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Thoughts on Everything is Miscellaneous, Part 1



hard rock cafeI just finished reading David Weinberger’s book, Everything is Miscellaneous (thanks, Brad!). It’s a great read – one that I highly recommend to everyone who reads my blog. You might not agree with everything in the book, but I guarantee the book will make you think.

First things first – Weinberger MUST know some librarians! Throughout the book, he mentions librarians… even some specific ones (ok, he even mentions Gorman and Blog People!). Weinberger also mentions card catalogs, FRBR, faceted searching (in relation to Endeca), DDC, and LCSH. He even quotes Ranganathan! So it’s definitely a “librarian-friendly” book.

Now, on to my main beef with the book. The title of the book, obviously, is Everything is Miscellaneous. And in most of the book, Weinberger tends to discuss first how something is either currently categorized or organized, and then how that organization or categorization has changed with web 2.0 tools and tagging specifically. How has it changed? According to Weinberger, allowing individuals to sort and tag information however they want equates to the world of information turning miscellaneous.

Interestingly enough, I agree with everything Weinberger says… but the term “miscellaneous” bugs me.

Instead of using “miscellaneous,” I’d use “personal.” In fact, I’d change the title of the book to Everything is Personal or Everything is Personally Relevant. Most of the information Weinberger describes as being miscellaneous isn’t actually haphazardly mish-mashed together (definition of Miscellaneous found using Google). Instead, the information, or the metadata at least, has been customized – or personalized – for “me.” Tags, searches, descriptions, customizations – all help to make the information personally relevant to me.

So… it might just be a semantics thing – I dunno. But I don’t see Weinberger’s miscellaneous pile of leaves (read the book – you’ll understand) as miscellaneous. Instead, I see it as opportunity. As something waiting to be discovered by me, tagged and described adequately enough that I can revisit it – which pulls it out of the miscellaneous pile and into my personally relevant, “I place you here” organizational needs.

And if my personal, sorted-through pile helps others (ie., tagging items in flickr), then great!

Update: Part 2 is here

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  • http://www.everythingismiscellaneous.com/ David Weinberger

    David, thanks for the comments.

    You’re right that I’m using miscellaneous in an extended sense. Normally, the miscellaneous collects things that have no one principle of similarity, and that’s now what I mean by calling digital collections miscellaneous. I mean something very very close to what you mean: The miscellaneous is supersaturated with likenesses among its pieces, so that users can organize the relevant pieces in ways that make sense to them (ways that are useful to them) at the time (which is why you think of it as ‘personal’).

    I still prefer my title to yours, but I do get people who assume that I’m saying that there is NO order in the world, that everything is pure chaos, which is very far from what I mean (as you know).

    Thanks again.

    Best,

    David W.

  • http://www.everythingismiscellaneous.com David Weinberger

    David, thanks for the comments.

    You’re right that I’m using miscellaneous in an extended sense. Normally, the miscellaneous collects things that have no one principle of similarity, and that’s now what I mean by calling digital collections miscellaneous. I mean something very very close to what you mean: The miscellaneous is supersaturated with likenesses among its pieces, so that users can organize the relevant pieces in ways that make sense to them (ways that are useful to them) at the time (which is why you think of it as ‘personal’).

    I still prefer my title to yours, but I do get people who assume that I’m saying that there is NO order in the world, that everything is pure chaos, which is very far from what I mean (as you know).

    Thanks again.

    Best,

    David W.

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  • davidleeking

    David W. – thanks for posting some clarification! No, you’re right – your title rocks… my example was merely to try to make the title match what I was reading into your book.

    Thanks again!

  • davidleeking

    David W. – thanks for posting some clarification! No, you’re right – your title rocks… my example was merely to try to make the title match what I was reading into your book.

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.everythingismiscellaneous.com/ David Weinberger

    David, I wish my title rocked! (Technically, I’m too old to say that anything rocks.) I think it’s a little catchy, but it does lead people astray.

    So, if it rocks, maybe it’s a soft sedimentary rock. Talc? Not the hard granite of, say, “The Tipping Point.”

  • http://www.everythingismiscellaneous.com David Weinberger

    David, I wish my title rocked! (Technically, I’m too old to say that anything rocks.) I think it’s a little catchy, but it does lead people astray.

    So, if it rocks, maybe it’s a soft sedimentary rock. Talc? Not the hard granite of, say, “The Tipping Point.”

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