Nordbo's Blog

Friday, June 22, 2007

Miscellaneous reviewed

I am probably the worst blogger out there. Just look at how long it's been since my last post. Well, not much I can do to correct it, other than make a new post, and I finally have something to post about.

I like going to lectures and talks. Preferably of the technical kind. I suppose it's a leftover from when I was enrolled at university. So I was quite intrigued when I discovered Google TechTalks on Google Video. Hour long talks on technical subjects from practical fusion to programming. Just my kind of thing. I regularly search Google Video for new entries of these talks. It has gotten harder lately, however, as it seems that some people are spamming Google Video with videos they call Google TechTalks.

Anyway, I found a talk two weeks ago that sounded very interesting. "Everything is miscellaneous". Sounded to me like it was a talk on searching and sorting data, so I immediately got interested. It turned out to be more philosophical than technical, which was okay. At university I was enrolled to minor in philosophy, so I found it quite interesting. The guy giving the talk, David Weinberger, made an excellent presentation. He presented his musings with appealing confidence, speed and humor. 3 attributes that I find important in a talk like this.

The subject is knowledge. In particular it's about the organization of knowledge and the use of computing power to organize information to conform to the user's needs. I was so impressed with the talk that I ended up buying his book off of Amazon. It arrived last Friday, and I finished it today.

It's a short book, at least compared to other books in my library, weighing in at 233 pages of body text. It's a hardback book (THANK YOU!) and someone figured out that the number of characters on a line shouldn't be too high, making it pleasant to read, without your eyes floundering.

Now, I am a foreigner... no I'm not, everyone else is. I am not from an English speaking country, but am reasonably well trained in English. Having read philosophy before, I knew that philosophical discussions have a high count of difficult words. I found some in this book as well, but not as many as expected. Of course, the trick is to see it as a learning experience, I guess. Now I know what parsimonious means.

I liked the way the chapters all start with kind of a story. It eases you into the new subject, gives you an example you can keep referring to while reading the chapter. One thing to comment, though is that in the first 100 pages or so, he does seem to rehash the same point (that the digital world doesn't have the same limitations as paper based systems have) a few too many times for my taste. Maybe this is because he has presented it so many times. Or maybe he just found it important enough to rehash it so many times.

I can conclude from my experience with this and other books that I don't like subtitles for books. Take the one for Everything is Miscellaneous. "The power of the new digital disorder." It tastes like... like if you went up to a girl in a bar and said "Hey, you want to come home and see my stamp collection?" It is out of place. Of the 7 words in the subtitle, 3 are common words, and 3 are buzz words. If I had eaten I may have had a second chance to taste my food. Keep it short and sweet.

Now, for the recommendations. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the structure of knowledge, to anyone who spend a significant amount of time surfing the Web and to anyone who has tried reading an encyclopedia from A to Z. I think David Weinberger has made some very important observations that at least has influenced my views of knowledge, encyclopedias, laundry and conversation. At the very least, if you read this, you should check out the TechTalk by mr. Weinberger, and base a decision to purchase the book on that.

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