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David Weinberger


David Weinberger ( is a senior researcher a Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and author of the forthcoming book, forthcoming book Everyday Chaos (May 2019).

Articles by David Weinberger

The case for internal blogging within a corporate environment is strong and the risk is far lower because the participants are vetted and known. Posted September 06, 2019

Machine learning builds up a model that connects data points in complex, multi-dimensional ways, usu­ally without yielding the sort of general principles we're accustomed to reason­ing from. Posted July 08, 2019

Tra­ditional computing upholds the traditional method of applying general rules to particulars. With machine learning, you skip the generalized abstraction and feed in the particulars. Posted May 08, 2019

Given that the future is deeply uncertain, from the tiniest of decisions to the largest, we should love carefully calculated probabilities, for they are the way we deal with a world that has no interest in conforming to our projections or desires. They let us rationally prepare for things not going our way. Any strategist or planner worth her salt is getting as good a read as she can on the nature and magnitude of what she cannot predict. Posted December 28, 2018

If knowledge is a tool intended to enable us to make decisions that are more likely to protect us and advance our shared interests, then it is clear that knowledge can fail us. Each domain has at least informal rules about what counts as evidence. Posted October 31, 2018

If the early computers reinforced the existing world-view, the Internet upended worldview after worldview. We learned that control doesn't scale: If you want to build something really, really big, you have to get rid of the centralized management functions. We learned that customers joined in conversational networks know more about a business' products than the business does. We learned what a democracy is like when everyone truly has a voice, even when those voices are telling lies and tearing down democratic institutions. Posted September 10, 2018

Machine learning systems can look at data without instructions about how we think the pieces go together. The AI finds correlations and assembles them into webs of connection. Posted July 02, 2018

Most would agree that their perception of the Net, along with the general public's, is far darker than it was even just a few years ago. Posted May 01, 2018

There's some knowledge you know you need, but there's far more knowledge you don't know you'll need. Posted March 08, 2018

We got to here-wherever we are-because of innumerable things that happened and a larger number of things that did not. Posted January 22, 2018

Even in regressive regimes that block sites and ideas, Internet apps are implicitly showing people the value of the free—or at least relatively free—flow of information. Posted October 30, 2017

The rejection of representationalism is being hastened by the rise of new technology— machine learning—that is refuting some of our old common-sense ideas. Posted September 14, 2017

We believe the future is determined by a set of scientific rules operating on a set of data too vast to be perfectly comprehended. Posted July 03, 2017

By now I assume we're all tired not only of hearing fake news, but also of hearing about fake news. We've seen how it arises and spreads due to flaws in the structure of the Internet. We've heard lots of proposals for how to fix the problem, most of them implausible. Posted April 29, 2017

The knowledge that lets a business succeed exists in the minds, hands and conversations of the people doing the job Posted March 31, 2017

The Internet is the perfection of the art—and now science—of attention capture and monetization.
The space is polluted, but it's also far vaster than any attentional space we've ever had.
Posted March 01, 2017

I've spent all day counting and can report that there are approximately one million different explanations of what makes something funny, possibly because there are lots of different ways things can be funny. Posted December 30, 2016

Data has become a property of the world like its sounds or smells. It is being gathered raw in many cases. Posted October 30, 2016

For credit scores, FICO carefully assembles models that would make sense to a human and that exclude proxies for protected classes. Posted October 01, 2016

We don't know what people will build because they haven't built it yet. But they will. Posted September 01, 2016

What we build is based on what we've already understood about how the world works. Posted July 01, 2016

You with the Internet is much smarter than you without the Internet. Posted May 31, 2016

It's a grand decentralized Web except for the commercial entities that exert tremendous power over what we see of it. Posted April 29, 2016

We think out in the world with tools. This is distinctive of our species and helps to explain our evolutionary advantages ... Only humans (as far as we know) use tools to think. Posted March 31, 2016

Now that we are deep into the backlash against the Internet, let's pile on by reminiscing about the Good Old Days of knowledge before the Net. Shall we? We shall, taking the news as our example! Posted March 01, 2016

Note that the knowledge that Plato and Socrates are talking about ... is knowledge that leads to right action. Posted January 31, 2016

