Too Big to Know
Everything Is Miscellaneous
My 100 Million Dollar Secret
Small Pieces Loosely Joined
( Buyit at Amazon)
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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...
The Higgs-BogusContest: 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...
BogusContest: #Stories If history were written in hashtags.
August 18, 2009
[email protected]:Recently, the tenthanniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto came out, a book Ico-authored. Here's some of what we got wrong in the original version.
In the new edition's introduction, I list abunch of ways the world has become cluetrain-y, many of whichwe take for granted. The fact is that I think Cluetrain was pretty muchright. Of course, at the time we thought we were simplyarticulating things about the Web that were obvious tousers but that many media and business folks needed to hear.
But Cluetrain also got some important thingswrong...and I don't mean just Thesis #74: "We are immune toadvertising. Just forget it."
Part1: Will our kids appreciatethe Internet?: Will the Net become just another medium thatwe take for granted?
Ilove the Internet because even now, fifteen years into the Web, Iremember what life used to be like. In fact, give me half a beer andI'll regale you with tales of typing my dissertation on an IBM Model Belectric, complete with carbon paper and Wite-Out. Let me finish mybeer and I'll explain microfiche to you, you young whippersnappers.
The coming generation, the one that's beenbrought upon the Internet, aren't going to love it the way that we do...
Part2:The shared lessons of the Net: The Net teaches all its users(within a particular culture) some common lessons. And if that makes mea technodeterminist, then so be it.
In my network of friends and colleagues, there'sa schism. Some of us like to make generalizations about the Net. Othersthen mention that actual data shows that the Net is different todifferent people. Even within the US population, people's experience ofit varieswidely. So, when middle class, educated, white men of a certain agetalk as if what they're excited about on the Net is what everyone isexcited about, those white men are falling prey to the oldest fallacyin the book.
Of course that's right. My experience of the Web is notthat of, say,a 14 year old Latina girl who's on MySpace, doesn't ever updateWikipediaarticles, isn't on Twitter, considers email to be a toolher parents use, and — gasp — hasn't ever tagged a single page. Thedifference is real and reallyimportant. And yet ...
Part3: How to tell you're in a culture gap: You'll love or hatethis link, which illustrates our non-uniform response to the Net.
The news' old value:
Part1: Transparency isthe new objectivity: Objectivity and credibility throughauthority were useful ways to come to reliable belief back when paperconstrained ideas. In a linked world, though, transparency carries alot of that burden.
Part2: DrivingTom Friedman to the F Bomb: Traditional news media are beingchallenged at the most basic level by the fact that news has been arectangular object, not a medium. Let the news be a network!
Bogus Contest: Net PC-ness:Whatshould we be politically correct about in the Age of the Web?
November 21, 2008
Ourstrange newhome: A talk to the people in the Chinesegovernment designing ways to use the Net to delivergovernment services.
Iwant to make two claims in today'spresentation. First, the Internet is strange. Unexpected. We sometimesforget that,especially in groups like this one, people who deal withthe Internet every day. We can forget just how much the Internet haschanged our lives, our communities, and our cultures. The secondclaim is harder to support. It is that for all its strangeness, theInternet actually reflects who we are as human beings better than themedia it's replacing...
Hasthe Internet been saved?: Obama's appointments to head theFCC transition team fill me with joy.
WhenStephenSchultze stopped me in the hallway and told me that Susan Crawfordhad been appointed headof Obama's FCC transition team, I thought I was being punk'd. It wastoo good to be true.
So,Stephen and I went to an open computer and Googled. Yup.But the news was actually even better: KevinWerbach has been appointedas co-lead.
Iwas giddy with joy, for two reasons...
October 18, 2008
Exitinginfo:As we exit the Information Age, we can begin to see how our idea ofinformation has shaped our view of who we are.
Whencomputers were firstintroduced, we resented them assoulless machines that enforcedefficiency over humanity. Yet, now discipline after discipline hasreconceived itself as being fundamentally about information. DNA, wethink, is information, in the form of a code. Businessesmeasure success by theinformational models they build. Economiesrun on models, until the bottom of the cliff smashes some sense intothem. The brainprocessesinformation. We contrast atomsandbits, as if bits were as fundamental and ubiquitous as atoms.1Even quanta,the stuff of physics,are understood by some — see Charles Seife's excellent"Decodingthe Universe" — as nothing butinformation processed bythe computer formerly known as the universe.
