Too Big to Know
Everything Is Miscellaneous
My 100 Million Dollar Secret
Small Pieces Loosely Joined
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How Louis C.K. Won the Internet: The comedian Louis C.K. has been trying some innovative, customer-friendly business models. But what they're really about is treating the Net as a chance for a moral do-over.
Louis C.K. now famously sold his latest comedy album over the Internet direct to his audience for $5, with no DRM to get in the way of our ability to play it on any device we want, and even to share it. After making over a million dollars in a few days (and after giving most of his profits to his staff and to charity) Louis went to great pains to schedule his upcoming comedy tour in venues not beholden to their TicketMasters, so that he could sell tickets straight to his audience for a flat $45, free of scalpers. So far he's made over $6 million in ticket sales.
But Louis C.K. also thereby — in the vocabulary of Reddit — won the Internet...
Representing scholarly knowledge: You don't want to get it to narrow. You don't want to get it too broad. You want to get it juuuust right. And very messy.
Neil Jeffries, research and development manager at the Bodleian Libraries, has posted an excellent op-ed at Wikipedia Signpost about how to best represent scholarly knowledge in an imperfect world.
He is admirably realistic, acknowledging that we're not going to start from scratch and design some perfect standards that everyone will perfectly follow...
Contest: Particles that explain mysterious Internet behaviors.
February 20, 2012
Too Big to Know: I worked on a book for a couple of years, and now it's out. Yay?
So, I wrote this book about how knowledge is taking on the characteristics of its new medium, just as it had taken on the characteristics of its old one.
It came out in the beginning of January, and I find myself feeling awkward about writing about it to you, probably because I can't do so without pitching it.
So, how about if I tell you two ways I think it's different from my other books, other than in its topic?
Culture is an echo chamber: We all hate echo chambers in which a bunch of yahoos convince one another that they're right. But, our fear of echo chambers can blind us to their important social role. Just take a look at Reddit.com...
I have a friend in the media business who is making a good-faith effort to understand how the Internet works. I decided that Reddit would be one good place to start, and that the Woody Harrelson Affair would be a useful example of how to go wrong on the Net and, by inverting it, how perhaps to go right.
What started as a brief message got longer and longer as I tried to unpack the self-references and multiple layers of irony in the Reddit thread...
Report from the DPLA platform.: Surprisingly, I'm interim head of the project building the software platform for the Digital Public Library of America. Here's what's going on.
The Digital Public Library of America is a bit like a book that started with nothing but a really good title. Only as it's being written (so to speak) is it becoming clear exactly what it's about.
The DPLA originated from a meeting of major libraries and other institutions in the fall of 2010, and it's got a whole bunch of things going for it, particularly the interest and support of major libraries and other institutions. Although Robert Darnton — one of the meeting's conveners — has written beautifully and influentially about his vision of it [video], as far as I can tell there is not yet full agreement about some of the basics...
In love with linked data: The Semantic Web requires a lot of engineering. So along comes this scrappy contender that says we ought to just make our data public and see what happens. Brilliant!
My prior book expressed discomfort with a direction the Semantic Web was being taken by some. My new book is all lovey-dovey about Linked Data, which is also part of the Semantic Web. What's the diff? Well, I'll tell you how I "understand" it...
Contest: #Stories If history were written in hashtags.
August 18, 2009
Recently, the tenth
anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto came out, a book I
co-authored. Here's some of what we got wrong in the original version.
In the new edition's introduction, I list a
bunch of ways the world has become cluetrain-y, many of which
we take for granted. The fact is that I think Cluetrain was pretty much
right. Of course, at the time we thought we were simply
articulating things about the Web that were obvious to
users but that many media and business folks needed to hear.
But Cluetrain also got some important things
wrong...and I don't mean just Thesis #74: "We are immune to
advertising. Just forget it."
