Everything is Miscellaneous

I recently finished reading Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger. It wasn’t as insightful as I had hoped; but the main reason I read it is because it mentions Endeca (the software company I worked at this summer).

The main point was that categorizations, taxonomies, groupings, clusterings (whatever you want to call them) can increasingly be designed for any particular purpose. This is in contrast with the “one-size-fits-all” approach of the past (physical stores, dewey decimal system, database columns). I put the emphasis on design because designing an ordering system has the same essential properties as designing anything else. What’s really cool is when the ordering system can be designed automatically, on the fly, in response to user input — e.g. faceted browsing.

Next: On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins.

Democracies and Mutual Funds

I was chatting with Rajiv today about politics and history and economics and came up with an interesting analogy.

We were talking about how monarchs can really do amazing things for a country if they’re good, but if they’re not good or just crazy they can really screw things up. In a democracy, by contrast, the people have the power but don’t necessarily know what they really want or how to get it done; things have to be voted on; nothing radical tends to happen.

So basically, democracy is like a mutual fund – low risk, medium return. Monarchy is more like an individual stock – more risky but with the potential for much higher returns. Democracies stick around while monarchies eventually get wiped out by a string of too many bad leaders.