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Review: Everything is Miscellaneous

I received a reviewers copy of David Weinberger’s latest book, Everything is Miscellaneous. I’ve been following David’s work since at least early 1999 (judging by an old post (6 Feb 1999), and have been fortunate enough to have gotten to know him. I find The Cluetrain Manifesto to still be an important book 7 years later. (The less said about Small Pieces, Loosely Joined, the better.)

I’ve eagerly awaited Everything, and it does not disappoint. Many of my readers are information architects or in related fields, and, yes, you should all read this book. Really. It captures in one place much of what has been hot in IA over the last 5 years — facets, categories rooted in cognitive psychology, tagging, etc.

But I’m thinking that anyone whose work involves information and classification should read it. That includes, say, my partner, who is an archaeologist. Actually, it probably includes *anyone* in a research field. David’s exposition and insights are key for understanding where we’re headed in this increasingly digital world we live in.

What sets David’s book apart from other recent texts covering similar ground (say Ambient Findability and Shaping Things) is that, fundamentally, it is not a book on information or technology; it’s a work of philosophy. David has a doctorate in Philosophy, and it shows on every page.

I mean this in a good way–David’s background gives him a perspective quite distinct from others involved in this conversation, and it’s valuable in connecting his themes with a larger purpose. Because David’s book isn’t about information, it’s about understanding, knowledge, and meaning — fundamentally, it’s a book on how the human condition is evolving.

In later posts, perhaps I’ll address my take on some of the specifics of this work. As it turns out, I’ve already addressed many in posts that go back to the genesis of this site…

– Memory palaces (14 May 2000)
– Tags and classification schemes (Clay Shirky’s Viewpoints are Overrated, Metadata for the Masses)
– faceted classification (seminal post,
– Collaborative filtering and algorithmic relationship creation (IA2000 presentation)
– relinquishing control (essay for Adaptive Path)
– social network analysis (I’ve interviewed Valdis Krebs)
– basic level categories (12 Dec 1999)
– the Semantic Web (11 April 2001)

A necessary precursor to Everything is Wurman’s Information Anxiety (the original, not the puerile second edition).