Fromcradle to grave, from quirk to quark, we havethoroughly informationalized ourselves. Now, as we are exiting the Ageof Information — oh yes we are — is a goodtime to ask what information had doneto our world and our way of thinking about it.
Thefuture from1978: What a 1978 anthology predicts about thefuture of the computer tells us a lot the remarkable turn matters havetaken.
Almostthirty years ago, some professors at MIT published a book of essayslooking back at twenty years of computing history, and looking forwardtwenty. Called The ComputerAge: A Twenty-Year View, edited byMichael Dertouzos and Joel Moses, its essays were written inthelate 1970s, back when if you knew how to use a computer you couldprobably also name every "away team" in the first season of Star Trek.
Asoftwareidea: Text from audio: Anyone care to writesoftware that would make it much easier to edit spoken audio?
BogusContest: Name that software!
May 30, 2008
Howmuch do we have to care about? Even if themainstream media'scoverage of most of the world didn't suck, would we care? Are wecapable of caringsufficiently? (Annotated by Ethan Zuckerman!)
Thepopulation of Nigeria roughly equals the population of Japan. Yet, theamount of space given to Nigeria by the US news media makes it aboutthe size of Britney Spears' left pinky toe. Why?
Seriousresearchers have been considering this question for generations. DoAmerican newspaper editors skimp on Nigeria because they're racists?Nah, atleast not in the straightforward way. Is it because the readers don'tcare about Nigeria? Somewhat. But how will we ever care if we neverread anythingabout it? We seem to be stuck in vicious circle, or what'sworse, a circle of not-caring...
VintCerf's curiosity: If we are indeed getting more of a stomachfor thecomplex, what role has our technology played?
Esquiremagazine recently ran an interviewwith him that they busted upinto a series of unrelated quotations. I was particularlystruck by one littleinsight:
"The closer you look at something, the more complex it seemsto be."
Becauseof Esquire's disaggregation of theinterview, wehave to guessat Cerf's tone of voice. My guess is that he said this with a sense ofwonder and delight, not out of frustration. Of course, I may be readingCerf's mind inaccurately. But the plausibility of that reading isitself significant...
History's wavefront: When we can record just abouteverything, history loses its past. And, no, I don't know what I meanby that.
TheStrandBookstore in NYC has eighteen miles of books, whichworks out to about 2.5million volumes. My excellentlocal library has 409,000. TheStrand's shelves press the shoppers together, givinga sensethat the place is alive with the love of books. The library is quieterbecause emptier. Even so, the libraryhas something the Strand does not: history.
We'veassumed that knowledgewas always there, just waiting to be known...
ROFLconand Woodstock: AmI so enthusiastic about the ROFLcon conference because it was importantor just because I'm out of touch?
Iwas atWoodstock. For two hours. I was supposed to meet a girl there. Hahaha.Instead, I wandered around, hoping someone would offer me something tosmoke to get me through the Melanieperformance. So, let merecap: I was atWoodstock, didn't meetup with the girl I was infatuated with, didn'tget stoned, and heard Melanie. Also, it was raining. Still, I was atWoodstock,which used to give me street cred, but now just makes me obsolete.
Butforget my experience and take Woodstock as awatershedevent at which the young realized they were more a potentialmovement and not just a demographic slice. ROFLcon feltsomething like that...
Isthe Web different? Thedefinitive and final answer.
Itaught a course this past semesterfor the first time in 22 years. The course was called "TheWeb Difference," which was aptsince it was about whetherthe Web is actually much different from whatcame before it, with an emphasis on what that might mean for law andpolicy.
During the finalclass session, I took a survey...
The Turing Tests:Throwback humor, in both senses.
Thefool. I won't spend the money yet, but it's only a matter of timebefore 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, toremindme of my moral andintellectual victory. Perhaps a set of mugs inscribed with "Courtesy ofDr. VanKlammer...Loser!"...