1: Will our kids appreciate
the Internet?: Will the Net become just another medium that
we take for granted?
love the Internet because even now, fifteen years into the Web, I
remember what life used to be like. In fact, give me half a beer and
I'll regale you with tales of typing my dissertation on an IBM Model B
electric, complete with carbon paper and Wite-Out. Let me finish my
beer and I'll explain microfiche to you, you young whippersnappers.
The coming generation, the one that's been
on the Internet, aren't going to love it the way that we do...
The shared lessons of the Net: The Net teaches all its users
(within a particular culture) some common lessons. And if that makes me
a technodeterminist, then so be it.
In my network of friends and colleagues, there's
a schism. Some of us like to make generalizations about the Net. Others
then mention that actual data shows that the Net is different to
different people. Even within the US population, people's experience of
widely. So, when middle class, educated, white men of a certain age
talk as if what they're excited about on the Net is what everyone is
excited about, those white men are falling prey to the oldest fallacy
in the book.
Of course that's right. My experience of the Web is not
that of, say,
a 14 year old Latina girl who's on MySpace, doesn't ever update
articles, isn't on Twitter, considers email to be a tool
her parents use, and — gasp — hasn't ever tagged a single page. The
difference is real and really
important. And yet ...
3: How to tell you're in a culture gap: You'll love or hate
this link, which illustrates our non-uniform response to the Net.
The news' old value:
1: Transparency is
the new objectivity: Objectivity and credibility through
authority were useful ways to come to reliable belief back when paper
constrained ideas. In a linked world, though, transparency carries a
lot of that burden.
Tom Friedman to the F Bomb: Traditional news media are being
challenged at the most basic level by the fact that news has been a
rectangular object, not a medium. Let the news be a network!
Bogus Contest: Net PC-ness:
should we be politically correct about in the Age of the Web?
November 21, 2008
home: A talk to the people in the Chinese
government designing ways to use the Net to deliver
want to make two claims in today's
presentation. First, the Internet is strange. Unexpected. We sometimes
especially in groups like this one, people who deal with
the Internet every day. We can forget just how much the Internet has
changed our lives, our communities, and our cultures. The second
claim is harder to support. It is that for all its strangeness, the
Internet actually reflects who we are as human beings better than the
media it's replacing...
the Internet been saved?: Obama's appointments to head the
FCC transition team fill me with joy.
Schultze stopped me in the hallway and told me that Susan Crawford
had been appointed head
of Obama's FCC transition team, I thought I was being punk'd. It was
too good to be true.
Stephen and I went to an open computer and Googled. Yup.
But the news was actually even better: Kevin
Werbach has been appointed
was giddy with joy, for two reasons...
October 18, 2008
As we exit the Information Age, we can begin to see how our idea of
information has shaped our view of who we are.
computers were first
introduced, we resented them as
soulless machines that enforced
efficiency over humanity. Yet, now discipline after discipline has
reconceived itself as being fundamentally about information. DNA, we
think, is information, in the form of a code. Businesses
measure success by the
informational models they build. Economies
run on models, until the bottom of the cliff smashes some sense into
them. The brain
information. We contrast atoms
bits, as if bits were as fundamental and ubiquitous as atoms.1
the stuff of physics,
are understood by some — see Charles Seife's excellent
the Universe" — as nothing but
information processed by
the computer formerly known as the universe.
cradle to grave, from quirk to quark, we have
thoroughly informationalized ourselves. Now, as we are exiting the Age
of Information — oh yes we are — is a good
time to ask what information had done
to our world and our way of thinking about it.
1978: What a 1978 anthology predicts about the
future of the computer tells us a lot the remarkable turn matters have
thirty years ago, some professors at MIT published a book of essays
looking back at twenty years of computing history, and looking forward
twenty. Called The Computer
Age: A Twenty-Year View, edited by
Michael Dertouzos and Joel Moses, its essays were written in
late 1970s, back when if you knew how to use a computer you could
probably also name every "away team" in the first season of Star Trek.
idea: Text from audio: Anyone care to write
software that would make it much easier to edit spoken audio?
