From having to write these notes, I learned how to spell miscellaneous in full properly!

Excellent job in explaining the multi-faceted issues surrounding the organisation of information.

coverNLB Call No.: 303.4833 WEI (General collection section)
ISBN: 0805080430

My main takeaways from this book:

  • Libraries are in the business of making sense of the miscellaneous
  • The traditional ways that we organise information is limiting, in light of digital and social media and the Internet media

One of my colleague said tongue-in-cheek: “Basically, what Weinberger is saying is that we librarians shouldn’t classify anything! And we’ll soon be out of jobs!”

Rough Notes:
p. 5 – “In physical space, some things are nearer to others… These limitations mean that no matter how well Meddil and his group do their jobs, most of Staples are just in our way” etc.

[Thinking aloud] So does that mean no matter how well librarians (cataloguers and space planners) do their jobs, most of what’s in the physical library is considered as obstacles? Suggests digital world can overcome limitations imposed by phy world. But digital world also has probs. I think it’s cos humans understand the world by touch and sight (if we could taste books we would). We want to know if an item is of the right shape and size (unless e’ve used it before). So why not combine the best of both worlds? What is the best of both worlds?

p.7 “information doesn’t just want to be free. It wants to be miscellaneous”

p.16 – cataloguing work at LC; 8000 new subject headings a year with as many being modified.
“The Library of Congress carefully engineered, highly evolved processes for ordering information simply won’t work in the new world of digital information.” i.e. 7000 books catalogued vs 7m webpages per day.

p.22 flickr works even though there’s no controlled vocab.

[Thinking aloud] We have controlled vocab to ensure consistency, to aid recall and precision. But flickr works without this bec
– users don’t really need recall & precision
– flickr’s sheer number of images make up for lack of stds, which means you’re likely to find something than nothing. See above point
– sharing images is primary feature of flickr. Searching is a bonus or natural spin off. Conversely, libraries are traditionally set up to have search & retrieval as primary, not the sharing.
– flickr satisfies the “i want it now” urges (‘Bytes’ can be delivered instantly). Libraries, bec they deal more with physical items (‘atoms’ have physical contraints), require additional effort to obtain the item.

p. 23 “The miscellaneous order is not transforming only business. It is changing how we think the world itself is organized and — perhaps more important — who we think has the authority to tell us so.”

[Thinking aloud] That made me think — libraries are seen to have “authority” over the physical items they acquire. Because we know how our books are classified.

chpt 2 – on “alphabetization”. seems to set the tone for classification systems. That they are ultimately artificial. But some have logical sequences or “joints”.

p48 – more on melvil dewey. Interesting details about him, which I’m sure will interest librarians.

par 4 -asks why librarians are not doing anything about the prob (will the answer be revealed? See 46)

p47 – why DDC has limitations & bias

p48 par 3 “these anomalies… 1876”

p50 – about how libraries have to change because of the surge in published books (50 years after the Gutenberg press was invented).
[Thinking aloud] So libraries have always been adapting with the times. But in this Digital Age, the crux is in the rate of change. More materials and more user-empowering services have emerged that it’s impossible for libraries to keep up with change. The more entrenched we are (with our standards and people and institutions that have a stake) the less easy it is for us to have impactful changes. We won’t have 50 years to adapt. We may have 5 years.

p59 – on what amazon.com did re classification. More interesting to me was this:
“”Customer reviews were deemed very, very controversial when we launched them, ” Hart remarks. “Publishers said you’re allowing users to say that they hate a book.” The response from Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, as Hart recalls it, was: “It will sell more books… just not ones customers don’t like.”

p71 – on how we see the world being organised; “all along, though, our knowledge of the world has assumed the shape of a tree [hierarchies] because that knowledge has been shackled to the physical. Now that the digitization of information is allowing us to go beyond the physical in ways Aristotle could not have dreamed, the shape of our knowledge is changing.”

p.78 – faceted classification system; ranganathan; Five Laws of Library Science (a librarian with an orderly mind and spiritual desire to help people)

p 85 – strategy of dumping – but u need (or computer) to be able to Describe it first, right?

p92 – on delicious.com – how it got developed, the thinking behind it.

p97 – about wikipedia. Excellent summary. The architecture behind it (new to me — a Wikipedia article isn’t a single object. The text, graphics, formatting rules are all stored on different servers and pulled together only when a user requests a page.)