BogusContest: Surely anagrams can't be random!
Isthe Web different? Is the Web just the next medium in ourhistory of media, or is it a spiritualtransformation, the great hope, blah-di-blah-di-blah?
Thequestion "Is the Web different?" is actually not so much a question asa shibboleth in the original sense: The answer determines which tribeyou're in.
The Web utopians point to the ways in which the Web has changed some ofthe basic assumptions about how we live together, removing oldobstacles and enabling shiny new possibilities.
The Web dystopians agree that the Web is having a major effect on ourlives. They, however, think that effect is detrimental.
The Web realists say the Web hasn't had nearly as much effect as theutopians and dystopians proclaim. The Web carries with it certainpossibilities and limitations, but (the realists say) not many morethan other major communications medium.
Each of these is a political position...
Fairnessand scarcity:In a world ofabundance, fairness is so 1990s.
Time-WarnerCable (TWC) recently acknowledged that it's going to test a billingsystem that will move Internet access closer to the cellphonemodel: Those in the test will subscribe to a tier of service that buysthem a certain number of bytes (like buying a package that gives you500 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 waysof limiting the amount of network traffic. But, in my opinion, it'sultimately 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 foressays!...
The next future of HTML: The draft of the next version of HTML manages a surprisinglyfine balance between the needs of humans and the needs of our computeroverlords.
Rememberback before HTML, when SGML was battling to be the way softwareexpressed a document and its structure? SGML was precise and kept everyhair in place, while HTML was ok with some ambiguity and hadn'tshowered in a couple of days. With the release of a draft of HTML 5, wesee that the battle is not over. Far from it.
SGML lets you specify all the parts of a document and how they gotogether...
Bogus Contest: Tech clich?s
November 19, 2007
The future of book nostalgia:Anthony Grafton's New Yorker article on why libraries will always bewith us shows the power of book nostalgia.
AnthonyGrafton's article in the November 5 New Yorker, FutureReading, intends to challenge the "infotopian"hyper-enthusiasm aboutonline libraries. While Grafton acknowledgesthat "it's hard to exaggerate what is already becoming possible monthby month and what will become possible in the next few years," hearguesthat the future will be continuous with the present as "the narrowpath still leads, as it must, to crowded public rooms where thesunlight gleams on varnished tables, and knowledge is embodied inmillions of dusty, crumbling, smelly, irreplaceable documents andbooks."
What we owe:As parents we need to fight to let the Internet we love be a settledpart ofour children's lives.
There'sbeen a lively discussion internal to the Harvard BerkmanCenter (where I've had a fellowship for the past few years) about theterms "digital native" and "digital immigrant," occasioned by a booktwo members of the community -- John Palfreyand UrsGasser -- arewriting called BornDigital. Since not everyone born since, say, 1985 uses theWeb, who exactly counts as a digital native? And the term "immigrant"lumps together people who have been using the Web since the Mosaicbrowser with people who fell onto the cabbage truck last week. Further,there are some people active in native rights issues who think itinappropriate to appropriate that term. So, the field's terminology isa mess.
ButJohn and Urs' book is likely not to be a mess at all. Itaims at introducing us to our kids, the ones who are texting whilethey'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 Iand probably you are on...
July 7 , 2007
DelaminationNow!To achieve Net Neutrality, we're going to needa policy with such strong teeth that it can rip the industry apart, andfinally give us business models that work with, rather than against,the Net's real value.
May 4 , 2007
Cantags be wrong?: You tag it potato. I tag it tomato.Shall we just call the whole thing off?
Tim Spalding,creator of LibraryThing.com,asked me an excellent question: Can tags be wrong? What if everyone ina room is an idiot and tags Moby-Dick as"penguin." I sputtered for a moment and then came up with the perfectresponse: "Is there a wrong way to underline a book?" Brilliant! Itsurrounds a tiny germ of truth with a massive coating of tastymisdirection, like rising to a challenge in one's proof of the TuringIncompleteness Theorem by faking a coughing fit. Tim afterwards sent mea thoughtful and thought-provoking message. So blame him for thefollowing...