Contest: Name that software!
May 30, 2008
much do we have to care about? Even if the
coverage of most of the world didn't suck, would we care? Are we
capable of caring
sufficiently? (Annotated by Ethan Zuckerman!)
population of Nigeria roughly equals the population of Japan. Yet, the
amount of space given to Nigeria by the US news media makes it about
the size of Britney Spears' left pinky toe. Why?
researchers have been considering this question for generations. Do
American newspaper editors skimp on Nigeria because they're racists?
least not in the straightforward way. Is it because the readers don't
care about Nigeria? Somewhat. But how will we ever care if we never
about it? We seem to be stuck in vicious circle, or what's
worse, a circle of not-caring...
Cerf's curiosity: If we are indeed getting more of a stomach
complex, what role has our technology played?
magazine recently ran an interview
with him that they busted up
into a series of unrelated quotations. I was particularly
struck by one little
"The closer you look at something, the more complex it seems
of Esquire's disaggregation of the
have to guess
at Cerf's tone of voice. My guess is that he said this with a sense of
wonder and delight, not out of frustration. Of course, I may be reading
Cerf's mind inaccurately. But the plausibility of that reading is
History's wavefront: When we can record just about
everything, history loses its past. And, no, I don't know what I mean
Bookstore in NYC has eighteen miles of books, which
works out to about 2.5
million volumes. My excellent
local library has 409,000. The
Strand's shelves press the shoppers together, giving
that the place is alive with the love of books. The library is quieter
because emptier. Even so, the library
has something the Strand does not: history.
assumed that knowledge
was always there, just waiting to be known...
and Woodstock: Am
I so enthusiastic about the ROFLcon conference because it was important
or just because I'm out of touch?
Woodstock. For two hours. I was supposed to meet a girl there. Hahaha.
Instead, I wandered around, hoping someone would offer me something to
smoke to get me through the Melanie
performance. So, let me
recap: I was at
Woodstock, didn't meetup with the girl I was infatuated with, didn't
get stoned, and heard Melanie. Also, it was raining. Still, I was at
which used to give me street cred, but now just makes me obsolete.
forget my experience and take Woodstock as a
event at which the young realized they were more a potential
movement and not just a demographic slice. ROFLcon felt
something like that...
the Web different? The
definitive and final answer.
taught a course this past semester
for the first time in 22 years. The course was called "The
Web Difference," which was apt
since it was about whether
the Web is actually much different from what
came before it, with an emphasis on what that might mean for law and
During the final
class session, I took a survey...
The Turing Tests:
Throwback humor, in both senses.
fool. I won't spend the money yet, but it's only a matter of time
before Van Klammer will lose our bet. I don't care about winning the
$100, of course. I'll use it to buy something I'll use frequently, to
me of my moral and
intellectual victory. Perhaps a set of mugs inscribed with "Courtesy of
Contest: Surely anagrams can't be random!
the Web different? Is the Web just the next medium in our
history of media, or is it a spiritual
transformation, the great hope, blah-di-blah-di-blah?
question "Is the Web different?" is actually not so much a question as
a shibboleth in the original sense: The answer determines which tribe
The Web utopians point to the ways in which the Web has changed some of
the basic assumptions about how we live together, removing old
obstacles and enabling shiny new possibilities.
The Web dystopians agree that the Web is having a major effect on our
lives. They, however, think that effect is detrimental.
The Web realists say the Web hasn't had nearly as much effect as the
utopians and dystopians proclaim. The Web carries with it certain
possibilities and limitations, but (the realists say) not many more
than other major communications medium.
Each of these is a political position...
In a world of
abundance, fairness is so 1990s.
Cable (TWC) recently acknowledged that it's going to test a billing
system that will move Internet access closer to the cellphone
model: Those in the test will subscribe to a tier of service that buys
them a certain number of bytes (like buying a package that gives you
500 minutes of cellphone time), and if they go over their allotment,
they'll pay per byte.
