In the face of the rapid change that we have been experiencing, why aren’t we drowning in the ocean of information. The answer lies in the metadata.
The real world requires that we order things within finite, defined spaces. Think of the front page of the newspaper. Power and authority is conveyed upon the person who commands the ability to determine what goes into these spaces.
We have imported the concept of physical limitations of organization into digitization. But the digital in fact frees us from these limitations.
- Leaf as many branches as you can. Information can be tagged in unlimited ways.
- Messiness is a virtue. All sorts of connections that make sense to individuals are possible and good. There is no need to force these relationships and connections into a predetermined pattern.
- There is no difference between clean data and metadata. When you go online, this is not so much the case anymore. With Search that draws connections between data, everything is metadata.
- Unowned order: Users own the organization of the data that is meaningful and useful to them.
- Take all of these things together and the user can draw meaning from data to meet their immediate needs and context. Everything is Miscellaneous.
In this new environment, authority is distributed and attributed by the community. Authority embraces fallibility. Contrast the self identification in Wikipedia of entries that require further attention or editing by the community with the self declared indisputable authority of traditional media like the New York Times or the Encyclopedia Britannica. By acknowledging fallibility, by acknowledging mistakes, authority is actually enhanced.