Articles by David Weinberger
The knowledge of bureaucrats comes from living at the nexus of strategy and implementation, the nexus of best practices and human values, the nexus of multiple departments with their independent goals, and at the nexus of wishes and reality. That makes their voices worth listening to.
Writing as empathy
Communication is about revealing something about the world that the other person hasn't noticed—and often hasn't been able to notice because their ideas get in the way.
A little eternal knowledge is a dangerous thing
Even if our business knowledge were as eternal and omnipresent as Newton's laws, we'd still have to apply that knowledge to a world that is unfathomably complex and ever-changing.
Data is never just data
As with all tools, data has uses because of complex contexts that include other objects, physics, social norms, social institutions, and human intentions.
Links then and now
Broken links used to be like potholes. Now there are entire neighborhoods that are gone.
Science will not give up on hypotheses. But it already is becoming more willing to accept results based on the sorts of statistical analyses performed by machine learning. And it may be thatwhen science does rely on theories and laws, we will recognize that no matter how ironclad they are as generalizations, their application to a world of confetti will always and necessarily render them approximate and probabilistic.
250 Columns later
Knowledge management has indeed become a multi-threaded discipline, embracing just about everything related to knowledge.
The challenge of emergence
Traditionally, we humans have succeeded at building complex structures by breaking plans down into a multitude of simple, predictable, knowable causes and effects.
Journalism’s new landscape
What's happening to news is a microcosm of what's happening to knowledge overall.
Bring back blogging
The case for internal blogging within a corporate environment is strong and the risk is far lower because the participants are vetted and known.
Behind the scenes of Everyday Chaos
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.
Rewriting the world
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.
Without a doubt
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.
When knowledge isn’t enough
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.
Computers, Internet, AI
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.
Signs, causes and machine learning
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.
The good, the bad, the networked
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.
Knowledge is a tool
There's some knowledge you know you need, but there's far more knowledge you don't know you'll need.
The search for explanations
We got to here-wherever we are-because of innumerable things that happened and a larger number of things that did not.
Local values of a global net
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.
Representing the world
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.
The future of predictability
We believe the future is determined by a set of scientific rules operating on a set of data too vast to be perfectly comprehended.
The news is no more
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.
The social life of info
The knowledge that lets a business succeed exists in the minds, hands and conversations of the people doing the job
Reclaiming our attention
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.
Humor and truth
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.
Data and sense
Data has become a property of the world like its sounds or smells. It is being gathered raw in many cases.
When we don’t want to know
For credit scores, FICO carefully assembles models that would make sense to a human and that exclude proxies for protected classes.
Pokémon GO is our future
We don't know what people will build because they haven't built it yet. But they will.
What works is how things work
What we build is based on what we've already understood about how the world works.
Is the Internet making us stupid?
You with the Internet is much smarter than you without the Internet.
It's a grand decentralized Web except for the commercial entities that exert tremendous power over what we see of it.
Extending the mind
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.
The good old days of news
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!
Note that the knowledge that Plato and Socrates are talking about ... is knowledge that leads to right action.
The we of knowledge
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.
What’s greater than knowledge?
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.
Seeing past your glasses
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.
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.
Dissolution of metadata
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.
Technology affects us
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.
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.
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.
The end of headlines?
It can take a while to realize that Inside.com 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.
Markets and networks
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.
"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.
Minds need hands
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.
The MVP process then and now
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.
Amazon vs. The Librarians! The Fight of the Century!
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.
The right to be forgotten
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....
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.
Just enough over my head
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.
The future of books
Twice in the past two weeks I've felt compelled to say that I think books have no future....
Moving beyond credentials
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....
Hogwash or science—Tags are messy and useful
Tags work, but imperfectly, which is how anything that works works.
We're now seeing social media in which thousands may participate, and millions may audit with the option of jumping in.
Bad comments are your fault
Let me put this more bluntly: If the comments on your site's content are broken, it's your fault...
The history of technology
The history of technology is not just the history of technology. It takes more than technology to explain technology.
What the Web hides from us
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.
A limit to business intelligence?
The extent to which businesses protect their data assets is the extent to which business is limiting its own intelligence.