This certainly seems fair. And it's better than other, threatened ways
of limiting the amount of network traffic. But, in my opinion, it's
ultimately a bad way to go. Being fair is not enough. In fact,
sometimes what's fair is wrong precisely because it's fair.
Oooh! A seeming paradox! One of the top three rhetorical forms for
The next future of HTML:
The draft of the next version of HTML manages a surprisingly
fine balance between the needs of humans and the needs of our computer
back before HTML, when SGML was battling to be the way software
expressed a document and its structure? SGML was precise and kept every
hair in place, while HTML was ok with some ambiguity and hadn't
showered in a couple of days. With the release of a draft of HTML 5, we
see that the battle is not over. Far from it.
SGML lets you specify all the parts of a document and how they go
Bogus Contest: Tech clich�s
November 19, 2007
The future of book nostalgia:
Anthony Grafton's New Yorker article on why libraries will always be
with us shows the power of book nostalgia.
Grafton's article in the November 5 New Yorker, Future
Reading, intends to challenge the "infotopian"
online libraries. While Grafton acknowledges
that "it's hard to exaggerate what is already becoming possible month
by month and what will become possible in the next few years," he
that the future will be continuous with the present as "the narrow
path still leads, as it must, to crowded public rooms where the
sunlight gleams on varnished tables, and knowledge is embodied in
millions of dusty, crumbling, smelly, irreplaceable documents and
What we owe:
As parents we need to fight to let the Internet we love be a settled
our children's lives.
been a lively discussion internal to the Harvard Berkman
Center (where I've had a fellowship for the past few years) about the
terms "digital native" and "digital immigrant," occasioned by a book
two members of the community -- John Palfrey
Gasser -- are
writing called Born
Digital. Since not everyone born since, say, 1985 uses the
Web, who exactly counts as a digital native? And the term "immigrant"
lumps together people who have been using the Web since the Mosaic
browser with people who fell onto the cabbage truck last week. Further,
there are some people active in native rights issues who think it
inappropriate to appropriate that term. So, the field's terminology is
John and Urs' book is likely not to be a mess at all. It
aims at introducing us to our kids, the ones who are texting while
they're eating and who don't do email unless it goes through Facebook.
The Internet our kids are on is quite a bit different than the one I
and probably you are on...
July 7 , 2007
To achieve Net Neutrality, we're going to need
a policy with such strong teeth that it can rip the industry apart, and
finally give us business models that work with, rather than against,
the Net's real value.
May 4 , 2007
tags be wrong?: You tag it potato. I tag it tomato.
Shall we just call the whole thing off?
creator of LibraryThing.com,
asked me an excellent question: Can tags be wrong? What if everyone in
a room is an idiot and tags Moby-Dick as
"penguin." I sputtered for a moment and then came up with the perfect
response: "Is there a wrong way to underline a book?" Brilliant! It
surrounds a tiny germ of truth with a massive coating of tasty
misdirection, like rising to a challenge in one's proof of the Turing
Incompleteness Theorem by faking a coughing fit. Tim afterwards sent me
a thoughtful and thought-provoking message. So blame him for the
of everything: The Internet is swamp of lies. The
Internet is a haven of knowledge. Yes to both.
Whatever case you
want to make about the Internet, you can make. Want to show that it
contains the most wretched ideas and images? There's a whole bunch of
sites you can point to. Want to prove that it is the salvation of
democracy and rational discourse? Google and ye shall find. Want to
show that it's a haven for red-headed sociopaths who raise chihuahuas
for their milk? Yup, you can probably find those sites, too.
away: What looks trivial may turn out to be, up
close, not so trivial after all.
notes: "Everything Is Miscellaneous" launched a
couple of days ago. You thought I wasn't going to mention it?
Contest: Elevator Pitch: Can you come up with
the Everything Is Miscellaneous elevator pitch? Lord knows, I can't.
