Archive for October, 2010

[2b2k] Draft finished

I finished the book today, in some sense. I read through the last two chapters, filled in most of the TK’s (the “to come” placeholders I’d left) throughout the manuscript, poured all of the chapters into one large file, formatted it, got the page numbers centered at the bottom of the page, and am ready to sent it in to my publisher.

“Done” is such a relative word. The publisher will undoubtedly want changes. I have to compile the bibliography, write the acknowledgements (thank you all), format the footnotes properly, go through some copy-editing passes, come up with a subtitle (or say yes to the publisher’s), and worry about the world changing too much between now and when the book is printed.

But tomorrow for the first time in maybe two years, I’m not going to get up and work on my book.


Taking the integrity out of leadership

Harvard Business Review yesterday posted my piece on why American business leaders (and those who write about them) so often claim integrity as the most important property of leadership. (Blog posts at HBR are free to access.)


[2b2k] Count down

Three days to finish. Two, depending on how you count. Two chapters to read and fix. Compile it into one large file, turn the footnotes into endnotes, email it in.

Well, at least I know what I’m doing this weekend.


[2b2k] Possible tag line?

I’m liking this as a tag line for “Too Big to Know”:

Skulls don’t scale.
Networks do.

But I’ve gotten some reactions saying that “skull” sounds too “Spinal Tap”-ish. I like it because skulls are so bony, and thus you can see why they don’t scale. But I’m open to improvements….


Give expunging a chance

I read an article this morning in “Hello!” about John Lennon’s seventieth birthday. It notes that “his life was taken away 30 years ago by gunman ____,” except they filled in the blank with the murderer’s name.

I’m not going to. If you want to know the “gunman’s” name, you can look it up. But I’d rather not give him the recognition.

In the current (near final?) draft of “Too Big to Know,” I touch on Wikipedia’s debate about whether to give each victim in the Virginia Tech murders their own separate entry. I found that I could not bring myself to use the murderer’s name. I don’t think the reader will notice, nor do I want them to. It’s not a matter of principle, although I’m ok with it formulated as one: “When avoidable, do not help make murder a quick way to fame.” Rather, it’s a visceral thing.


Brazilian library slides

The conference I talked at in Rio yesterday has posted the slides from my keynote. You can download them here. The talk was organized around five characteristics of the Net just about anyone experiences by spending even a little time there. More particularly, what do those characteristics tell us about knowledge?


Taking the leader our of leadership

Harvard Business Review has published online a piece I wrote about a leadership program at West Point that (under on way of looking at it) is taking the leader out of leadership, i.e., using a distributed leadership model. (I also plan on using this idea in Chapter 8 of Too Big to Know.)


[2b2k] Bibliography commons wanted

I typed all the way through to the end of the last chapter of Too Big to Know last night, although since I haven’t read that chapter yet, there is a better than even chance that I will have to rewrite it substantially, so don’t jinx me by congratulating me, you bastahds.

In any case, it got me to thinking about how to handle the bibliography. The bibliography of Everything Is Miscellaneous is on (although, in truth, I never got around to completing it). Much as I love LibraryThing, it’s not designed for journal articles, and I’d rather put my biblio on a non-commercial site. (Sorry, Tim! Love you!)

Ideally, I’d like a site that is an open commons, maintained by an institution that has some legs. It should present my biblio in standard readable and re-citable forms, but should also treat it as data in a database so that it can be refactored. I’d love for it to have LibraryThing’s social functionality. And in a perfect world, it’d let me enter just some key data, look it up, and fill in the rest in perfectly formatted form. (Again, LibraryThing does cool stuff in this area, for books.)

Anybody know of anything like this? Is there a bibliography commons? (If not, I’ll probably just put a spreadsheet into the Harvard open access commons, if they’ll let me. Or maybe I’ll use H2O)

[Later that day:] Some responses from the comments and to my tweeting of this topic:


It’s a small world

Jeez. I just took a break from working on the last chapter. The paragraph I’d just written mentioned Ethan Zuckerman’s work on how we might get past our smug homophily, followed by a brief reminder that there’s lots of value in having many weak ties. Knowledge disseminates and is retrievable through weak ties, and innovation is often spurred through such networks. I was thinking of adding something about Ronald Burt‘s work on the importance of “structural holes”, i.e., the places between the network clusters; Burt writes: “people who stand near the holes in social structure are at the highest risk of having good ideas.”

But, instead I stopped for a moment and checked Ethan’s blog. Sure enough, he’s got a substantial, brilliant post about the value of weak ties, Ronald Burt, and the dissemination of news.

Yet another great post from the Ethanator.


[2b2k] Last chapter underway?

I’ve been heads down writing — fairly obsessed with it, actually — trying to get a draft of my last chapter done before next week when I head out on two trips overseas with a day and a half in between.

It’s entirely possible that what I’m writing is wrong for a last chapter. That’s the problem with heads-down writing. I’m figuring that the one question the reader really wants answered at this point is: So, wiseguy, is the Internet making us stupid or not? I have addressed this in various forms throughout the book, mainly pointing out why it’s not a well-formed question. In this last chapter, I’m saying: Rather than trying to measure quantities about which we do not agree, let’s look at the new apparatus of knowledge. Is it an apparatus better suited to what smart people do?

That then leads me to acknowledge the falsity of technodeterminism, while still pointing to five properties of the Net anyone in our culture who spends time on the Net learns. They’re all very obvious, so I spend only a sentence or two on each:

  • Abundance. There is more available to us than we ever imagined back in the days of television and libraries.

  • Links. Ideas can be linked.

  • Permission-free. Even if you don’t know how to post, you know that much of what you see came from people like you. You also know that you can leave comments, leave ratings, and otherwise participate.

  • Public. There are certainly areas of the Net that are walled off. Nevertheless, the foundational experience of the Net is formed by what you can see. The Net is a vast public space within which exclusion of visitors or content is the exception.

  • Unresolved. The longer you spend on the Net, the more convinced you become that we are never all going to agree on anything.

I’m now going through each of them, talking about what they mean for knowledge.

I think I’ll have one more section to write after that, about improving the new apparatus of knowledge. But I’ll have to see.

Then I’ll have to see if what I’ve been writing is worth keeping. And what lyric did Arcade Fire just sing into my headphones? “I’m beginning to have my doubts, doubts about it.”