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Archive for July, 2007

Shelving science

The Biologists Helping Bookstores blog reports on another in its guerrilla librarianship raids, in which it reshelves non-science books out of the science shelves.

I’m sympathetic. It drives me nuts to see New Age self-help books shelved in the philosophy sections. But…shelving not only expresses beliefs about the topic, it also serves as a non-semantic look-up system. When an employee doesn’t know where a book is shelved, she looks it up in the computer. So, while re-shelving maintains the purity of the topic, it also hides the re-shelved books. And I’m not crazy about that.

Damn first order of order! (Thanks to Brian Christiansen for the link.)

Brand Eins interview

Brand Eins magazine has run Steffan Heuer’s interview with me about all things miscellaneous.

You will be impressed by my flawless German, thanks to the magic of speaking in English and being translated.

Tagmashes from LibraryThing

Tim Spalding at LibraryThing has introduced a new wrinkle in the tagosphere…and wrinkles are welcome because they pucker space in semantically interesting ways. (Block that metaphor!)

At LibraryThing, people list their books. And, of course, we tag ’em up good. For example, Freakonomics has 993 unique tags (ignoring case differences), and 8,760 total tags. Now, tags are of course useful. But so are subject headings. So, Tim has come up with a clever way of deriving subject headings bottom up. He’s introduced “tagmashes,” which are (in essence) searches on two or more tags. So, you could ask to see all the books tagged “france” and “wwii.” But the fact that you’re asking for that particular conjunction of tags indicates that those tags go together, at least in your mind and at least at this moment. Library turns that tagmash into a page with a persistent URL. The page presents a de-duped list of the results, ordered by interestinginess, and with other tagmashes suggested, all based on the magic of statistics. Over time, a large, relatively flat set of subject headings may emerge, which, subject to further analysis, could get clumpier and clumpier with meaning.

You may be asking yourself how this differs from saved searches. I asked Tim. He explained that while the system does a search when you ask for a new tagmash, it presents the tagmash as if it were a topic, not a search. For one thing, lists of search results generally don’t have persistent URLs. More important, to the user, tagmash pages feel like topic pages, not search results pages.

And you may also be asking yourself how this differs from a folksonomy. While I’d want to count it as a folksonomic technique, in a traditional folksonomy (oooh, I hope I’m the first to use that phrase!), a computer can notice which terms are used most often, and might even notice some of the relationships among the terms. With tagmashes, the info that this tag is related to that one is gleaned from the fact that a human said that they were related.

LibraryThing keeps innovating this way. It’s definitely a site to watch.

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Chris Shioyama on the English-centricity of EiM

Chris Shioyama at Gyaku has a great review that not only likes the book (thank you) but discusses it in detail. I’m very comfortable with how Chris explains the book.

At the end, he criticizes me for not crediting the importance of language and, in particular, for not seeing that the post-geographic divisions will be linguistic. (Chris cites Clay on this point.) FWIW, I certainly agree that linguistic divisions are real. In EiM’s terms, they matter because they are under-girded by semantic differences that can’t ever be fully overcome (because translation is always rewriting).

Akma on the 5% wrongness of EiM

AKMA, whose opinion I value highly (he’s one of the voices in the back of my head as I write about some topics – “What would Akma say about this?”), says  nice things about my book. He disputes 5% of it, however, and wonders if the difference between then and now warrants saying there’s a whole new order of order. I’ve replied in the comments.

Gartner hype cycle: Tagging

Philipp Keller applies Gartner’s hype cycle to tagging…

Confessions of an amateur cultist

The Wall Street Journal online has published an exchange between Andrew Keen (”The Cult of the Amateur”) and me. The full version is here. The condensed version is here. (I recommend the full version.) [Tags: andrew_keen web2.0 cult_of_the_amateur everything_is_miscellaneous ]

Facets of reference

Stephen Francoeur has a very interesting post that tries to miscellanize the desk vs. digital reference dichotomy by suggesting lots of other facets one could use to slice and dice the reference trade. (Self-aggrandizement warning: He begins his post by saying something nice about EiM.)

Walter Benjamin and the collector

Tom Matrullo has yet another beautifully written and – dare I say it? – deep meditation. Here he looks at Walter Benjamin’s thoughts on collecting as a type of ordering in which the passion for the unique overwhelms systematic classification.

Tom manages to mention EiM in the piece also, although Benjamin is talking about something far more difficult and important than my book does. Here’s Tom on the initial difference between what Benjamin is talking about and what EiM chatters about:

 Benjamin’s polarity is far more charged with value than with matters of the true. As Arendt notes, Benjamin puts into contagious adjacency the collector and the revolutionary. Both are good at breaking established orders. Take a suicide bomber and pin him, wriggling, to the wall. His purpose is subverted, at least changed: he’s no longer in service to Allah, but at the whim of the collector, who might merely be admiring his shoes, or his special grimace. Because the collector is not about rational ordering, or even passional use, but more about the whims of the performance of collecting.

Open Library Project

The Open Library project has opened the doors on its demo, and it is a big, big deal. Read the about page (written by Aaaron Swartz) to see how exactly promising this project is.

From my provincial point of view, the Open Library Project addresses the miscellaneous nature of books: Lots of editions, lots of variants, lots of relationships.. So, include everything you can and enable the creation of rich metadata.

This is exactly the sort of infrastructure of meaning Everything Is Miscellaneous is so excited about. [Tags: everything_is_miscellaneous libraries metadata wikis ]

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