March 9, 2007
abundance of meaning: If too much information
is noise, what's too much meaning?
generates its own pitfall. An abundance of wealth can lead to waste,
moral corruption and even revolution if it isn't distributed with a
modicum of fairness. An abundance of information becomes noise if we
can't navigate it. But what about the abundance of meaning we've
developed with the arrival of the Web? If too much information becomes
noise, what does too much meaning become?
As Bill Clinton did
not say, that all depends on what the meaning of meaning is...
The abundance of worthiness and the new relevancy:
When there's an abundance of worthwhile pages on just about any topic,
search engines need to evolve.
unexpected success turned it into a gatekeeper. Getting your site
selected for inclusion in the Yahoo tree was a big deal. And the
selection process was a black box: You could nominate your site, but
there was no way to tell why it was selected or rejected.
solution worked well when there were a million pages on the
Web and search engines were wimpy. There weren't that many worthwhile
pages on, say, bird watching, so you could trust Yahoo to have found a
handful of good ones and to have spared you the dozens of crap ones.
Sure, Yahoo faced problems as the Web got larger. The pile of pages to
be sifted got bigger, and it required more and more employees to
clamber through the existing tree to make sure none of its fruit had
become withered with age or had gone wormy with spam. (Yeah, work
that metaphor, loverboy!)
But the growth of
the Web during the late '90s tipped the scale, changing the equation
and our expectations....
stuff: (1) Why finishing a book sucks, (2) the
new book's site, and (3) the book's word cloud
I decided to go the
traditional publishing route with Everything Is Miscellaneous
because when it comes to lifetime ambitions, I'm a traditionalist. Rail
as I might about the mainstream media, I would still kill a minor
celebrity (please let it be Paris Hilton!) to get published in The
New Yorker. Also, and not incidentally, us Volvo-driving,
Birkenstock-wearing East Coast liberals have to put the tofu and kelp
on the table, you know.
So, given that my
book will be repurposing trees, here's why it sucks to finish one...
(commercial) model of miscellaneousness:
BioMed Central embodies many of the current trends.
Central is a commercial publisher of peer-reviewed scientific research
that permits open (= free) access to all of its content. In so doing,
it happens to exemplify a whole bunch of trends, many of which are
associated with "Web 2.0." It is not a voice from the future,
describing visions we cannot yet imagine. It's in some ways more
valuable than that, for it's an existing business, dealing with the
future in practical ways. In it we can see not just where the Web may
go, but where it is right now...
do movies suck?: We don't make that many
movies, we invest heavily in them, and yet most of the comedies aren't
funny, the suspensers aren't suspenseful, the action ones are
incoherently edited. Why is that?
Tool: The O'Reilly Hacks series
I'm playing: Dreamfall and Devastation
Contest: Suggest a Daily Open-Ended Puzzle
August 21 , 2006
as the default: As digital identity management
systems come one line, the norm is switching from being anonymous to
being identified, with unintended consequences we may not at all like.
"Anonymity should be
the default" doesn't say what I mean. Sorry to have put it badly.
"Defaults" come to us from the software world where shipping software
with the right options turned on can make or break a product. It may be
that anonymity is the right default option for digital ID management
software, but that's not what I meant. And if it is the right default,
it will be due to anonymity's social, political and personal roles.
Those roles are what interest me...
Web Day: Earth Day for the Web. Come celebrate!
— law professor, Berkman fellow, ICANN board member, blogger
— has been working for the past year to make her idea real.
Just as Earth Day is a time to celebrate our planet, One Web Day is a
day to celebrate the Web. Just as on Earth Day it's up to each locality
to decide how to celebrate, on OWD it's up to each locality —
physical or virtual — to come up with an appropriate
activity, although OWD encourages doing something that increases the
Web's value and brings it to more people...
Hundred Million Dollar Secret: I've self-published
a kid's novel. You can buy it or read it for free. (My promise: Harry
Potter does not die in it.)
