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Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder

Author: David Weinberger
Publisher: New York: Times Books, 2007
Review Published: April 2008

 REVIEW 1: Lucinda Austin
 REVIEW 2: Geoffrey B. Cain
 REVIEW 3: Erika Pearson
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: David Weinberger

Three thoughtful reviews that take the subject matter of my book seriously. What a treat!

Here are some miscellaneous responses, so to speak.

Lucinda, thank you for the review. You were so kind to the book that I can't find anything to say in response :)

Geoffrey, you point to a problem that arises when there are too many tags. That can indeed be a problem, but I think it's more a problem with the software that sorts through the tags. For example, Flickr has hundreds of millions of tags and is able to make remarkably good sense of them by, well, being clever. Its ability to surface "interesting" photos and to cluster photos semantically is quite remarkable. Or am I missing your point?

As far as librarians go, I am totally torn and unsure. I love and admire librarians. I do believe that one of their traditional roles -- that of gatekeeper -- will largely vanish over the next decade or two. But they play lots of other roles and, as you say, have been learning new ones. I honestly don't know what's going to happen to libraries and what librarians will become. There will definitely be an increasing need for information architects.

Erika, of your three criticisms, I'd only argue with one of them.

I may indeed wander in my definition of miscellaneous over the course of the book. I know that I start out letting the reader assume I mean the normal sense of miscellaneous and only eventually point out that I actually mean it in a specialized sense, but I don't think that's what you're pointing to.

As for my glossing over "important implications or alternate outcomes without even acknowledging their existence, or even their weaknesses or limitations," I'm sure you're right. My optimism about being released from the constraints of the old metaphysics undoubtedly overwhelmed my sense of balance.

But I do want to take issue with your criticism that I ignore the problem of information overload, except in one spot in Chapter 6. From my point of view, the entire book is about why the predicted info overload hasn't happened. As I say somewhere in the book, the solution to the info overload problem is to create more info (metadata, to be exact). The book looks at how we're using metadata to make sense of the massive amount of info we're creating for ourselves.

These three reviews are just the sort that an author hopes to receive. Thank you.

David Weinberger


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