Moreof everything: The Internet is swamp of lies. TheInternet is a haven of knowledge. Yes to both.
Whatever case youwant to make about the Internet, you can make. Want to show that itcontains the most wretched ideas and images? There's a whole bunch ofsites you can point to. Want to prove that it is the salvation ofdemocracy and rational discourse? Google and ye shall find. Want toshow that it's a haven for red-headed sociopaths who raise chihuahuasfor their milk? Yup, you can probably find those sites, too.
Twitteringaway: What looks trivial may turn out to be, upclose, not so trivial after all.
Booknotes: "Everything Is Miscellaneous" launched acouple of days ago. You thought I wasn't going to mention it?
BogusContest: Elevator Pitch: Can you come up withthe Everything Is Miscellaneous elevator pitch? Lord knows, I can't.
March 9, 2007
Theabundance of meaning: If too much informationis noise, what's too much meaning?
Every abundancegenerates its own pitfall. An abundance of wealth can lead to waste,moral corruption and even revolution if it isn't distributed with amodicum of fairness. An abundance of information becomes noise if wecan't navigate it. But what about the abundance of meaning we'vedeveloped with the arrival of the Web? If too much information becomesnoise, what does too much meaning become?
As Bill Clinton didnot 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.
...Yahoo'sunexpected success turned it into a gatekeeper. Getting your siteselected for inclusion in the Yahoo tree was a big deal. And theselection process was a black box: You could nominate your site, butthere was no way to tell why it was selected or rejected.
Nevertheless, thatsolution worked well when there were a million pages on theWeb and search engines were wimpy. There weren't that many worthwhilepages on, say, bird watching, so you could trust Yahoo to have found ahandful 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 tobe sifted got bigger, and it required more and more employees toclamber through the existing tree to make sure none of its fruit hadbecome withered with age or had gone wormy with spam. (Yeah, workthat metaphor, loverboy!)
But the growth ofthe Web during the late '90s tipped the scale, changing the equationand our expectations....
Bookstuff: (1) Why finishing a book sucks, (2) thenew book's site, and (3) the book's word cloud
I decided to go thetraditional publishing route with Everything Is Miscellaneousbecause when it comes to lifetime ambitions, I'm a traditionalist. Railas I might about the mainstream media, I would still kill a minorcelebrity (please let it be Paris Hilton!) to get published in TheNew Yorker. Also, and not incidentally, us Volvo-driving,Birkenstock-wearing East Coast liberals have to put the tofu and kelpon the table, you know.
So, given that mybook will be repurposing trees, here's why it sucks to finish one...
A(commercial) model of miscellaneousness:BioMed Central embodies many of the current trends.
BioMedCentral is a commercial publisher of peer-reviewed scientific researchthat permits open (= free) access to all of its content. In so doing,it happens to exemplify a whole bunch of trends, many of which areassociated with "Web 2.0." It is not a voice from the future,describing visions we cannot yet imagine. It's in some ways morevaluable than that, for it's an existing business, dealing with thefuture in practical ways. In it we can see not just where the Web maygo, but where it is right now...
Whydo movies suck?: We don't make that manymovies, we invest heavily in them, and yet most of the comedies aren'tfunny, the suspensers aren't suspenseful, the action ones areincoherently edited. Why is that?
CoolTool: The O'Reilly Hacks series
WhatI'm playing: Dreamfall and DevastationTroopers
BogusContest: Suggest a Daily Open-Ended Puzzle
August 21 , 2006
Anonymityas the default: As digital identity managementsystems come one line, the norm is switching from being anonymous tobeing identified, with unintended consequences we may not at all like.
"Anonymity should bethe default" doesn't say what I mean. Sorry to have put it badly."Defaults" come to us from the software world where shipping softwarewith the right options turned on can make or break a product. It may bethat anonymity is the right default option for digital ID managementsoftware, 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...
OneWeb Day: Earth Day for the Web. Come celebrate!
Susan Crawford— 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 aday to celebrate the Web. Just as on Earth Day it's up to each localityto decide how to celebrate, on OWD it's up to each locality —physical or virtual — to come up with an appropriateactivity, although OWD encourages doing something that increases theWeb's value and brings it to more people...
