Structured vs. Unstructured: Are blogs a mess?

During my morning workout today I was listening to David Weinberger (Cluetrain Manifesto, Small Pieces, Loosley Joined) giving a talk to the Library of Congress (LOC) about taxonomies, categorization and knowledge. He compared and contrasted these with the physical (i.e., libraries and the Dewey Decimal System) with the virtual (internet and/or digitized content), and how all that relates to the ‘old’ way of capturing knowledge vs. the ‘new’ way of handling it on the internet. Pretty interesting observations by Weinberger in this talk.

The reason he was invited by the LOC was his observational skills coupled with his blogging abilities and insights. The essence of where he ended, though, was troubling to me. It was all about the unstructured nature of blogs, the explosion of content, the cross-hyperlinking, and the difficulties of capturing all that information — without tying up the loose ends and actually have answers or recommendations.

There are ways being developed to pull together the blogosphere at least. Google bought Blogger. Technorati is doing a great job at identifying searchable blogs and having an engine to do so. Others like IceRocket, Daypop, BlogDigger, Bloogz, and even the boringly named “Blog Search Engine” are enabling the targeted searching of blogs.

While this is useful and there truly is a trend to be able to tap in to the collective consciousness of bloggers, how does this help drive knowledge? How can we turn this in to helpful information within a context of what we might be trying to find, learn or discover? What if we have specific knowledge we’re trying to gain…how do we find the published (encyclopedia’s, Wikipedia, mainstream media) *and* all the connections to them from bloggers? (This pre-supposes that bloggers are, in fact, hyperlinking to any of these published media — and many don’t). At the very least, is anyone tracking all of these connections being made by bloggers? (Maybe there is a trend here too).

Big problems to fix. Big minds thinking about them. We’ve only just begun….


  1. David Weinberger on February 21, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    This is one of the reasons tagging is so interesting: It’s a bottom-up taxonomy. Of course, if millions of people start tagging, it’ll create its own problems. But someone will figure out how to make sense of them, or we’ll start tagging differently, or something we can’t predict will happen. That’s the good part about messes: Innovation emerges from them. (I hope.)

    (Thanks for the link and comments, Steve.)

  2. Steve Borsch on February 21, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    One additional thought: most people I know can’t force themselves to create a desktop taxonomy (i.e., folders or directories) and instead rely on search. This is the basis of all the excitement around the mythical WinFS in Longhorn and Spotlight in Mac OS X Tiger.

    I’m the same way…my desktop is a bit of a mess (both real and virtual ones!) and I haven’t begun yet to get my arms around the randomness of my blog entires (so I can create categories). I can, however, begin to see patterns emerging (like open source, Apple and space science) so I’ll probably do it along with Technorati tagging.

    I don’t hold out much hope for people being disciplined to tag unless there are huge paybacks for the effort (Flickr is a good start with photo tagging…and I’ve already seen event-participant-tagging being successful).

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.