inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #126 of 155: Tom Reamy (treamy) Sun 10 Jun 07 13:40
    
David, on one thing we definitely agree – the importance of metadata. 
I’m particularly happy to see people who for years denied any need for
metadata (too expensive, not needed – the search can find everything)
are now coming around.

But one last general point – I know that book titles have to be catchy
to sell.  I don’t think that a book titled, “Some things are
miscellaneous and in some circumstances and for some kinds of content
the miscellaneous can be used to find and discover things a little
better than some of the older more rigid forms of structure.”, would
sell very well.  Still when you say that **everything** is
miscellaneous – well I’m sure you’ve heard the nit picky response
before.  

And, of course, for taxonomists, the term miscellaneous has special
negative connotations – being what is left over that can’t be
categorized into the taxonomy and thus to be avoided like the plague.

On a more specific point, you include faceted navigation in the camp
of the messy, but I have to disagree.  True, facets are not
pre-coordinated like a traditional taxonomy and this allows the really
powerful capability of allowing users to start from any facet and take
any path to find and/or explore the domain.  However, they support this
capability precisely because they are so well structured – both in
terms of the full selection of which facets to expose and that each
facet is highly (and often hierarchically) organized.  Mapping multiple
highly structured facets together to zero in on what you are looking
for is not what I call messy, although it is dynamic and often
creative.  See Marti Hearst’s work, http://flamenco.berkeley.edu/
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #127 of 155: Tom Reamy (treamy) Sun 10 Jun 07 13:43
    
Returning to folksonomies, <jonl>, I agree that one powerful use for
folksonomies is to explore a domain rather than to support findability,
but if we restrict them to simply creative browsing for discovery,
they become a lot less interesting and useful, and I don’t think you
will find too many folksonomy advocates agreeing with that restriction.
 

And I’ll make a prediction – folksonomies will become less and less
useful as the sizes of the various domain grow and everything gets
swamped in the info overload (It’s not like we haven’t seen this
before).  Having 1,000 photographs labeled “Dog” can be interesting,
having a million becomes less so as meaningful distinctions become
harder and harder to find and thus take longer and longer to wade
through – something most people don’t have the time or inclination for.

Another prediction – folksonomies will survive best in the domains of
things (photographs and others objects) – as pointed out above,
documents with all their verbiage are much messier than things. 
However, even there if folksonomies continue to be significant, it will
probably be because someone has developed ways to add more structure
to them.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #128 of 155: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 10 Jun 07 14:19
    
Or facilitate constraint in selection, which is an effect of delicious' tag 
suggestions... I suppose that could be considered 'more structure.' 

I didn't mean to suggest that tags would be used only for discovery, and my 
point was (as I suspect you realized) that tags are not limited in their use 
or value... a label or pointer may be metadata, but it doesn't follow that 
the sole use for metadata is in labeling or pointing. 
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #129 of 155: James Leftwich, IDSA (jleft) Sun 10 Jun 07 16:50
    

<treamy>'s statement regarding the difficulties encountered with large sets
_only_ highlights the shortcomings of current, primitive metadata usage
strategies.

But if the data is not limited to simply being the subject data objects
(photos, files, media binaries, or even subject groups) and are
_additionally represented_ by dense interactive visualizations that are
driven by metadata, then large numbers become quite manageable - visually.

A dataset of a million photographs with the one-dimensional metadata such as
the keyword "dog," is so simplistic as to be absurdly useless.

However, if each member from among those millions can be separately
visualizable using a wide array of metadata types, each interatively mapped
to associated visual attributes, then within the activity of interactively
toggling (raising and lowering) individual or sets of metadata attributes,
individual and comparitive differences among the members can be brought out.

Each member will have many types of metadata associated with it.  Size,
place of origin, popularity, owner, date, qualities, etc. (both objective
as well as metadata of varying degrees of subjectivity, such as good/bad,
ratings, etc.)

Every day of our lives we confront visual complexities many orders of
magnitude greater than this, and with multiple senses.

People who believe that data will be "tamed" and "boiled down," for easy
digestion, and that this is the way we're going to go deeper into the
information age are mistaken.

Our visual cortex already has the means to see subtle differentiations in
complex visualizations.  And this ability is compounded when the
visualization is interactive and dynamic.

We simply haven't yet configured our computing experience to augment and
utilize this biological capability.  Visualization technology remains
relegated (mostly) to research, scientific and commercial applications.  But
it will eventually be realized that it's the key to allowing everyone to
have powerful and interactive overviews of much greater amounts of data from
a separate, higher level of the information experience.

Computers today, though having evolved a lot from their humble beginnings
are still essentially apeing the cave wall.

