I'm really enjoying Peter Morville's Ambient Findability
, and I feel like it's a must-read for Web literacy. The title refers to the intersection of search and ubiquitous computing, and the book is sort of a quick history of information management and a look at where information is headed. Morville mentioned an insightful quote by Calvin Mooers
that I hadn't heard before:
An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a consumer to have information than for him not to have it.
I often think of more information and access to more information as inherently good. But Mooers has a great point that information has to be processed and can often lead to more questions than answers. I've found a personal information wall in my own use of RSS readers. And I think this quote is a more useful way of stating the information overload problem than the saying ignorance is bliss
. If I think about information as painful as well as useful, I have to change the way I design and interact with applications. And Morville argues that the change should be toward collaborative filtering and information as something social. I think the book explains some important Web trends like folksonomies, user-contributed data, and long tail power laws without going into the land of business hype. I'd like to give this book to some of my less web-centric friends because I think it's a good guide to understanding how moving from atoms to bits affects our relationship with information.