MyHundred Million Dollar Secret: I've self-publisheda kid's novel. You can buy it or read it for free. (My promise: HarryPotter does not die in it.)
I just published mynovel for halflings (or "young adults" if you prefer), called My100 Million Dollar Secret. It's about a boy who wins$100,000,000 in the lottery, but (for reasons explained) can't let hisparents know and refuses to lie to them. In another sense, it's aboutthe boy's growing sense of the moral obligations that come with havingso much dang money. It's also supposed to be a little funny.
CoolTool: RoboForm is great...except for one thing.
BogusContest: A contest no one really enters
July 23 , 2006
Whybelieve Wikipedia?: Wikipedia is credible. Notalways. Not in every detail. But nothing passes that bar except perhapsfor some stuff scratched into stone tablets. What is the source ofWikipedia's credibility? Oddly, it has something to do with itswillingness to admit fallibility.
Simply appearing inthe Encyclopedia Britannica confers authority onan article. Simply appearing in Wikipedia does not, because you mighthit the 90 second stretch before some loon's rewriting of history orscience is found and fixed. Yet, Wikipedia is in some ways as reliableas the Britannica, and in some ways it is morereliable. Where does it get its authority?
There are a fewreasons we'll accept a Wikipedia article as credible...
Theend of the story (Or: The tyranny of rectangles:Journalism can't get stories right because the world doesn't fit intorectangles.
If you've ever beenpart of a story covered by a newspaper, it's a near certainty that youdidn't think the story got it exactly right. Even if there were nooutright mistakes, you read it thinking that the emphasis was wrong,that it didn't quite capture all sides, that there was more to thestory, that a turn of phrase was prejudicial. You would have written itslightly differently. At least.
This is not becausereporters aren't good at their job. By and large they are, and it ishard job requiring skill, experience and persistence. It also generallydoesn't pay that well. The problem is not with the reporters. Lordbless them and multiply them. The problem is with the notion of "thestory"...
Bookreport (Or: My obsession): The first draft of mybook is done. Here's a brief report on Chapter 8.
...One oddmanifestation of my obsession is that I never get to a point where I'mready to talk about the book...
Walkingthe Walk: Raytheon tags. And taxonomizes.
CoolTool: Diigo notes socially.
WhatI'm playing: Gun is disappointing. Indigo Prophecyprogresses from cool to idiotic.
Boguscontest: Metadata for traditional authorities
December 29, 2005
Whythe media can't get Wikipedia right: In the wake ofthe Seigenthaler Affair, Wikipedia made some changes. Why did the mediaget the story so wrong?
When the mainstreammedia addressed the John Seigenthaler Sr. affair — he's therespected journalist who wrote an op-edin USAToday complaining that slanderously wrong information about himwas in Wikipediafor four months — the subtext couldn't be clearer: The mediawere implicitly contrasting Wikipedia's credibility to their own.Ironically, the media got the story fundamentally wrong.
Most media reportspresented the narrative line of the story roughly as follows: A personof indisputable honor was smeared in Wikipedia. Faced withincontrovertible evidence of its failings, the mainstream media shamedWikipedia into reluctantly becoming more like them. See, Wikipedia wasunreliable all along, just like we said! We're the grownups, and nowwe're making Wikipedia grow up...
Areleaves mulch?: Peter Morville's criticism offolksonomies, et al.
I'm very fond ofPeter Morville's AmbientFindability, a highly readable exploration of what's going onin the field of information architecture, i.e., how we find stuff,written by a practitioner and thought-leader.
Larry Irons wrote tome recently, however, asking about Peter's jibe about the idea thatI've been pushing, that we'removing from trees of knowledge to big piles of leaves...
CoolTool : Power scanning!
WhatI'm playing: Murderous rivolity rules.
December 5, 2005
Theyear of unique IDs: We're about to get veryinterested in assigning meaningless numbers to lots of things. Veryinterested.