We still treat data, for the most part, as a single level experience.  For
example, those vast arrays of photography thumbnails that you can zoom out
from and into.  All of that zooming is still not the same as an additional,
separately interactive dataset visualization layer or display.

Every piece of data, media file, subject, etc. deserves to have a separate
representation which itself is a member of a larger visualized swarm or
field.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #130 of 155: Harmless drudge (ckridge) Sun 10 Jun 07 17:30
    
>a wide array of metadata types, each interatively mapped to
associated visual attributes<

The thing is that there are only as many kinds of metadata as there
are: title, author/creator, publisher, publication or creation date,
place of publication or creation, medium, extent or size, and subjects.
Computers make them all searchable,  and display them in new ways, but
do not add to their number. Unless someone can come up with some new
sort of metadata, we have about the same number of ways to sort
information, and a much larger sea of data to sort it out of.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #131 of 155: bill braasch (bbraasch) Sun 10 Jun 07 19:09
    
David, I'm enjoying your Google talk on YouTube.
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43DZEy_J694>

the slides are great.  they really bring out your ideas.  do you sit with a
slide sorter and select these from your photo drawer, or did you dig them up
on the web?
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #132 of 155: James Leftwich, IDSA (jleft) Sun 10 Jun 07 19:45
    

Of all the metadata types you list (Title, author/creator, publisher,
publication or creation date, place of publication or creation, medium,
extent or size, and subjects), all are roughly in the category of metadata I
called "objective," and the last type, "subjects" falls toward what's more
subjective (as David has elaborated on in his discussions of the different
types of valid meanings assignable to anything).

Furthermore, you imply metadata that's only coming from/attached to the data
itself.  It's unfeasible to imagine every file/media object/subject being
responsible for carrying around _all_ of it's own metadata, even though it
can carry around a great deal.

There's absolutely no limit on the types and amount of metadata that can be
generated and stored separately, with pointers/aliases/references to
files/media/subjects though.

Third parties (or the hosting service for the data object itself) can
generate more, and this can be brought to bear in a secondary manner and
aggregated with that which the data carries with itself (as you'd
mentioned):

*bear in mind this list could go on infinitely*

- how many times has this been opened/viewed/cited/linked
  (relatively objective, in that it's a count)

- how this has been rated (and there could be multiple rating systems)
  (both subjective on an individual rating basis, but more objective as its
   accumulated and tablulated - this form of metadata actually points to a
   potential form of a future election or polling system as well)

- Predominant colors (in the case of photos, this can be discerned
  computationally)

- How many people are viewing/watching/reading/accessing this right now
  (relatively objective, in that it's a count)

- How common it is, based on how many of its many metadata attributes are
  shared with other files/media/subjects.
  (relatively objective/computable)

- Secondarily derived metadata, such as the four-value metadata of season
  (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) which is derived from the metadata of
  date and location (northern/southern hemisphere).

- Live/ephemeral vs. permanent/archived (appropriate for certain types of
  data)

- Metametadata - Which allows higher-level filtering of the third-party or
  external metadata brought in secondarily (by source, reputation, field of
  interest, etc..)

etc..
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #133 of 155: James Leftwich, IDSA (jleft) Sun 10 Jun 07 19:47
    

(slipped by <bbrasch>)

My response in #132 is to <ckridge>'s #130
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #134 of 155: bill braasch (bbraasch) Sun 10 Jun 07 21:15
    
the closing question in the google talk is from a voice asking David how he
thinks it will turn out, will the people who think it should all be put in
buckets find a way to get along with the people who think it shouldn't?

that's it in a nutshell.  the response, that some low single digit % of us
fill out the document properties in our word documents, but people will tag
things in a greater percentage, so get used to it elicited the reply 'well,
good luck finding it'.

great stuff there.

you see a lot of the energy radiating out from the common pools of
information as people form or strengthen communities around them.  give us
ten years to get this together, you say at one point.

I realize that this is and can continue to be much more profound as it
becomes the way we share what we know.  China has Flickr turned off because
of pictures they'd rather not share.  Even that needles the man.

And all the time we're adding facets.  Good luck finding it.  Good luck
finding an address in London without knowing the neighborhood.  Your wiki
filtering layer for the aspect that interests me is what I want to find.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #135 of 155: David Weinberger (dweinberger) Mon 11 Jun 07 13:44
    
The evidence so far suggests that, at least sometimes, the larger
number of tags results in _greater_ precision. Flickr can cluster
photos of noses into dogs vs cats only because there are so many photos
of each. Further, we are going to get better at figuring out how to
sort through this pile, using yet more metadata to tell us what type of
metadata the original metadata is metadata of. There will also
undoubtedly be realms where the increase in info and metadata creates
confusion...but that will spur us to yet new heights of sorting glory.
E.g., we can often find people with common names in large namespaces
because affordances are built or because people hack their own names.
These are problems we have to solve, so we will solve them. And
sometimes the solutions will involve human editors filtering info for
us. Sometimes that's just what we need.