"...a technodeterminist—someone who believes that the Internet has its effects independent of our action and behavior. "
The failure to attribute
"We quote phrases and the like because we value them, whereas the name of the author almost always has no value to us."
The efficiency of partisan news
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.
"But knowledge isn't a big pile of facts..."
Progress and knowledge
"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..."
The knowledge platform
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.
Understanding big data vs. theory
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.
Your business needs scholars
"These experts within your business show all the signs of scholarship, except that scholarly papers are not their ultimate output..."
How meaning stuck ...
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.
Interoperability as a worldview
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...
Why is the Web so funny?
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.
Where facts become data
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...
The problems with facts
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.
Learning like a developer learns
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.
Who cares about knowledge?
I don't make predictions except when they're already true. So, here's one: The concept of knowledge is on its way out.
The rise of the digital is changing just about everything about curation, mainly for the better but not entirely...
Letting data out of its box
Framing the Net, or being framed?
The Net does not get framed so much as frames everything else.
The wisdom of impractical knowledge
Open data commons for business
DPLA: a good idea that has a shot
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...
The human drive of tech
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...
The Cloud way of life
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...
Revolution and the Net
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...
Explaining the Net’s dominance
Is the Net really different from what came before? I'm going to say yes. The question is why...
Structure is coming back
The amateur ecology
The underutilized resource beyond lists
The long form of webby knowledge
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...
Waiting for the fluid book format
Books are complex. Let's hope someday our standards live up to them...
A lot to hate ...
But PowerPoint brings order to unruly thoughts
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...
Authority as a market
The Internet and peace
Bringing on the info overload
The future is a gimmick
What attribute best describes the Internet age?
We have been in the Age of Information. What comes next? More exactly, what will we call what comes next?...
What’s wrong with Craigslist?
Transparency: the new objectivity
Your help with the new expertise
The beauty of mesh networking
Pros and cons of the Google book deal
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...
Knowledge and understanding
The dream of the Semantic Web
The Semantic Web's value will grow as it becomes as inconsistent, ambiguous and imperfect as our own collective knowledge is...
Resolutions: folders, wisdom and Tabasco
What crowds are wise at
"...now 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...
The Leave It to Beaver media
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...
The ambiguity of information
We are very confused about the meaning of the word "information." And that's for two good reasons...
Waiting for the e-book
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....
The great debates
When double standards work
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.
Online libraries are not libraries at all
What’s wrong with being right?
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?"
The commoditization of knowledge
Digital natives, immigrants and others
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.
Good and bad ways to go wrong
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.
Everything is Miscellaneous
Longtime KMWorld columnist David Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center, recently discussed his new book with Hugh McKellar, KMWorld editor in chief.
Privacy, norms and politics
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?
The adversity of knowledge
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.
Unclear and indistinct ... and uncertain
Libraries in the age of social knowledge
Knowledge we value requires forgiveness
Ontologies and abstractions
The real difference between the two 2.0s
Open science—good fit for the digital age
Conversation and the cult of expertise
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...
Metadata and understanding
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...
The philosophy of business knowledge
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.
The case for two semantic webs
...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.
Does information need architects?
The Landscape of Language
Truth vs. authority
Was there always information?
"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.
Four former truths about knowledge
Creating informed consumers
The BBC’s low-tech KM
An equal and opposite reaction
The size of topics
Blogs and the values of journalism
Blogs and the values of journalism
The virtue and vice of audio
The silence of the Web
All hail Foo
Things I know
When a window isn't a window, just a pane
The slippery slope of learning
The truth of weblogs
Sorting truth from bluster
The Net as rhetoric
Knowledge and anonymity
The arrogance of knowledge
The 99 cent KM solution
Postmodern knowledge management
M&M's and mixed nuts
M&M's and mixed nuts
Business science and business religion
Computers, conformity and KM
Putting the author back in authority
The importance of writing badly
The importance of writing badly
To err is you, man
Solid SOAP and its buddy UDDI
XHTML and the sixth day of creation
Friends on the Web
What is truth?