Last year, it wasWeb 2.0 and tagging. This year, it's going to be unique IDs (UIDs), andfor the same reason that Web 2.0 and tagging matter: The Web is goingmiscellaneous. (The fact that I'm writing a book about the invigorationof the miscellaneous could not possibly have colored my perception.Nope. All of this is based on highly scientifical research done bypeople with clipboards who were teased as children.)...
Livingon an Internet houseboat: Save the Net for aginghippies? Probably not going to happen.
As we survey thedamage being done to the Internet by (sometimes) well-meaningregulators trying to save the Net from itself, I find myself asking:Are we living on the same Internet planet?
The answer prettyclearly is No. And it's not just regulators whose vision of the Net isso at odds with mine. There are plenty of academics, librarians, andeven 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 Internetis a social world...
Mybook: Progress report: Here's what chapter 3 lookslike.
Although readers ofmy blog might not know it, working on Everything isMiscellaneous is my full-time job. Here's what chapter 3 iscurrently about, although it may undergo drastic revision...
September20 , 2005
Relativismand the Net: Moral and cultural relativism used tobe a lot easier.
The communicationsrevolution of the past century has thrown into our face the fact thatpeople have very different ways of understanding the world anddifferent sets of values. We know this because magazines show uspictures of them, and on TV they're busy either behaving in theirquaint ways or yelling at us. This new awareness of the diversity ofour world has helped exacerbate our culture's depressing relativism.
There's somethingwrong with relativism...
LikingPoMo: Try as I might, I can't get past the high BSquotient of so many Postmodern essays.
Last week— or was it two weeks ago? — I went to Ars Electronicain Linz, Austria, an eclectic festival of electronic arts with an urlthat, unfortunately, I keep mentally parsing as www.ArseLectronica.com.Quite a fascinating set of people, and much more artsy than the usualset of literal-minded bitheads I spend time with.
But,about half of the presentations set me onto a psychologicalmerry-go-round ride during which most of me screams, "This is totalbullcrap!" while a little voice tries to calm me down, insisting thatthese are very, very smart people so there has to be a brass ring heresomewhere...
Mybook: 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 workingall summer on Everything Is Miscellaneous. It'sdue into the publisher in July '06, making next summer seem like rightaround the corner. My how time flies when you have a deadline.
I did a heck of alot of research these past few months, some of it entailing entering aphysical library. Yes, there are still some around, and yes, the goodparts still smell of dried leaves and mold. I also did a whole bunch ofwriting 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 thebook stands at the moment, and please remember that any and all of itis likely to be unwritten tomorrow...
Walkingthe Walk: The Beebster is doing some good stuffwith knowledge management
WhatI'm playing: Brothers in Arms is overhyped.Painkiller is underhyped.
BogusContest: Net MadLibs
June20 , 2005
AllI have to do now is write the mofo. TimesBooks is publishing Everything is Miscellaneous.Here's what a book auction is like...
TimesBooks has agreed to publish my book Everything isMiscellaneous. I have one year to write it. Assuming thatthe writing goes all right — and I am contractually obligatedto make sure it does — it will be published in winter/earlyspring of 2007.
Seems like forever,doesn't it? I can promise that it won't feel that way to me as I watchthe deadline rushing toward me like an angry bull.
No,I'm not keeping up with your blog.It's time to drop the expectation that I've read yours and you've readmine.
I would like to. Ireally would. I like it and I like you.
But we're now wellpast the point where we can keep up with all the blogs worth readingfrom the people worth keeping up with.
I just can't do itany more.
I've been faking itfor a while.
May3 , 2005
WhyI'm a pessoptimist —The Right to Connect:Let's not be too quick to compromise.
I'm confused. On theone hand, I'm a raving TonyRobbins 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.
EverythingBad is very very good: Steve Johnson's new bookfinds the value in pop culture
I just finished Steve Johnson'snew book, EverythingBad is Good for You. It's going to be a best-seller ifthere's any justice in the world. [Hint: There isn't.]
I've been readingSteve's stuff for some time now and I think I've discovered what makeshis writing style so good: He thinks well. He turns corners and pullsyou with him. It's the kind of unexpected unfolding that makesnarratives work, but Steve does it purely in the realm of ideas. Hewrites so well because he's so damn smart. (Also, he just writes sodamn well.)
