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Why You Improved "Too Big to Know"
February 12, 2012 - 7:30pm

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger

Thank you Barbara Fister for your excellent review of David Weinberger's Too Big To Know, and to William Badke, Matthew Loving, Steven Paschold, Carl Hess, and Theron Snell for continuing the conversation about this terrific book.

Too Big Too Know first made my "to read" list when Barbara mentioned the book in her 1/12/12 post "Collision Course: RWA versus Knowledge."  

The next day I bought (downloaded) the book.

Part of the challenge of working in a world "where experts are everywhere" is that the opportunity costs for investing time in any one book, article, blog post, or twitter feed have gone up. Too Big to Know took me 8 hours and 2 minutes to read (I can be precise because I listened to the audiobook), time unavailable to either consume or produce something else.   

A "good" book that is being read and discussed by the communities that I participate is infinitely more valuable than a "great" book that I read alone. The value of a book is derived by some equation that captures the quality of its arguments, fluidness of its prose, the composition and size of the people reading the book, and the strength and connectivity of the network discussing the book.  

I find it telling that Barbara Fister's link to To Big To Know takes us to the WorldCat page, where my link brings you to Amazon's page. Barbara has been keeping us all honest in her concern around the privatization and corporatization of information, what she sees as one of the "dangers of networked knowledge when one company controls huge parts of it." 

Weinberger perhaps too quickly glosses over these concerns (and those of privacy as well), a shortcut that I am constantly tempted to make. The Amazon page for Too Big To Know lists 93 books in the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section - many of which are books I'd love to read and are now a click away for downloading in digital form. A paradise of potential knowledge and subsequent conversation, but only for those with access to an e-reader, a credit card, and some disposable income.   

The benefits of networked knowledge accrue most heavily to those that can afford to bypass its public providers. Too Big to Know would have been improved by a more critical evaluation of the new economics of knowledge.

My understanding and enjoyment of Too Big to Know is greatly increased by having access to the ideas and analysis in the discussion that Barbara kicked off, and the opportunity I now have to integrate and share my thinking about the book. The solution to our "knowledge problem" is not less information, but more conversation, tighter networks, bigger and more vibrant communities.   I'm not sure where Amazon and companies like Amazon fit into all this - but I know that the best answers to this question will come from you.

What are you reading?


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