p101 – four properties of knowledge & Filter on the Way Out, not In.
*Thought – maybe in organising my sgsocial mediadir wiki, i was trying to keep things as misc as possible.

p102 – “experts can be helpful, but in the age of the miscellaneousthey and their institutions are no longer in charge of our ideas.”
“while the economics of publishing ensures that most blogs indeed wouldn’t be let through the gates, the aggregate value of all the blogs in the “long tail” (to use the term Chris Anderson made popular in his book of that name)–each perhaps of interest to only a few people–is incalculable.”

p102 – suggests publishing via blog is inversing the publishing model (then: filter then publish, because of cost is what i think. Now publish then filter out what you think is relevant; cost of publishing & distribution is not an issue other than time)

p 102 to 105 – four strategic principles in how ideas and physical objects can be organised:
– Filter on the way out, not on the way in
– Put each leaf on as many branches as possible
– Everything is metadata and everything can be a label
– Give up control

p107 – how UPC/ barcodes started: 1948 (grad work), 1966 (call for autocheckouts by National Association of Food Chains), 1972 (RCA system installed), 1974 (first working system identifed a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum that is now housed in the Smithsonian — gum or machine?), 1981 (U.S. Department of Defence required bar codes on all products it purchased).

p131 – Gorman on blogs (statement in 2005): “A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communuicate their thoughts via the web…”

p134 – 136 – on wikipedia authors and editors:
135: “At Wikipedia, credibility isn’t about an author’s credentials; it’s about an author’s contributions.” (i.e. you are evaluated on what you contribute in Wikipedia and not your real-life occupation or status).

p148 – dumb labels that are famous
“On Sears hair dryer: “Do not use while sleeping.”
“On Sainsbury’s peanuts: “Warning: Contains nuts.”

p165 – 168 on taggings (preceding that, about labels and implied, or what’s left out). how it works, also issues and potential problems

p181 – on the importance of communicatins across informal lines of authority; that innovation happens at the intersection of those lines. I know it to be true. And now i realise it’s because at those informal intersections, it’s trust that gets people talking and working and not formal authority. I share with you because i want to, not because i have to.

p188 – “any business that forces it’s product into categories is performing an unnatural act” — libraries too, and its true i guess.

P. 189 – “a business that forces its products — or employees — into a predefined set of categories is performing an unnatural act”. (Well, artificial. Is there a natural act?)

P189 – the web being permission-free: alas some try to impose otherwise.
[Thinking aloud] See deeplinking issues. I don’t get it. Why sue google for the failings of its own web design? Shouldn’t you build your site such that there’s no way to deeplink? Failing which you should rethink your business model. Or just put in bold, and not fine print or hidden in T&C, that no deeplinking is allowed. Then we won’t direct users to your site. Cos if you have such a mindset, i won’t want to direct users to your information anyway.

P193 – on the concept behind the schmantic web.
[Thinking aloud] what i like abt this book is that it summarises so neatly all the issues, tpics and workings of tools that ought to interest all information professionals.

P 195 – mentions neurocommons.org; example of the use of the semantic web.
Mentions microformats

p216 – argues that anonymous peer reviews makes articles better
[Thinking aloud] i say it depends on who is attracted to review, but generally it seems to be true — if we consider the comments left at youtube videos, most do not add value to te video content, but some do, e.g. Debunking the material in the video

p 223 – that the web disintermediates by removing the middleperson; removing a layer of inefficiency (which is true for routine tasks that customers can do & know for themselves.

[Thinking aloud] Where does that leave libraries? What aspects of the job cannot be done or customer recognises that they know enough about? Note the diff bet “customer not knowing but don’t recognise or acknowledge this” vs “recognising that they don’t know”. Recommended reads? But i can ask my friends. Trusted source? I trust my friend bec i know him. So librarian to become everyone’s friend? Well there will still be jobs that customer don’t want to do for themselves. So what then is the solution? Or maybe all this is just academic. There are expectations for the job to remain? Or is there? Will libraries be closed in singapore? Now it’s unthinkable. But who’s to say in future?

p235 – 257 – chapter references and sources (interesting stuff).
[Thinking aloud] Guess what? They are organised by chapter numbers. Bec this is print. And it’s constrained by… Ah, go read chapter 1 again 🙂

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