This column marks a turning point: Hugh McKellar, who has edited this column from its beginning, is retiring. Hugh is a superb editor and a warm, supportive friend. I will miss my monthly interaction with him, and KMWorld will miss his clear eye and his constant focus on what matters. Thank you, Hugh. We will stay in touch. Posted December 30, 2015

I've long been irked by the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom pyramid that is so often casually embraced as if its truth were obvious. I disagree with its implication that knowledge is a filtering down of information. Posted October 29, 2015

A bubble is really just a coherent set of beliefs. Beliefs need coherence or they're not beliefs. They literally make no sense. I could not believe that flowers are beautiful because their DNA has evolved to attract insects unless I also believed in DNA, natural selection, insect-based pollination and the results obtained through scientific research and equipment. Posted October 01, 2015

All reading starts off sympathetic. If you're reading what someone wrote, it's because you want to understand what she means. That's an act of sympathy right there. Posted September 01, 2015

The idea of metadata used to be easy. It was a type of shadow object that trailed the "real" object of which it was the metadata. Getting right which information to put into that shadow object wasn't easy, but the concept itself was clean, clear and usually rectangular. Posted July 03, 2015

The term "technodeterminism," like "utopian" or "wild-eyed socialist," is rarely used by the people to refer to themselves. But I'm willing to accept the characterization … so long as I then get to claim a moderate form of it. Posted May 28, 2015

If you want to know what a particular pattern will be after a hundred iterations, you'll have to do the hundred iterations. You can use a computer to do this and it will spit out the answer, but it too has to step through the algorithm a hundred times. Posted April 28, 2015

Sometimes these days when we talk about "going meta" about a topic, we mean what we used to call "being reflective" about it. Both ways of talking imply the value of interrupting the normal course of thought and taking a step back. Posted March 31, 2015

It can take a while to realize that is a news aggregator without headlines. It turns out that headlines were yet another bad bad choice imposed on us by the limitations of paper. Posted March 01, 2015

Airlines have strong incentives to make normal travel hell. That's the argument Tim Wu makes in a post on The New Yorker site Dec 26 ("Why Airlines Want to Make You Suffer," .) He's right not only about airlines but also about the Internet, and about knowledge. Posted January 30, 2015

"Meta" sounds like you're going up, but in fact it means going down: looking underneath beliefs and the evidence for those beliefs to see the assumed context, values and processes that make them seem credible. That's why it's good to go meta. In fact, the pursuit of truth—on or off the Net—almost always leads to the meta. Posted December 31, 2014

The example I know best is the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. It's a university research center, so you'd assume it's very thinky. And it is. But from its inception, it's had a commitment not only to research but also to building software. For a university research center, that's just weird. But, it turns out, wonderful. Posted October 29, 2014

The MVP process strikes us as attractive not only because bits make it feasible, but also because we've come to believe that a technology that isn't changing every six months is failing. Yet, in the almost 20 years it took Ford to introduce a new model, 15 million Model T's had been sold. And during that entire stretch, never once did Henry Ford put on a black turtleneck and tease an audience with what would be new next month. Posted September 29, 2014

But many of us believe—I do—that we have a cultural and societal interest in expanding our horizons. A librarian is likely to help us to that end. Posted September 01, 2014

I understand why the top European court has insisted that Google remove links upon request. We'd all like some things on the Web to be forgotten. There are a few things I myself wouldn't mind having removed.... Posted July 03, 2014

If you use the word "content" to talk about stuff on the Web, my friend Doc Searls is likely to give you a stiff talking-to. People don't write content. They write articles, poems, songs, etc. Posted May 28, 2014

For being over your head to work, you have to be just enough over your head. Too far and you can't understand enough of what people are saying to make sense of it. Posted April 29, 2014

Twice in the past two weeks I've felt compelled to say that I think books have no future.... Posted March 31, 2014

Expertise now extends beyond the individual experts. It occurs within networks of conversation. Networked expertise enables us to extend knowledge far beyond the brains and books of individuals.... Posted March 01, 2014

Tags work, but imperfectly, which is how anything that works works. Posted January 31, 2014

We're now seeing social media in which thousands may participate, and millions may audit with the option of jumping in. Posted December 31, 2013

Let me put this more bluntly: If the comments on your site's content are broken, it's your fault... Posted October 29, 2013