The Web is more of everything.

treamy, about the title: The most common misunderstanding of my book
I'm encountering is the idea that I'm saying we need never sort or
order anything. Swim in the chaos! My subtitle certainly suggests that.
But that's not what I mean, and I'm even willing to defend the title
"Everything Is Misc." It's a title, so we agree an author gets a little
leeway. Nevertheless, everything IS miscellaneous. In the digital
world, it stays misc underneath the orders we cast on top of it: We
don't know or care which platter the mp3s are on because we have a
library list or a playlist. 

Of course I do mean something special by "misc.," and I am indeed
playing on our traditional sense that the misc is the category for
failures of the organizational scheme. But, by misc I mean the digital
pile that is not just unlike things put together, but unlike things
that acrcete more and more ways in which they're potentially alike. 
All those links! So, for me, the misc is a pile that contains an
indefinite set of potential orders. It stays gloriously miscellaneous
as we layer those orders on top of it. 
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #136 of 155: bill braasch (bbraasch) Mon 11 Jun 07 14:07
    
I fret less over my miscellany having read your book.

I spent some time on a website design today.  Instead of thinking in outline
terms, I drew a tag cloud on a sheet in powerpoint and now I can drag the
tags around, see how they cluster and understand the content we'll need.

I could have used a mindmap, but the tag cloud gives me a way to vary
emphasis and alter placement.  Has anyone developed a tag cloud visualizer?
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #137 of 155: David Weinberger (dweinberger) Mon 11 Jun 07 14:20
    
bbraasch, someone must have built a tag cloud visualizer. (I wrote a
pathetic little cloud maker that turns text into a cloud, but it breaks
at the least exception.)

As far as the photos in my slides go: I try to use Creative Commons
licensed ones from Flickr, but occasionally I cheat and grab one from
Google Photos without asking permission. 
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #138 of 155: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 11 Jun 07 20:35
    
David, it strikes me that our computer operating systems store data in 
profoundly miscellaneous clusters on hard drives, and the more miscellaneous 
the distribution of these data clusters, the less efficient is their 
retrieval, so that ultimately we defragment. I'm wondering, in the 
world of metadata that you've been studying and writing about, whether we 
will find or construct deframentation devices and strategies? I could 
probably use one about now. 
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #139 of 155: Christian Crumlish (xian) Tue 12 Jun 07 00:08
    
how much longer do we have David? i've been recovering from a nasty
flu and reading this conversation has been a nice reward for the time
stuck in bed.

one question I have, if there's still time, is "Is there a fourth
order of order." In the book we have the first three orders. Is it 1,
2, 3 many or is there another dimension to come?

(I suspect it's the former, as in induction, when you've generalized
the generalization you've got a principle for all the further steps.)

A month ago David spoke with Bradley Horowitz at my workplace (video
here: <http://video.yahoo.com/video/play?vid=514373>) and I found the
dialogue very stimulating. I took copious notes and had the context
allowed for me to monopolize the Q&A portion I would have asked about
10 or 15 followup questions. (Instead I plan to blog my questions and
ask David to take a look, but since then work, life, etc., have
intervened.) 

In the meantime I've had a chance to read (most of) the book and find
it to be a charming and engaging romp through a fascinating range of
topics. For one thing, I would make it required reading for anyone
interested in information architecture. 

I enjoy following David as he takes us to various places in history
and location and tells fascinating stories while managing to keep a
thread of inquiry going. If there were a less cheesy word that meant
edutainment, I would use it here.

I'll spare the topic all my notes and thoughts from that time but
looking over my notebook now I notice a strange concurrence of David's
topic and a handful of Steven Wright quips: 

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" 

"I also have a full-size map of the world. I hardly ever unroll it."

and

"I have an enormous sea-shell collection. I keep it scattered on
beaches all over the world."
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #140 of 155: Ludo, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Tue 12 Jun 07 03:53
    
>The thing is that there are only as many kinds of metadata as there
are: title, author/creator, publisher, publication or creation date,
place of publication or creation, medium, extent or size, and
subjects.<

And we all know that subjects readily sort out into a few
categories.;-).

