Thursday, February 21, 2008


I read Everything is Miscellaneous last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It generally puts forth that hierarchies are outdated as indexing schemes. They are useful, and please understand that I'm taking a few liberties here, only as long as they are tied to a physical index or item.

As an example, It begins with a study of Office Max and their own study of space. A traditional store, most especially a grocery, is organized hierarchically and with the perishable staples at the back so that you are directed through a majority of the store most of the time. Instead, Office Max puts the most used items, toner and paper, at the front so as to make the average visit the most efficient. Their shelves are no more than 6-ish feet high, so that everyone can see the broad signs that they have identifying each product group. But the big thing is that they store some things in multiple places. Printer cables go next to the the printers, with the cables, and at the quick grabs section up front. That's it, that's where they break the hierarchy.

It's pretty minor, in fact Office Max limits each item’s number of locations to a small amount, but there are multiple locations available and that's a start. You see, a hierarchical structure requires a single location in the tree, but things don't fall that way. My dad's dog is in the genus Canis and the Kingdom Animalia, but it also is some dam's pup and as such has a family tree (another hierarchy this one multideminsional, we all have two parents, as do they, as do...), his name is Buddy (a member of a non-structured, unbounded set; see The Artist Formerly Known as Prince), he is black, brown, and white (all members of a relatively unstructued set), he is happy, rambunctious, and contributes to the happiness (and sometimes bloodiness) of the house. Well you get the idea.

So where do you put him in an Encyclopedia and represent all those things. You could put him in a traditional place and add cross references, but where do you end. Pretty soon the cross referencing becomes a good portion of, and then more than the entry itself. But depending on how you are looking for something about him, 'dog' can be a long way from where you want to get and that ignores the necessity of two-way references to make some of those traversals possible. So do we give up? No, each of those descriptors is adequate, so we use them all, structured and not, bounded and not. We create a multideminsional description of what we know. You'll regognise a simple version of this from tagging available in many e-mail, blogging, social, and wiki software available today. It's also the relationships that we describe in them. Our friends literally describe us. Tags are a large part of the 2 in the despicable term Web 2.0.

To prove these relations, and their power, I must only mention Mork. From that I know we recalled as much as we could. And most importantly, we’re happy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


It's come to my attention that the link in a recent post was not working. You have my apologies. If you'll give him another chance, I'm sure you'll enjoy his site. Mr. Karl Bode has a pretty amusing and informative outlook.

And here's one of my favorites.

2008 Presidential Science Debate

This one is near and dear.

I fully believe that a rational approach to science not only informs individuals while they make good decisions, it informs us of their ability to do so in the first place. To that end I support this initiative, and I just received this e-mail from a member of their team, Shawn Otto:

Dear James,

On Friday Business Week ran this story on us.

Over the last several days heavy hitters like Intel Chairman Craig Barrett and former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala have signed on, as have numerous universities, including Stanford, Georgia Tech, Cornell, and several others.

Yesterday, Earth & Sky Radio began running this interview with one of our organizers around the nation.

But the big news is we have invited the candidates. And we've issued a press release. The debate is set for April 18 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. That's four days before the Pennsylvania Primary. The New York Times, MSNBC, and others have picked up the story.

In fact, just about the only people we haven't heard from are the campaigns. If you have contacts at the Clinton, Huckabee, McCain or Obama campaigns, please urge them to accept.

Please tell them this is a mainstream concern about the big policy challenges the next president and our nation are facing. We are doing this for the good of our nation, and we hope those who would lead it take the future of the American economy and job security seriously enough to come to Philadelphia. We hope they take having a discussion with American voters about climate change seriously enough to come to Philadelphia. We hope they realize that we as American innovators, business leaders, scientists and thought leaders, and as over 100 leading American universities and organizations, that we care about our nation's investments in science and math education, that we care about our broken healthcare system and our declining investments in basic research, that we care about scientific integrity, about clean energy, about the future of the oceans and about the biodiversity that secures life on our planet, that these are not arcane, quirky science questions, they are questions about American jobs, about the health of our families and businesses, about our children and the future of the planet, and we hope that those who would lead us them seriously enough to come to Philadelphia.

Thanks for being a part of this historic and important initiative. Finally, please consider making an online donation here to support our efforts.

The team at