If Everything Is Miscellanous, Then . . . .

Joel Alleyne’s Extreme KM column this past week on Everything is Miscellaneous – A Must-Read Book enouraged me to move forward my plan to read the book. I read it last night and agree with Joel that it is “must reading.”

As Joel mentions, David Weinberger’s central premise in the book is that the “power of the miscellaneous comes directly from the fact that in the third order [note: what the author of the book means as our current era of digital information], everything is connected and therefore everything is metadata” (p. 105).

My initial cynical reaction to the book is that if everything is miscellaneous, and if technology continues to improve, should we not abandon our “second order” attempts to organize and control information and leave it to smart technology such as conceptual search engines and auto-taggers to make the “connections” for us, thereby producing the relevant information and knowledge?

The author touches upon this in his assertion that it is difficult (and perhaps not effective) to “make” people “do” KM (knowledge management) but that KM is most effectively done “behind the scenes” so to speak, using technology (p. 160):

KM systems founder when they require employees to make explicit everything they know about a business, as if everyone is a natural writer or teacher – or as if everyone is a database that can generate reports at the push of a button. KM systems have done best when they’ve worked quietly, gathering the knowledge generated implicitly in the course of work, organizing emails into webs of information, inducing who is an expert based on seeing who’s responding most frequently on in-house chats, and building libraries out of the links people send one another.

The information scientist part of me – with traditional second order training – is reluctant to give up on second order control (and I realize that Weinberger is not suggesting that we abandon efforts to see that bits of information are not tagged in some way).

Weinberger mentions two law-related “tagging” projects that I had not been following as of yet: (i) Legal-RDF (Resource Description Framework) and (ii) LRI Core. Simon Fodden had an intriguing post last year with A Methological Moiré that touches upon RDF through a comment by one of our readers.

Have any readers of SLAW been involved with either Legal-RDF or LRI Core?

Comments are closed.