Top critical review
If ya gotta ask, you'll never know...
on August 22, 2003
In reading David Weinberger's "Small Pieces Loosely Joined", his thesis of how the Web works and impacts our lives, I couldn't help but recall Louis Armstrong's legendary response to the question "What is jazz". "Man, if ya gotta ask," he supposedly replied, "you'll never know."
"Small Pieces" tries to ask just that question: What is the Web? Not to say that Weinberger doesn't know (he does), but in trying to formulate an answer with "Small Pieces", he offers few new insights. There's nothing in this book that will hit the reader like a ton of bricks, especially if he or she has any degree of Web experience.
Indeed, while well-written and informative, the bulk of the content is a rehash of earlier Internet thinkers like Clifford Stoll, Nicholas Negroponte, Eric Raymond, Howard Rhiengold and even Jeremy Rifkin. Old-school netizens will be particularly disappointed, especially since the tone of the book comes disturbingly close to the technlogy-will-change-everything breathelessness of the dotcom days.
"Small Pieces", however, has its merits -- particularly in Weinberger's writing style. In that vein, "Small Pieces" makes a good beach book... and it's also good for those new to the Web (or at least those who are critically thinking about it for the first time). But if you really want to learn what the Web's all about, get surfing and build your own website. Like learning how to ride a bike, the only way to learn the Web is by hopping on the seat and risking a few skinned knees.