Small pieces loosely joined: An experiment in embarrassment
The problem with professionals
How to write a real good business plan
The peer-to-peer future of document management
Secrets in a day-lit world
Lessons from the campaign
The new common sense
Searching for trust
How to write a real good PowerPoint
KM's complex questions
Lessons from the debates
The metaphors of technology
Webs and brains and comparisons
The inverse rule
The danger of knowing
Technology as metaphor
The great chain of knowledge
The question of questions
Truth is over-valued
The question of questions
Knowledge is a question, not an answer
If I were CKO
Three days to a smart company
The new gravity
Q: What's the opposite of gravity? A: Levity.
Trade shows? Gotta love/hate 'em
Three days to a smart company
Want to know what knowledge sounds like? Listen to people talk.
The physics of buzz words
Faith in technology
Trade shows? Gotta love/hate ’em
Tragedy and sitcoms
The Seven Stages of Web Grief
Business’ hardest lesson
Strangers on the Web
Are there conversations?
To speak and, perchance, to listen
The visual display of knowledge
Tragedy and sitcoms
“As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.”
— King Lear
Managing the unmanageable
The Joy of e-mail
The short answer for why we do it
Cluetrain a must read so says its author
David Weinberger responds to a book review
THE VISUAL DISPLAY OF KNOWLEDGE
ClearType is an intermediary step that will make your text-based knowledge literally clearer.
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.
The pod people are taking over.
The Politics Of Merely
Beware the word "merely" and its cousins "simply," "just" and "only." They are among the most political of words. And they're assassins.
Are there conversations?
Predictions, Lists And Violence
Millennial Forecast: Continued Ignorance
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.
All Hail The Lurkers
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..
To heck with tacit knowledge. (Go for tacit documents instead.)
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.
Branding and Knowledge
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?
The "right" solution
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, www.iqport.com.
On the Web, all information is communication.
The "Right" Solution
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
Hermetic Dashboard, Hermetic Microsoft
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.
David Weinberger speaks:
"The Web Isn't Transforming Business Documents ... It's Killing Them"
Convergence or Hole?
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.
Jetform and the Standards Game
Traffic and commerce
How to be smart
The spontaneity of voice
The Forms of Marketing
The dark side of standards development, brought
to you by Jetform and UWI.com.
The Knowledge Conversation
The breakthrough companies look for from KM won't come from "knowledge assets."
Messages in Bottles
Easter Eggs aren't just fun distractions -- they're a sign of humanity.
Flash! Press releases don't work
Here's a list of do's and don'ts for writing press releases.
Microsoft's Digital Dashboard Deception
Microsoft's Digital Dashboard is little more than a slick deception.
Almost all moral reasoning is based on analogies, not principles.
Mass marketing is getting automated -- is that good or bad?
The desktop is a portal
Not everything is a portal, says David Weinberger. Life just isn't that simple.
Let me count the KM ways
Don't we know that KM is about more than just picking technologies?
Re: mission statement
Make your mission statement reflect your people.
KM: Why do we care?
The portal craze both helps and hurts KM, and that's good.
The portal craze both helps and hurts KM, and that's good.
Business' Big Secret
What's the biggest secret in Business? David Weinberger clues us in.
Ride the Cluetrain
Communities are forming on the Cluetrain, stopping at a corporation near you.
People get work done when they collaborate freely, despite what you may think.
Filling out forms for XML
XML will cause us to write forms, not free-flowing documents, according to David Weinberger.
The lowerachy of business intelligence
Using widgets from Minneapolis, David Weinberger builds a relationship between data, information and knowledge.
The Importance of Being Wrong
To make your company smarter, make better mistakes, says David Weinberger.
Metadata is monarch
Content means nothing if you don't know how to find it or what to do with it. David Weinberger explains.
What we call knowledge often doesn't involve information or "know how" -- it's just ideas.
Knowledge sharing is an exercise in storytelling, says JOHO editor David Weinberger.
The Turing test for business
Sound it out: companies competing in the Web era had better learn to speak the language.
Tips for strategic IT planning
KM & the human element
DM: as foundational as the slab under your house
DM: as foundational as the slab under your house
1997 BAI Retail Delivery Conference: Serving banking's new consumer
Ready to start a technology project: A best practices review can help you get centered