I just published my
novel for halflings (or "young adults" if you prefer), called My
100 Million Dollar Secret. It's about a boy who wins
$100,000,000 in the lottery, but (for reasons explained) can't let his
parents know and refuses to lie to them. In another sense, it's about
the boy's growing sense of the moral obligations that come with having
so much dang money. It's also supposed to be a little funny.
Tool: RoboForm is great...except for one thing.
Contest: A contest no one really enters
July 23 , 2006
believe Wikipedia?: Wikipedia is credible. Not
always. Not in every detail. But nothing passes that bar except perhaps
for some stuff scratched into stone tablets. What is the source of
Wikipedia's credibility? Oddly, it has something to do with its
willingness to admit fallibility.
Simply appearing in
the Encyclopedia Britannica confers authority on
an article. Simply appearing in Wikipedia does not, because you might
hit the 90 second stretch before some loon's rewriting of history or
science is found and fixed. Yet, Wikipedia is in some ways as reliable
as the Britannica, and in some ways it is more
reliable. Where does it get its authority?
There are a few
reasons we'll accept a Wikipedia article as credible...
end of the story (Or: The tyranny of rectangles:
Journalism can't get stories right because the world doesn't fit into
If you've ever been
part of a story covered by a newspaper, it's a near certainty that you
didn't think the story got it exactly right. Even if there were no
outright mistakes, you read it thinking that the emphasis was wrong,
that it didn't quite capture all sides, that there was more to the
story, that a turn of phrase was prejudicial. You would have written it
slightly differently. At least.
This is not because
reporters aren't good at their job. By and large they are, and it is
hard job requiring skill, experience and persistence. It also generally
doesn't pay that well. The problem is not with the reporters. Lord
bless them and multiply them. The problem is with the notion of "the
report (Or: My obsession): The first draft of my
book is done. Here's a brief report on Chapter 8.
manifestation of my obsession is that I never get to a point where I'm
ready to talk about the book...
the Walk: Raytheon tags. And taxonomizes.
Tool: Diigo notes socially.
I'm playing: Gun is disappointing. Indigo Prophecy
progresses from cool to idiotic.
contest: Metadata for traditional authorities
December 29, 2005
the media can't get Wikipedia right: In the wake of
the Seigenthaler Affair, Wikipedia made some changes. Why did the media
get the story so wrong?
When the mainstream
media addressed the John Seigenthaler Sr. affair — he's the
respected journalist who wrote an op-ed
in USAToday complaining that slanderously wrong information about him
was in Wikipedia
for four months — the subtext couldn't be clearer: The media
were implicitly contrasting Wikipedia's credibility to their own.
Ironically, the media got the story fundamentally wrong.
Most media reports
presented the narrative line of the story roughly as follows: A person
of indisputable honor was smeared in Wikipedia. Faced with
incontrovertible evidence of its failings, the mainstream media shamed
Wikipedia into reluctantly becoming more like them. See, Wikipedia was
unreliable all along, just like we said! We're the grownups, and now
we're making Wikipedia grow up...
leaves mulch?: Peter Morville's criticism of
folksonomies, et al.
I'm very fond of
Peter Morville's Ambient
Findability, a highly readable exploration of what's going on
in the field of information architecture, i.e., how we find stuff,
written by a practitioner and thought-leader.
Larry Irons wrote to
me recently, however, asking about Peter's jibe about the idea that
I've been pushing, that we're
moving from trees of knowledge to big piles of leaves...
Tool : Power scanning!
I'm playing: Murderous rivolity rules.
December 5, 2005
year of unique IDs: We're about to get very
interested in assigning meaningless numbers to lots of things. Very
Last year, it was
Web 2.0 and tagging. This year, it's going to be unique IDs (UIDs), and
for the same reason that Web 2.0 and tagging matter: The Web is going
miscellaneous. (The fact that I'm writing a book about the invigoration
of the miscellaneous could not possibly have colored my perception.
Nope. All of this is based on highly scientifical research done by
people with clipboards who were teased as children.)...
on an Internet houseboat: Save the Net for aging
hippies? Probably not going to happen.
