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Everything is Miscellaneous

Nov - 12 - 2007
Nicole C. Engard

This is not a review – so much as it is a review of points that have stuck with me from my reading of Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger. I’m not done yet – but I can’t hold it in anymore – and my husband is tired of listening to me rant about library-type stuff :)

Point one: Allowing users to write reviews:

When I was at the NFAIS Humanities Roundtable, I faced this very question. “Why would we want to let amateurs write reviews?” and “Publishers will pull their content if we let them do that!” It was for this reason that I found page 59 so funny!

[Greg] Hark 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.”

This was in response to Amazon allowing users to review books in their store – and it’s perfect! My answer at the conference was another question. What’s to stop a professional reviewer from saying they hate the book? The fact of the matter is that the average reader cares more about what other readers think than what professional book reviewers think – at least I do!

Point two: Library catalog limitations:

Weinberger points out (on page 119) that when looking at a record in a library card catalog:

Generally you will not find how well the book sold, if it’s been banned in any countries, a list of the books it cites, the college the author attended, what the reviewers said about it, the full index from the back of the book, or how many times it’s been checked out of the library…

Now, while we aren’t using cards to store our data anymore (well most of us aren’t) we’re still following the same rules – and more importantly, we’re still thinking about how much time it would take for us to add that extra metadata.

This is the beauty of LibraryThing’s new Common Knowledge – while it doesn’t have all of these things it does have some and they’re adding new fields all of the time! I love it! One day I spent hours just filling in all of the info I could find on my favorite authors – not a great use of time – but so useful to someone searching for that book!

Point three: Knowledge is social:

Starting on page 144, Weinberger discusses our education system here in the U.S. and how we’re taught to work in silos. Students are made to sit and take tests to measure what they’ve learned:

The implicit lesson is unmistakable: Knowing is something done by individuals. It is something that happens inside your brain. The mark of knowing is being able to fill in a paper with the right answers. Knowledge could not get any less social. In fact, in those circumstances when knowledge is social we call it cheating.

When I was in college, I lived with my husband (boyfriend at that time) and we took many of the same classes – since we had the same degree. We would sit and do our homework together and yes, come up with the same answers. Most of the professors were okay with this as long as we could fill out those test papers on our own come exam time – all except one – but we won’t go there. Now, Weinberger guarantees that students are on IM, chatting while doing homework – which probably ends up with the same result – shared knowledge. This – in my eyes – is the way of the world! You learn so much more by sharing with others than you do sitting alone at your desk. This is part of the reason why I started this blog – I wanted to share what I was learning so that others could learn too.

Two more quotes from Weinberger in this section that made me interrupt my husband as he tried to read his book last night …

Memorizing facts is often now a skill more relevant to quiz shows than to life … One thing is for sure: When our kids become teachers, they’re not going to be administering tests to students sitting in a neat grid of separated desks with the shades down.

So true!! And:

One of the lessons of Wikipedia is that conversation improves expertise by exposing weaknesses, introducing new viewpoints, and pushing ideas into accessible form.

Long story short – knowledge should be shared! And in doing so learning will be more valuable.

More points to come:

I’m only 1/2 way through with the book – and I’m sure I’ll have more to share with you as I finish – if you haven’t read the book – I highly recommend it just based on the first 150 pages and the conversations that I’ve seen spring up from it!

3 Responses so far.

  1. carlos lopez says:

    The line I found most memorable (and I’m paraphrasing here because someone else has my copy) is that the solution to an information glut is more information.

  2. carlos lopez says:

    The line I found most memorable (and I’m paraphrasing here because someone else has my copy) is that the solution to an information glut is more information.

  3. [...] week I wrote about my impressions of David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous. Well, this morning (around [...]


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