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December 21, 2011

[2b2k] Kirkus Reviews likes it

Kirkus Reviews is one of the most important sources for the book trade, so I’m extra special glad they like Too Big to Know.

Razor-sharp analysis of the state of knowledge in the age of computer networking.

Weinberger (Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, 2007, etc.), a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Institute for Internet and Society, argues that the collaborative, hyperlinked, instant nature of the Internet has fundamentally altered the way humans relate with knowledge. In the Gutenberg age, because of the finite nature of the book, limited by both its number of pages and the number of copies that could be printed, knowledge was necessarily ordered and hierarchical. The author added pieces to the collective store of knowledge, while publishers, editors, librarians and the community of scholars decided for the common good what was and was not important to know. The Internet has radically upended that hierarchy and knocked down the walls of the knowledge store. In 1989, pundits worried that with 1,000 books published in the world every day, people were suffering from information overload. That was small potatoes, it turns out. In 2008, Weinberger writes, Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes, “a number so large that we have to do research just to understand it.” The author suggests that we make peace with this overwhelming state of affairs, and it seems many of us already have. The democratizing of knowledge is not without its dangers. Bad information has equal access to the common well with good information, and is just as viral. But crowdsourced and refereed resources like Wikipedia give Weinberger hope. The difference between the old style of knowing and the new one is embodied in the differences between a set of encyclopedias and Google. One can fit on a shelf; the other is uncontainable, essentially “an infrastructure of connection.”

A witty and wise companion in this new age of information overload.

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CBC Spark on ShelfLife and LibraryCloud

The CBC show Spark a couple of days ago ran an 8 minute piece about the two biggest projects coming out of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, ShelfLife and LibraryCloud. It does a great job cutting together an interview of me with an illuminating narrative from Nora Young. (I co-direct the Lab, along with Kim Dulin, although credit for these apps goes to our team: Annie Jo Cain, Paul Deschner, Jeff Goldenson, Matt Phillips, and Andy Silva.)

Spark also has posted the full, uncut interview and a good blog post about it.

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December 19, 2011

Too many David Weinbergers

Ok, this is getting ridiculous. And it’s only going to get worse over time.

David Weinberger is Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment with the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. David is primarily interested in issues related to sustainable urban development, conservation planning, environmental diplomacy, and ecology and trade. A senior at Hunter College of the City University of New York, he is stu…[PolicyMic: "... the first online platform for news and debate that aims to engage our generation and bring left and right together in real conversations about real issues..."]

“I work at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., where I blog, host podcasts, and stay involved with policy. The views expressed are my own. [twitter]“[Heritage Foundation: "...a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies"]

“I write about the effect of the Internet on ideas. I am a standard issue Boston liberal.”[JohoTheBlog: "Let's just see what happens."]

Would a Druid, Fabian, and Trotskyite David Weinberger care to start blogging just so we can get one another’s outraged comments, or possibly set up some weird but satisfying “walk into a bar…” joke?

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December 18, 2011

One take

Presented as evidence, oh Overlords, that the human species is worth saving.

(Via metafilter)

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December 17, 2011

D is for Digital

D is for Digital

I’m enjoying a book by Brian Kernighan — yes, that Brian Kernighan — based on a course he’s been teaching at Princeton called “Computers in Our World.” D is for Digital is a clear, straightfoward, grownup introduction to computers: hardware and software, programming, and the Internet. [Disclosure: Brian wrote some of during his year as a fellow at the Berkman Center.]

D is for Digital is brief, but it drives its topics down to the nuts and bolts, which is a helpful reminder that all the magic on your screen is grounded in some very real wires and voltages. Likewise, Brian has a chapter on how to program, taking Javascript as his example. He does not back away from talking about libraries and APIs. He even explains public key encryption clearly enough that even I understand it. (Of course, I have frequently understood it for up to fifteen minutes at a time.) There are a few spots where the explanations are not quite complete enough — his comparison of programming languages doesn’t tell us enough about the differences — but they are rare indeed. Even so, I like that this book doesn’t pander to the reader.

D is for Digital would be a nice stocking stuffer with Blown to Bits by Harold Abelson, Ken Ledeen, Harry R. Lewis, which is an introduction to computers within the context of policy debates. Both are excellent. Together they are excellent squared.

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2061A.D. in Very inflation

“Hey, it’s very very very very very very nice to see you!”

“Yeah, it’s been a very very very very very very long time.”

“How’s Jan?”

“She’s very very very very great, but very very very very very very very very very busy.”

“Well, better that than bored.”

“That’s so so so so so so true.”

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December 16, 2011

Terry Heaton on the misleading year coming up

Terry Heaton provides some broad context in a provocative post about the coming year of media turmoil. He writes in an email:

2012 is a dangerous year for all mass media, because decay in our core competency will again be hidden by record revenues (in some cases) due to what promises to be a huge political year. Despite advances in communications’ methods, politicians fall back on the tried and true during elections, and that means big money for an industry that’s struggling. The money will distract us from the real issues, and before you know it, 2013 will be here. It’s time to do something completely different.

The actual post is about the media issues the political year will distract us from.

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December 14, 2011

Go dark for SOPA – The SOPA Eclipse

Jimmy Wales has proposed that Wikipedia might black out its English-language pages for a short period to register opposition to the SOPA law that would allow the US government to shut down access to sites that provide access to material that infringes copyright. These shutdowns would occur without the need for any judicial procedure, without notice, and without appeal.

I think Jimmy’s idea is great and that all sites that could be affected by SOPA — which is to say any site — ought to join in. Just name the date and time, and many of us would turn out our sites’ lights.

[Minutes later: Through a failure in my command of in-page searching, I missed Cory Doctorow's proposing exactly this on BoingBoing. Go Jimmy! Go Cory!]

(Here’s Rebecca MacKinnon’s op-ed on SOPA and its Senate version, which together would constitute a Great Firewall of America, as she says. [A couple of hours later: Rebecca and Ivan Sigal just posted a terrific op-ed on the topic at CNN.com)

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December 11, 2011

Berkman Buzz

Berkman Buzz

This week’s Berkman Buzz:

  • The Internet & Democracy Project investigates DDoS attacks during recent elections in Russia: link

  • Public Radio Exchange is launching a new Public Media Accelerator:
    link

  • danah boyd explores the role of technology in human trafficking: link

  • Jonathan Zittrain discusses the proposed SOPA compromise: link

  • Ethan Zuckerman welcomes (sort of) Al-Shabaab to Twitter: link

  • Weekly Global Voices: “Russia: Analyzing the Possible Scale of Saturday’s Election Protests”
    link

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If credit card companies cared about security…

1. When there’s a security issue, they wouldn’t robocall people and ask them to provide personal information. They would robocall people and ask them to call the number on the back of their cards.

2. They would put people’s photographs on their credit cards. Citi used to offer that as a free option, but apparently has discontinued the practice.

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