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Tagging and Information Organization (TECH 621)

I initially looked at what we were supposed to read for this week and thought, “there is no way I’m reading every word of this!” But then I started reading the intro and chapter 1 of Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger and realized, shit, this is an awesome new way of looking at things. I think I maybe buying this book in the near future.

How is information organized these day? Chronologically? By date? By length? Is that really what we should be doing? The answer is NO. We have entered the digital age and nothing needs to be ordered. They why do so many programs, like iTunes, do this you might ask? We are organizing information according to the physical world we live in, where there IS a set of criteria we abide by. Take for example dishes. We sort them by type, stack them depending on this too. We do this without even realizing because we’ve been trained by our parents to do it that way.

Why do we have to adhere to the physical world in the digital world? There is nothing holding us back so it doesn’t make sense. We need to start getting over how we think there is a “correct” way to organize things. In the digital world the possibilities are limitless, literally.

Some contend it’s better to have something in multiple places simultaneously, rather than having a specific place for an item. I would tend to agree with that. In Everything is Miscellaneous they use Staples as an example. When toner/ink catalogs were split from one large catalog to brand specific catalogs and placed next to their brand, they were used almost 3x as much.

Take a look at Flickr for example. How do they sort all their pictures? I can tell you for sure they don’t spend time looking at each picture and categorizing it, like, for example, a librarian cataloging physical books. Flickr puts that job on your shoulder (as well as every other Flikr user) by letting you add tags of whatever you want to any picture. An overarching schema then can be seen, but it is an ever-changing way schema. Not really organizing anything huh? That’s the point.

I tried to stay away from just summarizing the reading, but I need to at least share what Weinberger says the three orders of order are:

  1. We organize things themselves (think of dishware – plates in cupboards, silverware in drawers, etc.)
  2. The catalog separates information about the first-order objects from the objects themselves (think a library catalog card in a file cabinet which represents an actual book elsewhere)
  3. Content is digitized into bits, and the information about that content consists of bits as well (removes limitations in how we organize information)

3 is what makes this “new” form of organization possible.

I think this way of thinking is awesome. I can’t wait to see the direction things go in the next couple years as this becomes more apparent to everyone.

More to come as I read the rest


I am a life-long learner, adventure seeker, and front-end developer for @ExactTarget