Tag Archives: internet

Much Ado About Something

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 (Basic Books, $25.99, 231 pages)

What we have here is a situation that’s either really simple or overwhelmingly complex.   This reviewer isn’t so sure of what to make of David Weinberger’s history and background survey of the Internet.   Weinberger’s credentials are impeccable.   He is a senior researcher at the Harvard University Berkman Center for the Internet and Society.   Perhaps it’s his professional training that had led to a penchant for sequencing, numbering and setting forth the pros and cons of an issue.

The book begins with the background of how, over the past few centuries, man has considered knowledge to be facts gathered by elite scholars and used these facts as the basis of a broad acceptance of scientific principles and general information.   Prior to the ubiquity of the Internet, small numbers of experts who were organized into scholarly associations that, along with the publishing industry, controlled access to knowledge.   The limits of peer review and publishing kept this information under tight control.

We have given up the idea that there is a single, knowable organization of the Universe, a Book of Nature that we’ll ever be able to read together or that will settle bar fights like the Guinness Book of World Records.Too Big to Know (nook book)

Weinberger readily offers his own take on the new use of knowledge by everyone and his uncle.   We know that the growing number of online communities provides ample opportunities for anyone with an opinion to broadcast it all over the world.   He argues that specialized communities on the Internet are becoming insular in much the same way past experts operated within the walls of academia, literally echo chambers.   Of course there is a glaring difference between the past scholarly cliques and today’s echo chambers because anyone with a laptop and access to WiFi can appear to be an expert.

On the Net, everyone is potentially an expert in something – it all depends on the questions being asked.

Too Big to Know sometimes bends back on itself with examples.   The premise of the book may be a bit overworked.   The target audience for this book is not clear to this reviewer.   Perhaps it might be someone of an indeterminate age who is inquisitive about knowledge.

This survey book may be the answer to a question that no one was asking.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Just like Romeo and Juliet

Annie and Duncan are stuck.   They’ve spent the last 15 years in a predictable non-committal “marriage” in a nowhere town near the English seacoast.   Their relationship lacks passion and purpose.   Annie’s also beginning to notice the ticking of her biological clock.   A trip to the U.S. to indulge Duncan’s internet-based obsession with a vanished and long-forgotten rock star (Tucker Crowe) takes them on a pilgrimage of sorts, crisscrossing the states and concluding on the west coast.Juliet, Naked

Annie makes her first move toward independence by remaining in San Francisco to do a bit of sightseeing while Duncan takes the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train to a residential neighborhood in Berkeley where, over twenty years earlier, the rocker Crowe threw rocks at his married lover’s window.   As Annie and Duncan make uncharacteristic choices, the plot rapidly takes off.

You’ll need to read the book to find out how Nick Hornby gently coaxes his ever-increasing cast of characters to reflect on their lives and relationships.   He weaves a charming plot into a quite satisfying read.   This is a tale not to be missed if you’re ever been fascinated by someone or something to near distraction, or if you happen to use the internet.

Recommended.

Riverhead, $25.95, 406 pages

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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How will your readers find you? The Findability Formula

The Findability Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach to Search Engine Marketing by Heather Lutze is a book that tells business owners how to set up a successful marketing campaign.   And a successful campaign, these days, means having a website that can be found by Google and the other major search engines.

At first blush this would not seem to have much to do with writing books or even reviewing them.   However, one important lesson pointed out by Lutze is that businesses often make the mistake of focusing on the macro rather than the micro.   For example, a seller of TV sets may think it is easier to use internet ads with broad keywords (words that will be found by search engines) such as “TV seller” instead of “large screen plasma TVs.”   But the broader terms often get lost in the back pages of search engine results; and 87% of those using search engines never look past page 3 or 4 of the results!

The lesson here is that instead of thinking macro/large, it is better to think micro/small or unique.   For writers this may mean that the P.R. campaign for your new book should not sell it as THE NEXT BIG THING, or attempt to sell you as the second coming of THE BIG AUTHOR that readers already know quite well.   Besides, those references to already published big books and authors are going to get lost in the back pages of search engine results.   Who’s going to read you – and feed you – when you’re on page 64?

What does this mean for book review bloggers?   Maybe it’s fine to occasionally review a new book by a currently unknown author, one who has published his/her first novel or work of non-fiction.   If you write a review of Susan New or Joe First-Timer, your review will certainly be more easily found than the 700th review of the new book by Mr. BIG AUTHOR, who has already sold 80 million copies.   And one other thing, if you write about a BIG subject, like the biggest books written by the biggest authors, what is it that you’re going to say that is unique and that hasn’t been said by the major media publications?   The answer is, probably, not much.

Contra, if you’re an early adopter and reviewer of a new and rising author, you’re likely to build a lasting and long-term relationship with him/her and his/her publisher.   Further, it is guaranteed that every friend, family member and acquaintance of the new author is going to read your review; something quite unlikely to occur with your review of Mr. BIG AUTHOR.   (What satisfaction is there in writing the least read review of a new book?)

In summary, while The Findability Formula is a book that was intended to guide business owners rather than writers, book reviewers or bloggers, it offers everyone valuable lessons on how to use the right search engine approaches (including keywords and tags) to get people to read what you write.   It’s a guide book that’s worth purchasing unless you elect – in this age of the internet – to write for just yourself, your mother and your faithful dog.

Joseph Arellano

Reprinted and adapted from the Troy Bear blog.   Originally posted on May 21, 2009.Findability Formula (lg.)

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