David Weinberger – based on his 2001 classic, The Cluetrain Manifesto – is a god. That book, originally published and available for free online, discussed the need for companies to “get on the Cluetrain,” and recognize that the web enabled customers to have as large, if not larger, a voice as companies in the marketplace for products and services. It tore through the Web like a bullet (train) to the brain. Weinberger’s insight presaged blogs, user-generated content, consumer-generated media and many of the other transformational shifts companies and the mainstream media spend much of their days trying to capture, comprehend, and control.
Because of his role in shaping this dialogue about the new brand dialogue, I tore into Everything is Miscellaneous, anticipating Weinberger dropping some knowledge and, once again, racing ’round the curve, providing a ride to a place I’ve not been before. Perhaps I expected too much. It’s not that Everything is Miscellaneous is a bad book; it’s more that Weinberger set the bar too high the first time for anyone to clear again. Perhaps his omniscience in Manifesto only gave the impression he was a god, when, in fact, he’s merely a very good writer who understands the changes wrought by the weavers of the web implicitly and who helps make those changes explicit for those who do not. That’s not a bad thing. I definitely learned a few things reading Miscellaneous, for instance, the way in which tagging enables computers – and people – to identify relationships between content not obvious at first glance, or frequently at second, third or fourth. Pretty cool. Did the Earth move, though? I’m afraid not.
I don’t like to slag books. And I won’t begin here, because this book is far too good for that. If you’re not a regular user of del.icio.us, Flickr, ma.gnolia and the like, you will absolutely benefit from reading Everything is Miscellaneous. If you do use these sites, if you already ride this cluetrain, you’ll find Weinberger conducting a thorough, and thoroughly enjoyable, tour of the state of the art for these technologies, with a glimpse of what’s to come. If, however, you seek a religious experience, as I was and expected based on the original Manifesto, I’m afraid Weinberger proves he is nothing more, and nothing less, than a very good writer wielding a topic he knows well. You could do much worse. All aboard.