Caught In An Endless Quest For The Perfect Filing System?
Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 1:16AM
Ron Tarro in Books, Managing Information

(I'm grabbing a couple reviews of my old (favorite) books and dropping them onto this blog. This one is from 2008 but explores a question that I believe remains very interesting today: How do we organize ever expanding amounts of information (in it's many forms) and make it accessible and useful?  Here's one of the thinkers in this area.)


Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder By David Wienberger

Everything is Miscellaneous speaks to the aching sense of futility experienced by all you organizational freaks. The reason your office or computer desktop folders are never perfect, and as a result you are not perfectly organized, is that you have not had perfect tools.

Alas, this book makes clear that the world does not fit into nested folders and file drawers ... no matter how clever you name them. We've always intuitively known this but David Wienberger gets specific about it. By the way, you may feel better to learn that the folks managing the Dewey Decimal System have a vastly more frustrating (and hopeless?) organizational and taxonomical job than you do.

David Wienberger goes deep on what software and more generally the internet has done to help us organize knowledge in the world. He illuminates our movement from first order organization (the library shelf), to second order (creating a library card catalogue to find that book), to third order (collective tagging of information as found in online tools like flikr, delicious, wikipedia, and others).

More interstingly, he describes how mankind will keep intellectual order given the explosion of constantly changing information. The short answer to that "how" question is: we will no longer simply put information into discrete real or virtual folders. Instead we will all collectively begin to create and share descriptive information elements and associations about each element of information.

Wienberger's sense is that we are steadily organizing the world's information into structures that actually better mimic how the human mind works. We are bringing our information toolsets closer to our biological inclinations. The implication is that we will all spend less time organizing and more time making use of information. Great news unless you're a genetically compulsive obsessive organizer.

Read this book to find out what's driving many things you see on the internet including meta tagging, wikipedia, flickr, google, digg, and beyond. If you're interested, you can get the book here ... Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. Also David Weinberger has an ongoing blog about information management if you enjoy following the subject.


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