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Read this book

By Hugh McKellar, KMWorld executive editor

Before you wade through what I have to say this month, you may want to shift your eyes a little to the right and read David Weinberger’s column about “bodily knowledge”--it’s adapted from his new book. While David wastes no time plugging his book, I’m under no such obligation. That said, and to borrow from the title of Abbie Hoffman’s counterculture manifesto ("Steal This Book"), well . . . Read this book: “Small Pieces Loosely Joined.” It’s the best thing ever written about the Web.

I spend a lot of time on the Web each day, researching technologies and companies, looking for news, reading white papers. And I keep adding to my bookmark list, which is probably about a hundred sites now, and I’m sure I’ve visited each one at least once in the past month. Although relatively new, the Web is a tool I’ve long since taken for granted.

And maybe I’m speaking only for myself, but I believe a lot of people in the knowledge management field look to the Web as only a vehicle through which we can find information, organize knowledge and implement tools to reach business goals.

While we know the Web is a big deal, "Small Pieces" makes us realize it's even bigger than we could have imagined, with staggering intellectual and cultural implications. It is not just another book about the Internet. David’s “unified theory of the Web” (the book’s subtitle) successfully argues that it is not the order of the Web—upon which I rely for my job—that is the Web’s real value; rather, it’s precisely its unmanageable nature that is revolutionary—its “abundance of small nuggets that point to more small nuggets,” he writes. "We are the 'small pieces' of the Web, and we are loosely joining ourselves in ways that we’re still inventing.”

David's organization is simple, the chapters explain how the Web is changing fundamental concepts of space, time, knowledge, perfection, togetherness, knowledge, matter and even hope. But David’s execution is, well, pure Weinberger, filled with sometimes even abstruse connections and analogies that always seem to work.

Publishers send me a lot of books, and the majority are real stinkers—either far too technical for anyone but the software engineer or overstuffed with business or marketing blather. "Small Pieces" is an exception, provocative, keenly insightful, funny (sometimes side-splittingly so), well crafted and convincing. I admit to being a big fan of the book—it’s impossible for me not to appreciate a work that quotes from both Monty Python and Martin Heidegger. Read it, but buy it first

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