Weinberger’s third order of information

From ALA TechSource, an online resource for librarians, comes a great review of David Weinberger’s book Everything is Miscellaneous.

“This book is dangerous. Everything is Miscellaneous takes all the precious ideas we are taught as librarians and throws them out the window. Structure, order, precise metadata, bibliographic control: gone, gone, gone, gone.

Even, for you edgier types, ye who tell of your Semantic Web and your RDF triples: old-school, good-bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

In what Weinberger describes as the “third order” of information, knowledge is no longer bound by either-or decisions, and “can be in many places at once; knowledge does not fit into finite boxes or even have a shape; and — most disturbingly, though in Weinberger’s hands, also most entertainingly — messiness is a virtue.”

Weinberger “explains this point repeatedly but no better than in a section discussing Flickr, where automated and human-supplied metadata create “a mess than gets richer in potential and more useful every day. … Third-order messes reverse entropy, becoming more meaningful as they become messier, with more relationships built in.”

As the ALA TechSource blog notes:

“The third order is most definitely not about attempting to perfect second-order rules and weld them to a third-order universe; it is not about predictive information; it is not about the primacy of accuracy over volume. The third order, in other words, is the opposite of how we do things in LibraryLand.”

In summary, says writer Karen Schneider: “This is, I repeat, a dangerous book. Ban it, burn it, or take it to heart. The most dangerous part of this book is not that Weinberger says these things, and so much more: the danger comes if we don’t listen.” Cory Doctorow has a review of the book at BoingBoing, and Cory is also the first in a series of interviews that Weinberger has done to go along with the book which are being made available as podcasts — and will include interviews with Arianna Huffington, Craig Newmark and others.

Social network space a tad crowded?

I just had to post something here about this because it totally blew me away. Not to pick on the folks at Alice Hill’s RealTechNews, but I was just reading a post they had about something, and down near the bottom there was a gigantic line of icons, each of which represented a social-networking website where you could click and either submit the post or bookmark it or whatever.

I’ve included a screenshot here because I found it so incredible — there are 25 icons, from a little animated TV set to a star and a sheaf of wheat. They represent everything from Digg.com and del.icio.us to news sites such as Newsvine.com and Fark, to lesser-known bookmarking sites such as Spurl.com and RawSugar, to ones I’ve never heard of such as LinkAGoGo and Scuttle.com.

If you’re a VC and you’re thinking about investing in the social networking space, I suggest you take a look at these and despair. And this isn’t even all of them — I can think of a few that aren’t even on the list (maybe their icons weren’t cute enough), such as Diigo, eSnips, Dogear, Kaboodle, LookLater, StumbleUpon and Frassle.


Drinking the Web 2.0 kool-aid

As Rob Hyndman has pointed out on his blog, in organizing the mesh conference coming up in Toronto this May, we have tried to drink as much of our own kool-aid as possible — figuratively, that is — by using Web 2.0 services and features in both planning the conference and in the actual setup, including del.icio.us tags. As Rob has written in the past, we’ve also have made great use of Basecamp, Writeboard.com, Google Chat, Writely.com and Mollyguard. For billing, naturally, we use SecondSite from Mike McDerment (one of the mesh organizers) and his team.

We’ve also added a wiki to the meshconference.com website, which David Crow and the Toronto BarCamp gang helped put together, which allows anyone who is attending to post an offer of a ride, or ask for one, or add links and comments to the various pages that have been set up there. There is also a page for each stream — media, marketing, business and society — with a list of the del.icio.us tags for each panel. Rob and Mark and I have already been tagging articles and blog posts that we’ve come across over the past month or so, to get the categories started, but we’d love it if others wanted to add things that they see too, and then our moderators and panelists will have something they can look over that will help them get up to speed (if they aren’t already).

So if you see a piece that has something interesting to say about how the “social Web” is affecting either media, marketing, businesses or society/politics, get out your del.icio.us labelling gun and tag away.

TagCloud a good idea that needs help

In my constant quest for new plug-ins and gizmos for my blog, I try out just about everything I come across, including the Quimble survey creator, which I quite like. I came across one called TagCloud that has been around for awhile and decided to try it, in part because I think tag clouds are a handy way of seeing patterns in large amounts of information. Del.icio.us has them, and someone just set one up for Google News that is kind of cool, called Newzingo.

Mike Arrington wrote about TagCloud when it first came out, back in June, and said he liked the idea, but was concerned about how long it took to generate the tag clouds. His concern was prescient, because TagCloud is now taking days to update a cloud. I set one up almost a week ago and there is still no data in it.

When I sent an email to TagCloud, I got a response saying the company was having server issues, and pointing me to this comment by founder John Herren at a Yahoo group related to TagCloud, in which he says that “the size of our userbase has grown to the point that we have a backlog of feeds to analyze,” and that updating can take several days. He says the company is changing hosting providers and hopes things will be resolved soon.

All of this is fine, and understandable — and not surprising, given the issues that companies such as Typepad and Bloglines and even del.icio.us have suffered from in recent months — except for the fact that the TagCloud website still says it will take a few minutes to update a cloud, and there is no mention even in the news section about it taking days, or any of the server-related issues Mr. Herren mentions. I would suggest that that’s not a great way to get your new users, or potential new users, to cut you some slack.


As you can see if you read the comments, John has responded to my comments within a couple of hours of my posting them, and admitted that TagCloud has been remiss in not keeping people more informed about the problems they’re having, even though it is a beta service, which he said he has been working on as a side project. Thanks for the quick response, John, and best of luck at getting TagCloud up and running again.

Update 2:

As of December 11, still no data in the clouds I created, and no info in the “news” section of the website.