The history of technology is not just the history of technology. It takes more than technology to explain technology. Posted September 29, 2013

The Net hides our physical being. Online all we get are some words or images. Worse, frequently those words and images have no context beyond themselves. When you are with someone in physical space, you cannot avoid the fact that the person is a complete being who is literally coming from somewhere and will be going somewhere else. Posted September 01, 2013

The extent to which businesses protect their data assets is the extent to which business is limiting its own intelligence. Posted July 05, 2013

"...a technodeterminist—someone who believes that the Internet has its effects independent of our action and behavior. " Posted May 28, 2013

"We quote phrases and the like because we value them, whereas the name of the author almost always has no value to us." Posted April 29, 2013

If we take understanding as a tool used for a purpose, it becomes a wildly inefficient tool if we have to go back to first principles in order to understand anything. Posted March 31, 2013

"But knowledge isn't a big pile of facts..." Posted March 01, 2013

"We're discovering the power of iteration at scale—many hands making many small tweaks can accomplish knowledge tasks that the old methodology would never even have attempted..." Posted January 31, 2013

Knowledge is itself a sort of platform. It has no value by itself. It has tremendous value when put to use. Knowledge is a platform for decisions, for innovation and for community. Posted December 31, 2012

The problem is that knowledge often outpaces understanding. In the Age of the Net, if we want our knowledge to get very very big, knowledge is going to blow far past our understanding, and we aren't going to be able to afford to wait around for understanding to catch up. Posted October 30, 2012

"These experts within your business show all the signs of scholarship, except that scholarly papers are not their ultimate output..." Posted September 29, 2012

Attempts to permanently fix meanings to things, and attempts to identify knowledge as if it were valuable free of your context and projects, are misguided. Posted September 01, 2012

Usually when you hear someone use the word "interoperability," you should prepare to be pulled into a discussion about highly technical issues about the protocols by which electronic systems communicate, or, if you're very lucky, about the way in which data can be formatted for use across multiple systems... Posted July 05, 2012

Knowledge is serious business. People can spend their lives tweezing apart tiny micro-organisms or living in swamps swatting away mosquitoes and venom-dipped snakes in order to uncover a single fact. Few serious knowledge workers are in it for the money. Their sacrifices are real and are made in every aspect of human life: the social, economic, social, domestic. And not infrequently the consequences can save or fail to save lives. Posted May 28, 2012

Some of the data in these clouds is going to turn out to be inaccurate, but with so much of it openly available, and with the ability to link up data sets, the inaccuracies turn into the equivalent of rounding errors... Posted April 29, 2012

Not all things that claim to be facts are facts. Some statements about the world are false. What's true and false is not up to us. Facts matter. Posted March 31, 2012

If you want to see the future - and who doesn't? - the place to begin your search is now. If you want to see the future of education and knowledge, take a look at how software developers learn. Posted March 01, 2012

I don't make predictions except when they're already true. So, here's one: The concept of knowledge is on its way out. Posted February 01, 2012

The rise of the digital is changing just about everything about curation, mainly for the better but not entirely... Posted January 01, 2012

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The Net does not get framed so much as frames everything else. Posted September 29, 2011

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At a high enough level of abstraction, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is a great idea. But, then, most things are. The question is whether it will be able to go from abstract to concrete... Posted May 28, 2011

The real question isn't whether the Internet taken by itself forces certain effects on us, but whether the Internet (plus we users) has determinative effects... Posted May 01, 2011

I thought I loved the Cloud. I thought I was ready for the Cloud. I thought I could handle the Cloud. Then I got a Google notebook. And now I'm not so sure...Google sent out the notebooks so we could see an early version of its Chrome operating system in action... Posted April 01, 2011

The Internet optimists—like me—early on thought that the open, easy connectivity the Net provided would affirm some beliefs about the basic social nature of humans... Posted March 01, 2011

Is the Net really different from what came before? I'm going to say yes. The question is why... Posted February 01, 2011

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We have a very clear idea of what knowledge looks like in this culture, especially at its high end. At its low end, the picture gets fuzzy... Posted September 01, 2010

Books are complex. Let's hope someday our standards live up to them... Posted July 03, 2010

