I am currently reading two books on what can only be described as Web 2.0: John Batelle’s The Search and Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability. I don’t know why (maybe just my own overdosing on reading after starting my sabbatical), but I am finding both hard to get into.
The Search is better written – it is a mix of a corporate biography and a discussion of how search capability changes society. The language is tight – though sometimes cute, as in the phrase "the database of intentions" about Google clickstreams and archived query terms – and there is a thread (roughly chronological) through the book that allows most people who have been online for a while to nod and agree on almost any page. John Batelle has an excellent blog and plenty of scars from the dot-com boom and bust (I always liked Industry Standard and wrote a column for the Norwegian version, Business Standard, for a few years, so I am very favorably disposed), and his competence as a writer shows. The book reads like a long Wired report, but better structured, marginally below average in use of buzzwords and John has the right industry connections to pull it off.
Ambient Findability looks at search from the other side of the coin – how do you make yourself findable in a world where search, rather than categorization, is the preferred user interface? For one thing, you have to make your whole web site findable, make it accessible and meaningful from all entry points. Morville fills the book up with drawings and pictures on almost every page, comes off as a widely read person, but I am still looking for a thorough expansion of the central message – or at least some decent and deep speculation on personal and organizational consequences. It is more a book popularizing information science than a book that wants to tell a story, and it shows.
While both books are well worth the read if you are relatively new to the Internet, I was a little disappointed in the lack of new ideas – they are clever, but once you accept that the marginal cost of processing, storage and communciations bandwidth approaches zero, the conclusions kind of give themselves. Perhaps I am tired – actually, I am – perhaps I am unfairly critical after having treated myself to The Blank Slate, The World is Flat and Collapse, but these books, while both worthwhile, have failed to "wow" me.
Apologies. I will make a more determined re-entry once I wake up.