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Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of…

Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder

by David Weinberger

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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
The author is an interesting man: he's a marketing consultant with a Ph.D. in philosophy who works at the Harvard Law School and advised Howard Dean's brief run for president. His book *The Cluetrain Manifesto* was memorably influential in 2001. He writes engagingly, informally, and clearly. Unfortunately, this book consists of ten chapters all saying the same thing: that we have moved past the age of classifying information in hierarchies and one-to-one relationships, and moved into the world of tagging and metadata. That's it. Each chapter simply explores this simple message from a slightly different angle.

Frankly, and with no arrogance meant, I knew this already, and find most of its implications obvious. (News flashes: the Dewey Decimal System is out of date [chapter 3]. Wikis, especially Wikipedia, are effective repositories of knowledge [chapter 7]. Classifying things too restrictively is counterproductive [chapter 9].) So I did not find the book a "mind-opener" (BuzzMachine.com), it did not make a "profound contribution" to my understanding of "the impact of the digital revolution" (BBC Global News), and despite what Esther Dyson says, I will indeed look at a humble bookshelf or store shelf the same way again.

Some of this is not the author's fault as much as it is the passage of time: it's 2015, and the book was written in 2007. Still, enough had happened by 2007 to make Scott Rosenberg of Salon.com's comment that the book shows "the benefits of moving from paper to bits" seem strangely out of time.

For those who haven't yet got the message, this could be a useful book. For example, I want to send this passage to the leaders of the heavily siloed organization that signs my paychecks: "Thinking that people's skills are defined by the department they're in wastes their talent. (It also means that companies frequently start corporate blogs with the least interesting people—the marketers—as their initial bloggers.) [A business] should scribble over the lines of division with lines of connection. Every line that's drawn ought to be systematically smudged....Everything belongs in more than one place, at least a little bit." ( )
  john.cooper | Feb 17, 2015 |
Not a flawless book, but definitely an important book. I've been using it for 3 semesters to teach a class on information architecture and research methods and I've yet to find a more recent alternative that addresses what it means to organize and find information in today's context more clearly and practically. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
EXCELLENT book. Great overview of the trends towards tagging and away from our usual way of cataloging things. Recommend it to everyone! ( )
  reneeg | Aug 20, 2013 |
If I hadn't just finished a Masters degree in Library and Information Science I may have been more engrossed with Everything is Miscellaneous- David Weinberger's look at the contemporary issues of knowledge classification in our digital environments. He does, however, write entertainingly on the subject and provides an array of appropriate examples to bolster his arguments. A light and readable introduction to these issues. ( )
  Mducman | Apr 22, 2013 |
Read the title and you're done. ( )
  Hamish.MacEwan | Apr 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
"Anyone who has ever seen a computer program will know how much work is involved in creating the modules and functions through which the ordering is accomplished and this is the real big story: not that 'everything is miscellaneous', which is a pretty trite observation, but that disorder can be managed by software."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805080430, Hardcover)

Human beings are information omnivores: we are constantly collecting, labeling, and organizing data. But today, the shift from the physical to the digital is mixing, burning, and ripping our lives apart. In the past, everything had its one place--the physical world demanded it--but now everything has its places: multiple categories, multiple shelves. Simply put, everything is suddenly miscellaneous.

In Everything Is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger charts the new principles of digital order that are remaking business, education, politics, science, and culture. In his rollicking tour of the rise of the miscellaneous, he examines why the Dewey decimal system is stretched to the breaking point, how Rand McNally decides what information not to include in a physical map (and why Google Earth is winning that battle), how Staples stores emulate online shopping to increase sales, why your children’s teachers will stop having them memorize facts, and how the shift to digital music stands as the model for the future in virtually every industry. Finally, he shows how by "going miscellaneous," anyone can reap rewards from the deluge of information in modern work and life.

From A to Z, Everything Is Miscellaneous will completely reshape the way you think--and what you know--about the world.

The Flocking of Information: An Amazon.com Exclusive Essay by David Weinberger
As businesses go miscellaneous, information gets chopped into smaller and smaller pieces. But it also escapes its leash--adding to a pile that can be sorted and arranged by anyone with a Web browser and a Net connection. In fact, information exhibits bird-like "flocking behavior," joining with other information that adds value to it, creating swarms that help customers and, ultimately, the businesses from which the information initially escaped.

For example, Wize.com is a customer review site founded in 2005 by entrepreneur Doug Baker. The site provides reviews for everything from computers and MP3 players to coffee makers and baby strollers. But why do we need another place for reviews? If you’re using the Web to research what digital camera to buy for your father-in-law, you probably feel there are far too many sites out there already. By the time you have scrolled through one store’s customer reviews for each candidate camera and then cross-referenced the positive and the negative with the expert reviews at each of your bookmarked consumer magazines, you have to start the process again just to remember what people said. Wize in fact aims at exactly that problem. It pulls together reviews from many outside sources and aggregates them into three piles: user reviews, expert reviews (with links to the online publications), and the general "buzz." (For shoppers looking for a quick read on a product, Wize assigns an overall ranking.) When Wize reports that 97 percent of users love the Nikon D200 camera, it includes links to the online stores where the user reviews are posted, so customers are driven back to the businesses to spend their money.

Zillow.com does something similar for real estate. The people behind Expedia.com, Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, were looking for a new business idea--and were in the market for new homes. After hunting for information, they found that most of it was locked into the multiple listings sites of the National Association of Realtors. Now Zillow takes those listings and mashes them up with additional information that can help a potential purchaser find exactly what she wants. The most dramatic mashup right now is the "heat map" that uses swaths of color to let you tell at a glance what are the most expensive and most affordable areas. At some point, though, Zillow or one of its emerging competitors will mash up listing information with school ratings, crime maps, and aircraft flight patterns.

Wize and Zillow make money by selling advertising, but their value is in the way their sites aggregate the miscellaneous--letting lots of independent sources flock together, all in one place.

We’re seeing the same trend in industry after industry, including music, travel, and the news media. Information gets released into the wild (sometimes against a company’s will), where it joins up with other information, and the act of aggregating adds value. Companies lose some control, but they gain market presence and smarter customers. The companies that are succeeding in the new digital skies are the ones that allow their customers to add their own information and the aggregators to mix it up, because whether or not information wants to be free, it sure wants to flock.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:13 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"In Everything is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger takes us on a tour of the rise of the miscellaneous. He examines why the Dewey Decimal system is stretched to the breaking point, how Rand McNally decides what information not to include in a physical map (and why Google Earth is beating them out), how Staples stores emulate online shopping to increase sales, why your children's teachers will stop having them memorize facts, and how the shifts to digital music and playlists are not just transforming the music business but stand as models for the future of virtually every industry."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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