This except is from the draft introduction to the handbook I am writing on findability. Wonderfully, Howard Rheingold seems able always to get to the crux of things:
“All of the world’s knowledge is in the air to be plucked down by our telephone. Of course it’s also all the world’s disinformation, misinformation, spam, porn, Nigerian frauds, urban legends, hoaxes. So how do you find what you want and how do you know that it’s true? Those seem like to me both extremely important questions today . . . .”
Howard Rheingold, interview by Jaap van de Geer, October 2008
As he does so very well, Howard Rheingold went straight to the heart of our global communication morass, in his answer above to a Dutch interviewer. Finding what you want and knowing if it is true are more and more challenging and more and more perplexing as the internet engulfs us in a seemingly chaotic virtual ocean of everything we know and very much of what we do.
Thumbing through index cards in little drawers and sticking our noses into stacks of books to find knowledge and check its truth is very twentieth century. Those old methods cannot reach into the digital-only versions of the latest and most accurate knowledge that is to be found only through a browser window into the new information realm.
The answer to Rheingold’s question is to change both where we look and the way we ascertain truthfulness:
Finding what you want: Look in the full and online ocean, staying clear of digital knowledge that is artificially molded into analog shapes and storage.
Ascertaining what is true: Let the laws and methods of the entirely new medium for human information that govern what happens in the ocean provide you with the most recent, accurate, and in-context truth available on earth. [Hint: start with the network laws.]
The time has come to let a wide range of management principles of the past move aside so we can work toward understanding the new global medium from which all of the world’s knowledge—and junk—can be plucked by the mobile computer in what we are still calling a phone.