Taxonomy in a Digital World Part 3

Continuing my notes from Everything is Miscellaneous.  I have also discovered a video presentation of some on the main ideas from the book here.


Chapter 5 - The Laws of the Jungle

Here the author argues that the physical limitations of organizing information have put more power in the hands of those who control the organization of information than those who create it. Editors are more powerful than reporters; press agencies more powerful than editors etc.

The author introduces tagging. Tags let you remember things your way. At Delicious you can go to your page and see a list of all the tags you have applied. Click a tag and see a list of all pages to which you have assigned the tag. You can also see what pages other people have applied that tag to, and further subscribe find out when others apply that tag in the future (tag streams). " having a world of people with similar interests scouring the web for pages that you'll find interesting or relevant to your work".

"Experts can be helpful, but...they and their institutions are no longer in charge of our ideas."

Four new principles emerging:

  • Filter on the way out, not the way in
    Physical constraints of paper/size of libraries etc. Required that a 'gatekeeper' filter information on the way in - making sure only that information considered valuable to enough people was let in. With abundant resources, filtering on the way in decreases value in the digital world by ruling out items that might be of great value to a few people.
  • Put each leaf on as many branches as possible
    An item can be placed everywhere it might be useful in the digital world.
  • Everything is metadata
    Freed from the physical world, the only distinction between metadata and data as that metadata is what you already know and data is what you want to find out. No hierarchies - everything is connected to everything else.
  • Give up control
    You cannot predict what people will be interested in and what connections they are going to see. That's why it is so powerful to let users mix it up for themselves. Users are put in charge of the organization of the information they browse.

Chapter 6 - Smart Leaves

This chapter emphasizes the point that everything is connected to everything else.

Include and Postpone principle: Different people call things different names, so include everything and postpone classification by letting users make their own decisions on taxonomy.

"People keep pretending they can make things deeply hierarchical, categorizable and sequential when they can't. Everything is deeply interwingled"

Chapter 7 - Social Knowing

A discussion of new mechanisms of content generation on the web, mainly focused on wikipedia. I found this chapter disappointing, and seemed to head off at a tangent to the rest of the book. There were a few trends highlighted that together I thought were interesting though:

  • Move towards everyone as publishers of content and the collective wisdom of the masses as opposed to a few experts
  • The huge amount of new content that this new model generates that we as content consumers now need to sift through. This means we need more metadata and new ways to navigate the content. Also the burden of deciding what to believe is now on us.
  • Move to publishing to the web at the click of a button means more ambiguity. Printing requires documents to be declared finished at some point. In the electronic world things are ever changing, evolving, (hopefully) improving.

Taxonomy in a Digital World Part 4

Technorati tags: Taxonomy, Everything Is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger, Tagging, metadata, Folksonomy