Walkingthe Walk: The Beeb rulz
CoolTool: At last, multi-page faxing in Windows!Woohoo!
WhatI'm playing: Half Life 2 is the greatest game ever.
March3 , 2005
Treesand tags - An introduction: What are taxonomies,tags, faceted classification, folksonomies...? And do they matter?
The narrativethat tells of the first man and woman encountering the tree ofknowledge focuses on its tempting fruit. But after we took the bite, weapparently looked up and got the idea that knowledge is shaped like thetree's branching structure: Big concepts contain smaller ones thatcontain smaller ones yet.
Now autumnhas come to the forest of knowledge...
Mylife as a Berkperson: I've been at the HarvardBerkman Center since last summer and I think I'm beginning tounderstand what it's about.
Before Iapplied for a Berkman fellowship, I had to ask John Palfrey and EthanZuckerman, neither of whom I knew, a whole bunch of damn foolquestions. I had no living sense of what it meant to be a Berkmanfellow. Do you drink sherry at 4? Just how witty is the banter? Would Iget a discount on ascots?
I've been afellow since July. Here's what it's like...
LarrySummers and the Web as world: The blogospherepractically demands that Harvard-related bloggers say something— something! — about their President'scomments...and that's evidence that the Web is a world, not just amedium
What's mostinteresting to me is the fact that as a blogger and a member of theHarvard community (fellows are not faculty members) I felt that Ishould say something about it. The blogosphere isbecoming a moral space...
Treesvs. Leaves: Tagging may be shaking the leavesoff of taxonomic trees, affecting not only how we organize ideas andinformation but how we think about organization itself.
Del.icio.us kicked "tagging" into gear by giving us a reasonto tag stuff. It's a bookmarking site: If you come across a page you onthe Web that you want to remember, you post the URL to your personalpage at del.icio.us. On the way, you tag it with a word or two thatwill help you find it among the mass of bookmarks you accumulate. Thekicker is that everyone else can see not only what you've bookmarkedbut all the bookmarks that share a particular tag...
BridgeBlogging: A new effort tries to break throughthe national boundaries implicit in the blogosphere.
My friendsEthan Zuckerman and Rebecca Mackinnon, have, with others, started aninitiative called GlobalVoices that aims at helping the blogospherebreak through its natural tendency to cluster into groups that are tooeasily alike. GlobalVoices asks: What can we do to get the rest of theworld's voices heard?..
Links:Some funnish stuff.
BogusContest: Wikipedia topics.
October 15, 2004
Thefuture of facts (and the rise of fact servers):Are facts going to become as cheap and uninteresting as styrofoampeanuts?
The Wikipediahad to freeze the George W.Bush entry a few weeks ago because people were altering it tosuit their political viewpoints at an alarming rate. So, the editorspared the page down to the non-controversial "core" of facts. There wasstill a lot of information there — much more than merely "Hewas born, he drank, he became president" — and occasionalacknowledgements of controversies, such as whether Bush satisfactorilycompleted his National Guard service.
But, mostinteresting to me, towards the top, on the right, the Wikipedia ran oneof the staples of its biographical entries: A fact box.
Ifind this two-tiered view of facts, quite common in reference works,fascinating. And in the context of a bottom-up work such as theWikipedia, in the midst of a dust-up over what constitutes a factualaccount of the life of W, you have to ask: What's happening to facts?...
Theend of data: In the new world ofclassification and categorization, data and metadata areindistinguishable.
There used tobe a real difference between data and metadata. Data was the suitcaseand metadata was the name tag on it. Data was the folder and metadatawas its label. Data was the contents of the book and metadata was theDewey Decimal number on its spine. But, in the Third Age of Ordereverything is becoming metadata...
Walkingthe walk: O'Reilly's foo camp is brilliantmarketing in which the product is never mentioned
Cooltool: Open source Audacity sounds good
WhatI'm playing: Far Cry
Email:How much of an anti-Semitic misogynist was Melvil Dewey?
Boguscontest: Name the metadata bundles discussedin "The end of data" article