Everything is Miscellaneous could be, at a very crude level, described as "Folksonomy explained for librarians".
This is to me the core of the first 100 pages, and a topic of substantial value. Although I don't think Weinberger ever states this explicitly, our schooling and our concepts of the world help to shape our understanding of what is possible. I am not a librarian, but I have to assume, at least until recently, that library school is a great deal about the physicality of books, their need to be classified so that they can be shelved in their one-and-only-one location. The lessons one learns from that kind of thinking, the implicit understanding of "information" and how it can be used, can lead one to have a set of assumptions that are so fundamental they are probably almost invisible, difficult to expose to self-examination.
Weinberger explores the reasons for the classification systems used by libraries, helping to make explicit the choices and trade-offs involved. Then he leads one into the possibilities opened up by the unconstrained world of electronic information.
After this strong start, I found the book drifted a bit, touching on, well, various miscellaneous topics. There is a useful section on the importance of standardized, universal, unique identifiers, a fair bit of The Usual Discussion of The Usual Suspects (WikipediaFlickrDelicious etc.), a brief pondering of the popular topic "will we filter ourselves into a reflective bubble of self-reinforcing beliefs", then quite a bit of philosophizing about the nature of knowledge.
The last element left me a bit wary, as it edges into relativism, knowledge as an individual construct. Yes, it is true that there are many areas where things are "fuzzy". What is this book about? Well, it's to some extent "about" whatever the percentages in the tag clouds associated with it say
It's "information organization internet folksonomy tagging classification". But it is nevertheless a book, a physical object, published in 2007 and located in my house. I think there is a lot of danger in overstating the flexible nature of understanding; nature itself is not so understanding. All the belief in the world will not get a rocket into space, only a very precise agreement of your design with the real physical constraints of the universe will do so.
There was a good, albeit brief section where he discusses the challenges of the Semantic Web, I would summarize his conclusions as "too big and ambitious to ever work, but whatever they come up with will be a useful addition to the web of knowledge".
The book has a few minor errors when it touches on technology, for example it says you can enter a book into LibraryThing by uploading a photo of the barcode, perhaps this is some confusion with Delicious Library or with the operation of the CueCat scanners. It also says you can look up libraries at LibraryLookup dot com, the actual URL for Jon Udell's tool is https://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/LibraryLookup/
Librarians, library bloggers, and cataloging concepts are all well-represented here, I learned some interesting things about Dewey (he was obsessed with the Metric system, and had originally specified metric dimensions for the ubiquitous "3x5" card).
If you're already familiar with the concept of folksonomy, or quite willing to accept that a book might be reached through many different paths of full-text search, blog entries, tags and catalogue metadata, this book may not add a lot for you. But I know that there are still those out there who don't quite get it, rejecting full-text search and yearning for some nostalgic yesteryear of controlled OPAC Glory Days. So if you're a librarian who is open to, but doesn't quite get this whole folksonomy thing, or if you're a cataloger who thinks full-text search is the devil's work, this would be a good book for you.
The one area I would have liked to have seen addressed - if only in the form of a pointer to other references, is an explanation of the fundamentals of how web pages and web servers work. This fundament is what all the other linkages are built upon, and a lack of understanding of this technology leads, in my experience, to many fundamental misconceptions about link resolvers and the web in general.
I find myself wishing I could give two ratings on LibraryThing, with different semantic context. For people who already know about folksonomy, or who have read similar books, I would say three stars. For librarians, catalogers, businesspeople and others who want to understand how the digital world of unlimited categories and tags differs from the physical world of one object, one location, I would say four stars.
For me, I am waiting for the next generation of tools that exploit even more information about and within books. As an example, I'm guessing that very few tools would be able to tell you that both in this book
It was Jean-Baptise Lamarck--unjustly remembered primarily for being wrong about how giraffes got long necks--who not only sorted out Linnaeus's worms but changed the basic shape of Linnaeus's tree. As Gould recounts the story, Lamarck loved invertebrates so much that when he was almost fifty, he was appointed professor of insects and worms at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle.
and in Paris to the Moon
The entrance to the paleontology museum at the Jardin des Plantes is graced by a statue of Lamarck, with the engraving "The Father of Evolution," in giant letters, on its pedestal. Darwin, on the other hand, is nowhere in sight.
two books which could not have more different topics, we yet converge on a location in Paris, a location where I happened to be just weeks ago. When we start to develop tools that help us make these kinds of unexpected connections, I will know that we are finally starting to mobilize the information in the containers our libraries have so carefully catalogued.
Misc: I read this book because it was mentioned in the LibraryThing blog. The dedication of this book is "To the librarians". There is a review in the ALA Techsource blog. The book has a blog at https://www.everythingismiscellaneous.com/