Archive for January, 2008

One of the great anxieties I have when writing a blog post comes at the end, just before pressing the publish button. There is a categorisation ritual to go through where I apply “tags” — keywords that improve the “findability” of each post in search engines. The words you apply to categorize something can be bizarrely personal, and although the option always exists to go back and improve those choices with retrospection, I know that ain’t gonna happen.

It seems even more pertinent now because of a new widget I installed courtesy of Amaury Balmer. This allows you to find similar items within the blog automatically through hyperlinks, including so-called “related posts”, without my direct intervention. That’s a kind of editorial magic, by the way, that I only used to entertain in my wildest dreams a few years ago, back somewhere in the lower cretaceous era of newswires.

My taxonomical anxiety might be alleviated if I studied the subject, but with all the things a modern writer has to stay current with it will likely remain a bit of blind spot. My early posts were littered liberally with tags, which, when they showed up in the post’s footer, were sometimes as long as the post itself. And with Amaury’s plug-in, those old posts, for good or ill, may find a bit more life than I originally envisaged.

I did work for several years in a library, so classification of this type is not entirely alien. But I have to admit that my bibliotechnical exploits were principally motivated by conscientious objection to spending Friday afternoon’s square-bashing in the school cadet force. Yes, I was a junior draft dodger…

Well, I get some superficial reassurance from web-guru David Weinberger, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and more recently the fantastically titled Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. Rightly or wrongly, I take it as a defense that this blog does not have to be about anything in particular, a contrarian strategy if you would otherwise heed the advice of most blog tipsters.

And that leads me to the gratuitous reason for this post, which is to point you to some more YouTube Gil Scott-Heron, where he addresses his own problems with being categorised. This is a long clip, and you “endure” some wonderful jazz saxophone before Scott-Heron’s extraordinary eloquence kicks in.

The man has had a troubled life. Despite the high moral stance of much of his music and poetry, he succumbed to drug addiction, for which he has served periods in jail, was recently arrested and re-arrested. He is reportedly HIV positive. But to hear a recent NPR interview (December 11, coincidentally two days after my last Scott-Heron Post) it suggests he is alive and pretty well in the circumstances. Here is a Cafe Hayek podcast with David Weinberger for good measure.

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Tweet Dan Goldstein at Decision Science News has just highlighted some interesting stuff from Gerd Gigerenzer in relation to the perceived value of cancer screening. Gigerenzer recently authored Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, which I reviewed here. Gigerenzer demonstrates the problem of false positives, the fear it can induce in the unlucky patient, […]


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