As we survey the
damage being done to the Internet by (sometimes) well-meaning
regulators trying to save the Net from itself, I find myself asking:
Are we living on the same Internet planet?
The answer pretty
clearly is No. And it's not just regulators whose vision of the Net is
so at odds with mine. There are plenty of academics, librarians, and
even some of the Net's creators who view it as an occasional resource,
a place to go to do research, and a swamp of filth.
To me, the Internet
is a social world...
book: Progress report: Here's what chapter 3 looks
Although readers of
my blog might not know it, working on Everything is
Miscellaneous is my full-time job. Here's what chapter 3 is
currently about, although it may undergo drastic revision...
20 , 2005
and the Net: Moral and cultural relativism used to
be a lot easier.
revolution of the past century has thrown into our face the fact that
people have very different ways of understanding the world and
different sets of values. We know this because magazines show us
pictures of them, and on TV they're busy either behaving in their
quaint ways or yelling at us. This new awareness of the diversity of
our world has helped exacerbate our culture's depressing relativism.
wrong with relativism...
PoMo: Try as I might, I can't get past the high BS
quotient of so many Postmodern essays.
— or was it two weeks ago? — I went to Ars Electronica
in Linz, Austria, an eclectic festival of electronic arts with an url
that, unfortunately, I keep mentally parsing as www.ArseLectronica.com.
Quite a fascinating set of people, and much more artsy than the usual
set of literal-minded bitheads I spend time with.
about half of the presentations set me onto a psychological
merry-go-round ride during which most of me screams, "This is total
bullcrap!" while a little voice tries to calm me down, insisting that
these are very, very smart people so there has to be a brass ring here
book: Progress report (Or: How I spent my summer "vacation"):
I'm working away on Everything is Miscellaneous.
Here's what I'm up to.
I've been working
all summer on Everything Is Miscellaneous. It's
due into the publisher in July '06, making next summer seem like right
around the corner. My how time flies when you have a deadline.
I did a heck of a
lot of research these past few months, some of it entailing entering a
physical library. Yes, there are still some around, and yes, the good
parts still smell of dried leaves and mold. I also did a whole bunch of
writing and just slightly less un-writing. (Some refer to this as
"rewriting," but it feels more Penelope-esque to me than that.)
Here's where the
book stands at the moment, and please remember that any and all of it
is likely to be unwritten tomorrow...
the Walk: The Beebster is doing some good stuff
with knowledge management
I'm playing: Brothers in Arms is overhyped.
Painkiller is underhyped.
Contest: Net MadLibs
20 , 2005
I have to do now is write the mofo. Times
Books is publishing Everything is Miscellaneous.
Here's what a book auction is like...
Books has agreed to publish my book Everything is
Miscellaneous. I have one year to write it. Assuming that
the writing goes all right — and I am contractually obligated
to make sure it does — it will be published in winter/early
spring of 2007.
Seems like forever,
doesn't it? I can promise that it won't feel that way to me as I watch
the deadline rushing toward me like an angry bull.
I'm not keeping up with your blog.
It's time to drop the expectation that I've read yours and you've read
I would like to. I
really would. I like it and I like you.
But we're now well
past the point where we can keep up with all the blogs worth reading
from the people worth keeping up with.
I just can't do it
I've been faking it
for a while.
3 , 2005
I'm a pessoptimist —The Right to Connect:
Let's not be too quick to compromise.
I'm confused. On the
one hand, I'm a raving Tony
Robbins optimist. On the other hand, I'm a Lessigian pessimist.
The other day I figured out how I can contain such a contradiction.
It's very simple.
Bad is very very good: Steve Johnson's new book
finds the value in pop culture
I just finished Steve Johnson's
new book, Everything
Bad is Good for You. It's going to be a best-seller if
there's any justice in the world. [Hint: There isn't.]
