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Archive for May, 2007

Harvard Business Review likes it, but wants more

Larry Prusak reviews Everything is Miscellaneous for the Harvard Business Review. He thinks it makes “an interesting argument and Weinberger presents it well. The book is well-written, well-meaning, and filled with interesting and previously unknown facts…” But, he says, “It’s not perfect. I wish that he had elaborated on some of the points about knowledge.”

Discussing the Miscellaneous at The Well

There’s a discussion of “Everything Is Miscellaneous” at the Well, with me as the interviewee.Here’s the RSS feed. The site is here, but it only has the first nine posts up.

You can read it for free. Only subscribers can comment.

Religious ambiguity

The Velveteen Rabbi writes beautifully about the importance of ambiguity and of repetition in liturgy. Sometimes not knowing what words mean precisely but saying them anyway can connect us to a meaning that transcends us. But she puts it better…

Winnipeg Free Press likes it, except for some parts that it found booooring

The Winnipeg Free Press in a review by Michael Stimpson thinks it’s a “good beach read for techno-geeks.” He thinks I make my case “persuasively and for the most part engagingly with anecdotes and side trips to illustrate his points,” although he found the sections on alphabetization and on Eleanor Rosch to be “excruciatingly dull.”

Truth and categories

Tom Hopkins at Usable Interfaces deepens the discussion from categorization to truth. Isn’t truth what’s really at stake, he asks.

Certainly, traditionally the two are tied, since truth was taken to apply to propositions, and the canonical form of  a proposition is X is Y. The Y, one way or another, is likely to be or imply a categorization. We’ve always been happy to say both that Socrates is a human and Socrates is hungry, without thinking there’s a contradiction between those two, because Socrates can have more than attribute (i.e., belong in more than one category). Classically, though, we’ve wanted to be able to assign one category as fundamental, or “essential.” That accords with common sense: Socrates really is a human, whereas his hunger is just a passing attribute of a human. But we took that common sense and over-thought it, saying that each thing must have one and only one essence. Further, we thought those essences had to form a perfect, harmonious, beautiful order that exists independent of our awareness of it. In fact, its existence was taken to be a requirement for us to make sense of the flurry of perceptions, and a requirement for knowledge.

We’ve  been undoing the work of essentialism for a long time now. That has entailed recognizing our human role in letting various true categorizations emerge: We see Socrates as hungry because he’s in our restaurant now, but we see him now as a physical human because he’s in our emergency room. We can be mistaken in our categorizations – Socrates is in our restaurant to use the men’s room and is not hungry at all – but there are so many truths and so many possible categorizations that our projects and interests are far more important to what emerges than are any hoped-for privileged essences.

Tom’s post takes this down a different path, leading to the importance of “testimony,” which is a very fruitful way of proceeding. But, it’s Memorial Day, I’m on dial-up so  I have to post a first draft, and this is it…

Retarded metadata

My brother and I bought a used bought this winter — fifteen feet of leaky fiberglass, with a 90 horsepower motor that assumes that 15 of the horses in harness are dead and being dragged by the others — so I went downtown to register it with the authorities. If you have assembled the right set of treasure hunt collectibles, including a hand-rubbing of the vehicle identification plate, it all goes smoothly. But…

On the of the checkboxes on the registration form asks if I’m “retarded.” I thought we were done lumping the various ways our intelligences fail us into the one particular bucket, but I also wondered whether the state had minimum intelligence requirements for boat ownership. No, said the state employee on the other side of the counter. They also provide hunting licenses at the boat registration offices, and to get a permit that lets you carry a gun, the state does want to know if you’re “retarded.” They only have the one form, so they have collect the information for boat owners as well.

Inevitably, we read backwards from the metadata that’s asked of us. Had the form asked for prior felony convictions, known allergies or political party affiliation, we would have tried to make sense of the intentions behind the form. Requests for metadata are expressive. Which is one good reason you should bother to print up separate damn forms for boat owners and hunters.

What do the two have in common anyway, except that they both show up jutting their manly jaws forward in outdoor-wear catalogs? [Tags: ]

Twitter for the pokes

From MetaFilter:

Does Twitter move a little too fast for you? Maybe Dawdlr is more your speed. The lovechild of PostSecret and the web-app-everyone-loves-to-hate, postcards sent in are scanned and posted twice a year. Next update? November 21st.

Happy birthday Linnaeus … and a bit more from my book

It’s Linnaeus’ 300th birthday today, and is celebrating with a terrific article by Kristen Philipkoski.

The article also has a sidebar I wrote about Linnaeus, as well as 4-5 pages about Linnaeus from my book

Tags and Facets in Windows

TagAndFacet lets you tag Web sites, Outlook messages, and Windows files for easy re-finding. It also lets you declare “facets” — metadata categories of continuing use — so you can do faceted, tree-like browsing.  A version is available for free with a limit on how many items you can tag; a for-pay version should be available soon. (I haven’t yet tried it.)

Salon’s “Miscellaneous” interview with me

Scott Rosenberg, co-founder of Salon and the author of Dreaming in Code, has posted at Salon an interview with me about Everything is Miscellaneous.

At his blog, Scott adds some “out-takes” from the interview, and recommends the book. Thanks, Scott. [Tags: ]

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