People hate all sorts of software because it's hard to use, under-featured, or just plain irritating. But they hate PowerPoint for deeper reasons—for what it does to meetings, for what it does to social interaction, for what it does to how we think. Yet that blind fury can bring us to forget that PowerPoint took us a big step past where we were... Posted May 28, 2010

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We have been in the Age of Information. What comes next? More exactly, what will we call what comes next?... Posted October 28, 2009

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The Google Book Search settlement is huge, complex and overall a big step forward. But it's also quite scary. The world of print is about to change, mainly for the better... Posted May 01, 2009

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The Semantic Web's value will grow as it becomes as inconsistent, ambiguous and imperfect as our own collective knowledge is... Posted March 01, 2009

" we slap the "wisdom of the crowd" or "crowd sourcing" label on everything, as if to say: "Nope. You got your assumptions wrong. Get 'em right, and we can build the world's greatest encyclopedia, replace network TV and find lost cufflinks... Posted January 02, 2009

We will look back and be amazed that we were ever content with having a handful of newspapers, just as we used to have only three networks... Posted November 03, 2008

We are very confused about the meaning of the word "information." And that's for two good reasons... Posted September 29, 2008

My Kindle from Amazon is fun. It's usable. And when I use it in a public place, it makes me a geek magnet, the way a puppy attracts smiles and small talk. But the Kindle is a big, big step away from showing us what real e-books will do for us.... Posted August 31, 2008

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I'm sorry if you're the guy who says things like "I'm totally in favor of equality for women. That's why I don't see why we have to give them special breaks" when it comes to promotions or hires. Or maybe it's not women. Posted May 01, 2008

Education. Government. Media. Business. Science.That's the Jeopardy answer to the question, "What are five institutions whose value comes to a large degree from providing authoritative knowledge?" Posted February 29, 2008

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My friends and colleagues John Palfrey and Urs Gasser are writing a book about the difference between "digital natives" and "digital immigrants." John and Urs are both at Harvard Law's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and both are excellent thinkers, writers and researchers. This is likely to be a book that starts a long and well-grounded discussion. It's also likely to be a big hit. Posted December 28, 2007

We all go wrong, and have done so literally since Adam, unless I'm wrong in thinking there was an Adam, or in assuming there's anything true of all of us, or if I got the meaning of "wrong" wrong. Posted November 01, 2007

Longtime KMWorld columnist David Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center, recently discussed his new book with Hugh McKellar, KMWorld editor in chief. Posted November 01, 2007

There are at least 500,000 cameras in the city of London, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, which also reports that you're recorded on average 300 times a day there. Every station has had cameras since the 1990s. Yet life hasn't changed much. Why not? Posted September 27, 2007

I'm years late getting to Jack Welch's Jack: Straight from the Gut. I had to read it for a project I was working on recently, and I'm glad I did, but not so much for what he says. Posted August 31, 2007

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It’s a sign of my late-blooming maturity (my 56th birthday is coming around but I still dress as if I’m going to summer camp) that I agreed to participate in a conference with the CIA... Posted October 27, 2006

The solution to information overload is more information ... so long as that more information is metadata. We didn't drown in information the way the info fear mongers predicted in the early 1990s because the information... Posted September 29, 2006

I've been crawling through a book my favorite college professor gave me a couple of years ago. It's very hard because no topic causes philosophers to tangle themselves up quite so much as does knowledge. You get a philosopher trying to know knowledge and you will soon be lost in a circle of meta-knowing that spawns its own language before cycling into unknowability. Posted July 07, 2006

...Web pages almost always tell us what the destination of the link is about, and often what we ought to think about it. So, when Tim Berners-Lee issued the call for the Semantic Web, it wasn’t because there weren’t enough meaningful phrases online. Posted May 26, 2006

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"There's always been information," said a member of an information architects mailing list I audit. I think that's probably not true, and it has implications for what we think our businesses are made out of. Posted February 01, 2006

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Knowledge is a question, not an answer Posted July 06, 2000

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Q: What's the opposite of gravity? A: Levity. Posted May 30, 2000

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Want to know what knowledge sounds like? Listen to people talk. Posted May 01, 2000

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To speak and, perchance, to listen Posted March 06, 2000

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“As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.” — King Lear Posted February 28, 2000

