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Links inspired by the Emerging Technology Conference, part I: Steven Johnson's Keynote. Posted on 05/16/2002.

I'm attending O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference, and listening to some great talks, and having some great conversations. Others are doing a good job of reporting exactly what's been said, so I'm opting to provide links that I found inspired by the talks.

Yesterday's keynote was given by Steven Johnson, talking about a "City of Blogs", where he takes the urban studies notions he discussed in Emergence and applies them to the groundswell of interesting in personal publishing that weblogs have inspired. You can read much of his thesis in his essay for Salon, "Use The Blog, Luke". (Which wasn't his choice of a title...) The basic idea is that weblogs are a great knowledge management medium, but need tools to extract the value of the information therein. To turn it from a writer's medium to a reader's medium (or somewhere in between). I've noodled on this in the past, largely because of my work at Epinions. Epinions 1.0 was a writer's site--it was pretty much designed to support authors to write reviews, filling the site with content. The charter of Epinions 2.0, which is essentially what you still see (though it's probably more a 2.3 or 2.4), is to extract the value of all the content and present it in a way that is truly valuable for readers.

(I also found out that Steven reads regularly. Um. Hi, Steven! Good talk. Suggestions: I do think cybernetics ought to get more props in these discussions; you've got to use a less moody picture of me; recognize that extracting meaning from texts is REALLY REALLY hard; spend a little less time with the study of Manhattan... we get the idea pretty quickly; make it clear *what the point* of a City of Blogs could be... So we could have one... Why would I want to visit?)

Steven's talk started getting me thinking about cybernetics, and I've decided I need to read more both by and about Herbert A. Simon. He was a leading thinker in a number of fields, including cybernetics, organizational theory, artificial intelligence, epistemology, and economics. I suspect that a lot of the stuff I've been thinking about (decentralized organizations, knowledge management, getting information to flow in companies in meaningful ways, complex adaptive systems as models for addressing this, etc. etc.), he's long ago considered.

Links that seem worth pursuing:
- Cosma Shalizi's notebook entry on Simon. (Cosma's notebooks are a treasure trove.)
- The syllabus for "Science and Technology Studies 6234: History and Social Studies of Computers and Software", with links to seminal essays, bibliographies, and pointers to online resources. Much goodness there.
- This page on Simon has links to PDFs of his essays, stuff that might otherwise be hard to get a hold of.
- And, whenever discussions of complex adaptive systems and information comes up, I feel obliged to point to the Principia Cybernetica Web, still the best single resource on this topic.

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