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

Introduction to Social Bookmarking

I posted about a social bookmarking survey a few days ago, and received this comment:

“I have no idea what social bookmarking is!!”

My explanation follows:

First, let’s define bookmarking… really easy. In your internet browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc – I’ll be using Internet Explorer for my example), there’s a Favorites menu. You can surf to your favorite website, click Favorites, then click Add Favorites, and add that website to a list of websites you might want to remember. That is a Bookmark.

The nice thing about the bookmark is that you can refer back to it any time you want to… well, except if you’re not sitting at that computer. Then you’re sunk.

Unless you use a Social Bookmarking service. Here’s the Wikipedia definition of Social Bookmarking (found using that handy google search, define: “social bookmarking”):

Social bookmarking is an activity performed over a computer network that allows users to save and categorize (see folksonomy) a personal collection of bookmarks and share them with others. Users may also take bookmarks saved by others and add them to their own collection, as well as to subscribe to the lists of others. – a personal knowledge management tool en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_bookmarking

Say what? OK – instead of merely bookmarking a website on one computer, you can bookmark that website on the web, using a free, web-based service like del.icio.us, Furl, or blinklist (included since they were mentioned in my original post). Why?

Well, your immediate problem of getting to the bookmarked website from another computer is solved. You just surf on over to your service, log in, and – voila – you have your bookmarks. Amazing!

But wait, there’s more… social bookmarking does much more than that:

  • bookmarks are usually searchable, for one thing – so no browsing required.
  • Other people can search YOUR links (hence the “social” part)
  • You can usually search EVERYONE’S bookmarks – for example, Furl has a search engine that searches all Furl bookmark accounts (the idea being that these links MUST be good, since someone took the time to bookmark them)
  • You can categorize them (aka tagging, folksonomy) – handy for organization
  • Furl allows you to see the date you entered the bookmark, rate the bookmark, and see how many views your bookmarks get (sorta funny – my three top views? Yahoo! Webmessenger, Men’s Business Attire, and chords to a song – go figure)
  • Some services, like del.icio.us, show top bookmarks, new bookmarks, and popular tags – great way to see what’s going on in the digital world
  • Big one – using an RSS feed, you can SUBSCRIBE to someone’s bookmark feed. Why is that cool? Let’s say you find someone’s bookmark list to be extremely useful – if you subscribe to it via RSS, you know when that person has updated their list (it’s a time saver for you)
  • With a little coding know-how, you can place del.icio.us feeds on another website. This is cool for reference librarians – they can maintain a list of links, but also allow patrons to subscribe to that list of links. And it’s not hidden way beneath a library’s website – it’s out there for the world to see (and subscribe to)

That’s what Social Bookmarking is, in a nutshell. Much more useful than Favorites, and way cooler, too.