BTW, does anyone have a handle on the label for a phobia about
disorder?
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #141 of 155: David Weinberger (dweinberger) Tue 12 Jun 07 05:46
    
xian, I'm familiar with the first two Steven Wright jokes, and even
refer to the map one in the book. But I don't recall the seashell
joke...which I _love_. If you could make sub-collections of shells just
by doing playlists that point to where the shells are scattered, you'd
have a pretty good metaphor for the miscellaneous (and a totally
not-funny joke).

And, oddly, today in the shower I was thinking about the arbitrariness
of writing stuff down. E.g., in the book I stipulate three orders of
order. But I made that up. I could have said there are four, with
"social ordering" being the fourth. Or I could have said there have
been two dimensions of order, and now we're entering a multidimensional
space. But instead I said there are three orders, and now that's
what's fixed in ink. I had the same Author's Regret with my previous
two books, but the arbitrariness of writing used to strike me regularly
back when I was reading systematic philosophers who come up with a
neat division (usually into threes or fours). They get stuck with what
they write, even though it's really (?) just one way of slicing up the
cake. So, are there really three orders? Nah. It's just a useful way of
framing some issues ... which means that while it reveals some, it
also obscures much. That seems to be how understanding works.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #142 of 155: David Weinberger (dweinberger) Tue 12 Jun 07 05:47
    
jonl, "defrag" is a nice metaphor. In fact, Eric Norlin has started a
conference called "Defrag" to talk about how we're pulling things
together.

From my point of view, all of the ways we pull order out of the
miscellaneous is a type of defrag.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #143 of 155: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 12 Jun 07 07:29
    
Ha! Someone should start by defragging the bazillion conferences that are 
popping up every year, all of which I want to (but can't) attend. 

Here's a link for defrag:
http://www.defragcon.com/
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #144 of 155: Christian Crumlish (xian) Tue 12 Jun 07 08:20
    
David, didn't mean to hoist you on your own canard. I had a philosophy
professor who noted that things naturally break down into threes (when
doing hierarchical lists: he was constantly writing blackboard notes
with three items under each branch), because there is always "A, not A,
and everything else.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #145 of 155: bill braasch (bbraasch) Tue 12 Jun 07 09:13
    
that's reassuring.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #146 of 155: metaxian (xian) Tue 12 Jun 07 09:38
    
and, since I forgot to close the quote*, the rest of the this topic is
all part of everything else...."

* quotation marks are metadata, right?
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #147 of 155: James Leftwich, IDSA (jleft) Tue 12 Jun 07 09:45
    

> They get stuck with what they write, even though it's really (?) just
> one way of slicing up the cake. So, are there really three orders?
> Nah. It's just a useful way of framing some issues ... which means
> that while it reveals some, it also obscures much. That seems to
> be how understanding works.

Which is why I feel understanding equals/benefits from/deserves ongoing
interaction, as opposed to simply reading/viewing/receiving some
authoritative/controlled/static viewpoint/definition/framing/query result.

The lack of the ability to dynamically reframe any
viewpoint/definition/model/query result represents a limitation, even though
convenience is a worthy goal.  This has been an artifact and liability of
the static written word, with the artifacts often being confused for some
kind of actual finality/definition.  The map is not the territory, etc., and
words/descriptions are maps of concepts.

Looking at this on a much larger, epochal scale, humanity now faces
essentially an information representation/communication/perception crises,
due to how much information there now is in the world.  Both recorded
(retrieving- and exploration-related) as well as live and in real-time
(accessing- and awareness-related).

This is an interesting, and shocking, thing to ponder, given that the
written word has brought us from the state of hunter-gatherers to our
present world.  But we've now (the present era) reached the inherent
limitations of that mode (alone).  Words and single-level perceptual models
for exploring and communicating ideas and information are, well,
inefficient.

Just as walking was eventually augmented by driving, and then flying.  So
will our historical information technologies eventually be joined by more
powerful higher-level forms of processing, interaction, resulting in
similarly higher and more powerfully efficient levels of understanding and
awareness.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #148 of 155: watch the parking meters (xian) Tue 12 Jun 07 10:04
    
I refuse to recognize the authority of what you just wrote

<ducking>

seriously, though, one thing that interests me about the web, about
wikipedia, etc., is the idea of how authority can emerge or be
constructed tendentiously, temporarily and how the older notion of
authority based on credentials and handed down from on high, from a
mountaintop perhaps, is seriously under siege.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #149 of 155: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 12 Jun 07 15:43
    
Yeah, I'm fascinated by the authority of the lead bird in the flock. It just 
emerges.
  
inkwell.vue.300 : David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
permalink #150 of 155: James Leftwich, IDSA (jleft) Tue 12 Jun 07 16:06
    
Kevin Kelly had some fascinating things to say about that aspect of bird
flocking in his book, "Out Of Control," if I remember correctly.
  

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