Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It is making more sense that the Online Information show can be imagined. I might as well assume it is happening now or last week. Also I have managed to read all the way through "Everything Is Miscellaneous" by David Weinberger. I do read some books by the way. I do not spend all my time watching TV or online. Just most of it. But I still read newspapers and magazines and sometimes a book. Usually they have some kind of typological guide or outline. "In this chapter you will discover x y and z" or an introduction that sums up the main points. In this case there is just a long continuous text with occasional breaks for a chapter heading. Maybe it is thought this is how a book should be. Based at the Berkman Center, Harvard Law School and a frequent keynote presenter at events such as Online Information maybe he thinks that speaking without interruption for an hour or so at a time is no bad skill and printed text should have the same effect. Not that I'm complaining about the content now I have managed to read it. I just think there should be a route map.

One thing disappointed me, the representation of people who work on quality assurance. An imagined character, Carla (page 160), has just one line. "I'll be making sure what we build meets company standards." This is in a chapter on "what nothing says", how fiction communicates more than our information about people we know through work. My own view is that quality assurance can be more than this. Maybe I should turn to fiction for a Carla who would guide the team through the next morphosis.

Jimmy Wales, scheduled to present this year's keynote for Online Information, is quoted on page 136. "I'm not all that interested in French philosophy. An article is neutral when people have stopped changing it."

Wales is currently working on the Wikia search engine. One of the principles is quality ( as well as transparency, privacy and collaboration).

"* Quality - Significantly improve the relevancy and accuracy of search results and the searching experience."

Discussion so far points out that search engines sometimes turn up mostly commercial sites : social networking sites suffer because people use the wrong tags : there is plenty of room for improvement.

It is a mystery to me why Weinberger's book has not been more widely reviewed in the UK. That is, reviewed at all as far as I can tell. It is now available through Amazon UK. On Huffington Post Weinberger recently explained why there has been media attention for "The Cult of the Amateur" by Andrew Keen

How could they not feature an author -- a former dot-com guy no less -- who says that the Internet is killing our culture, as his subtitle puts it? Even better, the culture the Internet is supposedly killing is the mass media's presented in its best light -- the home of poetry, opera and fine journalism.

Some points from his own book are repeated but there is support for some of the points made by Keen.

Keen's best case largely fails. It's strongest at pointing to the strengths of the modern ecology. Some institutions that have nurtured talent are likely to go bankrupt. We do not yet have replacements for some of them, and it's possible that for some of them, no economic model will emerge that will enable them to continue.

So this is interesting for business students as well. The Wikipedia may not have a normal business model but it seems to survive. Online Information will include some discussion about publishing.