I've been reading
Steve's stuff for some time now and I think I've discovered what makes
his writing style so good: He thinks well. He turns corners and pulls
you with him. It's the kind of unexpected unfolding that makes
narratives work, but Steve does it purely in the realm of ideas. He
writes so well because he's so damn smart. (Also, he just writes so
the Walk: The Beeb rulz
Tool: At last, multi-page faxing in Windows!
I'm playing: Half Life 2 is the greatest game ever.
3 , 2005
and tags - An introduction: What are taxonomies,
tags, faceted classification, folksonomies...? And do they matter?
that tells of the first man and woman encountering the tree of
knowledge focuses on its tempting fruit. But after we took the bite, we
apparently looked up and got the idea that knowledge is shaped like the
tree's branching structure: Big concepts contain smaller ones that
contain smaller ones yet.
has come to the forest of knowledge...
life as a Berkperson: I've been at the Harvard
Berkman Center since last summer and I think I'm beginning to
understand what it's about.
applied for a Berkman fellowship, I had to ask John Palfrey and Ethan
Zuckerman, neither of whom I knew, a whole bunch of damn fool
questions. I had no living sense of what it meant to be a Berkman
fellow. Do you drink sherry at 4? Just how witty is the banter? Would I
get a discount on ascots?
I've been a
fellow since July. Here's what it's like...
Summers and the Web as world: The blogosphere
practically demands that Harvard-related bloggers say something
— something! — about their President's
comments...and that's evidence that the Web is a world, not just a
interesting to me is the fact that as a blogger and a member of the
Harvard community (fellows are not faculty members) I felt that I
should say something about it. The blogosphere is
becoming a moral space...
vs. Leaves: Tagging may be shaking the leaves
off of taxonomic trees, affecting not only how we organize ideas and
information but how we think about organization itself.
Del.icio.us kicked "tagging" into gear by giving us a reason
to tag stuff. It's a bookmarking site: If you come across a page you on
the Web that you want to remember, you post the URL to your personal
page at del.icio.us. On the way, you tag it with a word or two that
will help you find it among the mass of bookmarks you accumulate. The
kicker is that everyone else can see not only what you've bookmarked
but all the bookmarks that share a particular tag...
Blogging: A new effort tries to break through
the national boundaries implicit in the blogosphere.
Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca Mackinnon, have, with others, started an
initiative called GlobalVoices that aims at helping the blogosphere
break through its natural tendency to cluster into groups that are too
easily alike. GlobalVoices asks: What can we do to get the rest of the
world's voices heard?..
Some funnish stuff.
Contest: Wikipedia topics.
October 15, 2004
future of facts (and the rise of fact servers):
Are facts going to become as cheap and uninteresting as styrofoam
had to freeze the George W.
Bush entry a few weeks ago because people were altering it to
suit their political viewpoints at an alarming rate. So, the editors
pared the page down to the non-controversial "core" of facts. There was
still a lot of information there — much more than merely "He
was born, he drank, he became president" — and occasional
acknowledgements of controversies, such as whether Bush satisfactorily
completed his National Guard service.
interesting to me, towards the top, on the right, the Wikipedia ran one
of the staples of its biographical entries: A fact box.
find this two-tiered view of facts, quite common in reference works,
fascinating. And in the context of a bottom-up work such as the
Wikipedia, in the midst of a dust-up over what constitutes a factual
account of the life of W, you have to ask: What's happening to facts?...
end of data: In the new world of
classification and categorization, data and metadata are
There used to
be a real difference between data and metadata. Data was the suitcase
and metadata was the name tag on it. Data was the folder and metadata
was its label. Data was the contents of the book and metadata was the
Dewey Decimal number on its spine. But, in the Third Age of Order
everything is becoming metadata...
the walk: O'Reilly's foo camp is brilliant
marketing in which the product is never mentioned
tool: Open source Audacity sounds good
I'm playing: Far Cry
How much of an anti-Semitic misogynist was Melvil Dewey?
contest: Name the metadata bundles discussed
in "The end of data" article