Nordic Track Book Club Review: Everything is Miscellaneous

The Librarian in me really wanted to like this book, but I’m giving Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder only 2-out-of-5 Nordic Track Ski Stars.  There are a few nuggets here, but not enough of them and none insightful enough to justify reading this book.  There was a great line in the book that I somehow never encountered before, “Genius is topical.”  If it weren’t for that, the book would have gotten only 1 Nordic Track Ski Star.


p.13 We are loading onto our computers thousands of photos with automatically generated names that mean nothing to us.  However we solve this photo crisis, it will be by adding more information to images, because the solution to the overabundance of information is more information.

Instead of everything having its place, its better if things can get assigned multiple places simultaneously.  We have entire industries and institutions built on the fact that the paper order severely limits how things can be organized.  Museums, educational curricula, newspapers…are all based on the assumption that in the second order world we need experts to go through information, ideas and knowledge and put them neatly away.  But now we, the customers, the employees, anyone, can route around the second order.  The miscellaneous order is not transforming only business, it is changing how we think the world itself is organized and perhaps more important, who we think has the authority to tell us so.

p.45 Everything has its places, the joints at which we chose to bend nature.

p.63 The fundamental problem with Dewey’s system is that any map of knowledge assumes that knowledge has a geography, that it has a top-down view, that it has a shape.

p.71 Our knowledge of the world has assumed the shape of a tree because that knowledge has been shackled to the physical.  Now the digitization of information is allowing us to go beyond the physical in ways Aristotle could not have dreamed.  The shape of our knowledge is changing.

The whole of the taxonomic world depends on the legal concept of the “type,” an archivist explains.

p.105 The power of the miscellaneous comes directly from the fact that in the third order everything is connected and therefore, everything is metadata.

p.111 Three Virginia hospitals are using RFIDs to track ten thousand moveable pieces of healthcare equipment so that they can get more use out of less inventory.

Even with the BBC’s new standardized system there wasn’t an agreement about what exactly the identifier should point at.  A series, season, a broadcast, a series of broadcasts.

p.123 The deeper we look the less the leaf metaphor holds up.  Leaves imply entities that are well-defined and knowable and have edges and persistence. Instead we’re staring at a pile of leaves with all having something to do with our subject.  It’s enough to make you long for essentialism.

p.127 And every piece, component and particle should be ID’d because someday someone will want to refer to that one bit.

p.133 This creates a conundrum as businesses enter the digital order.  If they don’t allow their users to structure information for themselves they’ll lose their patrons.  If they do allow patrons to structure information for themselves, the organization will lose much of their authority, power and control.  Knowledge, its content and its organization, is becoming a social act.

p.149  We are surprisingly subtle readers of metadata.




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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.