Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become

By Peter Morville  |  Finished: 21st August 2010  |  Back to library

Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become

One interesting characteristic of the modern world is that, these days, things can get old very, very fast. A glaring example of this occurs throughout Ambient Findability, with Peter Morville saying “the Wikipedia” rather than simply “Wikipedia” whenever he refers to the notorious collaborative encyclopedia. It reminds me of George W Bush talking about “the Google”.

It seems that if you’re a writer and your topic is in any way affected by technological developments, you have to face the fact that in five years’ time your output will sound dated, or at least quaint. But does this matter?

No it doesn’t, or at least it shouldn’t. The substance behind your words should still come through even if the mundane details, or your editorial style, reflect the time in which you wrote. Barabasi succeeds in this – the web he discusses extensively in “Linked” has little in common with the web of today, but his book remains educational and insightful. I’m not sure if Morville succeeds in the same way, though.

It’s not that “Ambient Findability” is outdated, or that the ideas aren’t interesting – it’s just not particularly memorable. A part of the problem might be that, as an O’Reilly book, I approached this with an expectation that it would be competency-building, like a textbook in some ways, much like Morville’s classic “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (another O’Reilly book).

This isn’t the right way to approach “Ambient Findability”, which is more of an extended essay or meditation. If you’re very new to concepts like metadata, ubiquitous computing, faceted search, complexity and network effects, this book is a useful primer and I look forward to mining its bibliography. But if you’ve already read things like Freakonomics, Everyware, Linked, The Tipping Point and The Cluetrain Manifesto – all of which are quoted here – and you’re already familiar with the concept and value of metadata in the modern age, you might find little here that’s especially new to you.

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