Managing the unmanageable Posted February 21, 2000

The short answer for why we do it Posted February 14, 2000

David Weinberger responds to a book review Posted February 11, 2000

ClearType is an intermediary step that will make your text-based knowledge literally clearer. Posted January 31, 2000

I have nothing against Libertarians except that many of them seem drawn to it because it gives them a point of view that lets them utter statements they think are controversial but which are merely wrong. Posted January 15, 2000

The pod people are taking over. Posted January 10, 2000

Beware the word "merely" and its cousins "simply," "just" and "only." They are among the most political of words. And they're assassins. Posted January 03, 2000

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At this auspicious time, we are all required by local statute and industry injunction to pontificate about the future. So, permit me to make my year-end, century-end and millennium-end forecasts. Posted December 13, 1999

Lurking is the art of staying silent while conversation happens all around you. Off the Web, lurking is sinister. On the Net, lurking is the best way to enter a conversation.. Posted December 06, 1999

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To heck with tacit knowledge. (Go for tacit documents instead.) Posted November 22, 1999

The Internet is full of misinformation, lies, statistics, and altered photographs. The famous are slandered, the gorgeous are compromised, the unknowns make up stuff just to be noticed. We all know that. Posted November 15, 1999

If people had brands, you'd think they were awfully shallow. "Hi, I'm Arnie, the Place for Puns," "Hello, I'm Alicia, the Melodious Voice Gal." So why is branding any better for companies? Posted November 09, 1999

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At the recent KMWorld '99 conference in Dallas I was able to spend some quality time with two of the key people behind a fascinating site, Posted October 25, 1999

On the Web, all information is communication. Posted October 18, 1999

Please raise your hand if you're a software vendor and you've ever once said that your "solution" delivers the right information to the right people at the right time. Add ten points if you ever added, in a knowing tone, "...and in the right way." Now Posted October 12, 1999

I've griped about Microsoft's Digital Dashboard (DD) before, but, heck, the right to gripe endlessly about the rich, powerful and obnoxious is the very basis of democracy. Posted October 01, 1999

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"The Web Isn't Transforming Business Documents ... It's Killing Them" Posted September 27, 1999

The following article appears in the most recent issue of the Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization (JOHO) newsletter, authored by David Weinberger. Go read the whole thing on the Web, it's worth your time. Posted September 20, 1999

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The dark side of standards development, brought to you by Jetform and Posted August 01, 1999

The breakthrough companies look for from KM won't come from "knowledge assets." Posted July 01, 1999

Easter Eggs aren't just fun distractions -- they're a sign of humanity. Posted June 01, 1999

Here's a list of do's and don'ts for writing press releases. Posted June 01, 1999

Microsoft's Digital Dashboard is little more than a slick deception. Posted June 01, 1999

Almost all moral reasoning is based on analogies, not principles. Posted June 01, 1999

Mass marketing is getting automated -- is that good or bad? Posted May 01, 1999

Not everything is a portal, says David Weinberger. Life just isn't that simple. Posted May 01, 1999

Don't we know that KM is about more than just picking technologies? Posted May 01, 1999

Make your mission statement reflect your people. Posted May 01, 1999

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The portal craze both helps and hurts KM, and that's good. Posted May 01, 1999

What's the biggest secret in Business? David Weinberger clues us in. Posted April 01, 1999

Communities are forming on the Cluetrain, stopping at a corporation near you. Posted April 01, 1999

People get work done when they collaborate freely, despite what you may think. Posted April 01, 1999

XML will cause us to write forms, not free-flowing documents, according to David Weinberger. Posted March 01, 1999

Using widgets from Minneapolis, David Weinberger builds a relationship between data, information and knowledge. Posted March 01, 1999

To make your company smarter, make better mistakes, says David Weinberger. Posted March 01, 1999

Content means nothing if you don't know how to find it or what to do with it. David Weinberger explains. Posted February 01, 1999

What we call knowledge often doesn't involve information or "know how" -- it's just ideas. Posted February 01, 1999

Knowledge sharing is an exercise in storytelling, says JOHO editor David Weinberger. Posted February 01, 1999

Sound it out: companies competing in the Web era had better learn to speak the language. Posted February 01, 1999

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