When David Weinberger spoke at COFES 2005, his topic was "Everything is Miscellaneous." Now his book of that name is out
, and it is fascinating. The implications for the engineering software business are worth thinking about.
Here's an essay Weinberger wrote for Amazon.com called, "The Flocking of Information":
As businesses go miscellaneous, information gets chopped into smaller
and smaller pieces. But it also escapes its leash--adding to a pile
that can be sorted and arranged by anyone with a Web browser and a Net
connection. In fact, information exhibits bird-like "flocking
behavior," joining with other information that adds value to it,
creating swarms that help customers and, ultimately, the businesses
from which the information initially escaped.
For example, Wize.com
is a customer review site founded in 2005 by entrepreneur Doug Baker.
The site provides reviews for everything from computers and MP3 players
to coffee makers and baby strollers. But why do we need another place
for reviews? If you’re using the Web to research what digital camera to
buy for your father-in-law, you probably feel there are far too many
sites out there already. By the time you have scrolled through one
store’s customer reviews for each candidate camera and then
cross-referenced the positive and the negative with the expert reviews
at each of your bookmarked consumer magazines, you have to start the
process again just to remember what people said. Wize in fact aims at
exactly that problem. It pulls together reviews from many outside
sources and aggregates them into three piles: user reviews, expert
reviews (with links to the online publications), and the general
"buzz." (For shoppers looking for a quick read on a product, Wize
assigns an overall ranking.) When Wize reports that 97 percent of users
love the Nikon D200 camera, it includes links to the online stores
where the user reviews are posted, so customers are driven back to the
businesses to spend their money.
Zillow.com does something
similar for real estate. The people behind Expedia.com, Rich Barton and
Lloyd Frink, were looking for a new business idea--and were in the
market for new homes. After hunting for information, they found that
most of it was locked into the multiple listings sites of the National
Association of Realtors. Now Zillow takes those listings and mashes
them up with additional information that can help a potential purchaser
find exactly what she wants. The most dramatic mashup right now is the
"heat map" that uses swaths of color to let you tell at a glance what
are the most expensive and most affordable areas. At some point,
though, Zillow or one of its emerging competitors will mash up listing
information with school ratings, crime maps, and aircraft flight
Wize and Zillow make money by selling advertising,
but their value is in the way their sites aggregate the
miscellaneous--letting lots of independent sources flock together, all
in one place.
We’re seeing the same trend in industry after
industry, including music, travel, and the news media. Information gets
released into the wild (sometimes against a company’s will), where it
joins up with other information, and the act of aggregating adds value.
Companies lose some control, but they gain market presence and smarter
customers. The companies that are succeeding in the new digital skies
are the ones that allow their customers to add their own information
and the aggregators to mix it up, because whether or not information
wants to be free, it sure wants to flock.
1 comment(s) so far...
By wbh on
Re: Book review: "Everything is Miscellaneous"
I read the book. It's an amazing piece of work. Weinberger's COFES 2005 keynote address on the subject had a huge impact. This book is a significant refinement of his COFES keynote and an important work. It's also an easy and enjoyable read.