, whose simple thesis could be stated in a single New Yorker article, but which are nevertheless expanded to book-length for commercial reasons, every chapter in Everything is Miscellaneous brings new insight to the subject. This is a hell of a book.
See also: Cory interviewed by David Weinberger about metadata
The office I work in is full of things old people buy to make themselves feel young again. I can honestly say that our awesome new toy, The Swagtron T3 Hoverboard, makes me feel very, very old. I’ll explain why later. Swagtron T3 Pros There’s no way to overcharge the battery and that means no […]
One thing that’s consistent among amateur pool players is that they unknowingly stand up during their shots. Just as in golf, pool players need to keep their heads down and stay still after they shoot in order to hit straight. The DIGICUE helps keep shots consistent by letting you know every time you’ve had extra […]
A leaked memo from Apple CEO Tim Cook to his staff explaining why he met with Donald Trump — a guy who called Apple traitors for refusing to defeat their own security — explains the rationale: “tax reform.”
Looking to upgrade your weekend? Here are three randomly awesome products on my mind this week.#3 FRESHeBUDS Pro Magnetic Bluetooth EarbudsAs more and more phones and gadgets switch to Bluetooth-only compatibility, you’ll need to get Bluetooth headphones like the rest of us. I’ve been super impressed with these affordable magnetic headphones. Pull the magnetic earbuds apart to auto-connect […]
Traditional folding wallets are designed for paper bills—but these days, carrying cash is rarely a necessity. More often than not, I don’t carry cash at all. This Bogui Clik Wallet is the best answer I’ve found for avoiding the hassle of those tight-fitting credit card pockets.This attractive, minimalist wallet features a protective lip, so my cards don’t […]
Using my iPhone while it’s charging is always a hassle. With tucked-away outlets and the meager length of included lightning cables, comfortable scrolling while plugged in is annoying. These 10-Ft MFi-Certified Lightning Cables are super convenient and probably the best iPhone accessory purchase I’ve made.At over three times the length of normal cables, these reach anywhere you […]