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Review: Small Pieces Loosely Joined

Everything new is old again, or at least that’s the premise of David “JOHO the Blog” Weinberger’s “Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web,” a collection of eight essays by David Weinberger, philosopher, software developer, and co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto. If you missed this book in early 2002, pick it up again (it’s under $7 on Amazon, or your local library probably has it); this book not only hasn’t aged, it it just now coming into its mettle.

I came to “Small Pieces Loosely Joined” with a chip on my shoulder, as I never liked Cluetrain. It’s not that I didn’t agree with its premises, that the Internet was changing business in significant ways; it just has that privileged-white-male-techy feel to it, smug and abrasive in its surety.

But “Small Pieces Loosely Joined” has a gentler voice than Cluetrain–the voice of a philosopher, parent, and father, someone who cares about the world, someone who can write an essay called “Hope” in which he argues with gentle humor and spot-on examples that “the Web’s movement is toward human authenticity.”

The stories are arresting, informative, and often amusing. Weinberger discusses identity through .Zannah, a young woman with an online presence; explores the picture-perfect world of computer clip art; gives us glimpses into his own family life; admits that the Web will “always present bad information,” but celebrates how the Web has allowed us to articulate new concepts of community–a perfect message in the middle of this decade, as information transforms into a conversation. The writing is lovely, the thinking beautiful: put your hands on “Small Pieces Loosely Joined” and see if you agree.

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