Most important concepts
Weinberger attempts to illustrate through the example of the Staples Prototype Lab the importance of availability of information for a user. He also the extreme structural difference between information availability in the physical world vs the digital world. Finally, he includes the pitch line or hook of the rest of the book - that the structure of information availability shapes the content and character of the information itself - and how we use it.
“The physical limitations that silently guide the organization of an office supply store also guide how we organize our businesses, our government, our schools. They have guided—and limited—how we organize knowledge itself. From management structures to encyclopedias, to the courses of study we put our children through, to the way we decide what’s worth believing, we have organized our ideas with principles designed for use in a world limited by the laws of physics.”
I think it's also worth noting that these ideas are limited and organized less by the actual laws of physics than the perceived order of the physical world, which is shaped by cultural values as much as actual observable physical laws.
I've written a semantically-informed search engine before, and the concept of creating a store frontend which puts products in “every different category in which users might conceivably expect to find them.” ties into that ideal neatly; Amazon and Netflix both produce recommendations on the basis not only of the shopper's preferences, but also by association - a sort of semantic database where items are given relevance by their association. A system that knows how users group items together knows in a way what an item actually is, by association. A system like this could use a semantic engine like the one I built for the purpose of searching news stories to associate products to categories and even (with some guidance) invent new categories. If a significant subset of the individuals who purchased a shower curtain also purchased a new shower curtain, curtain rod, curtain rings, bathmat, soap dishes, etc. then the system could label this common associative group and bring it to the attention of the individuals running the storefront system. The proprietors could then label this group "new bathroom" or something similar.
I spend a good deal of time trying to keep the projects I have going at any given time organized and trying to put in time in all of them and still have a life. I tend to review what I've done regularly and try to put in a little time in every one of these projects at least every 3-4 weeks, but the "order" I've chosen doesn't really work very well for me. The projects are too disparate - two versions of Visual Studio, a couple of web servers, two different academic papers and a creative writing project plus all of the various homework assignments and extracurricular work-related activities that come up. I think the best strategy for minimizing the disorder in this would be to pick one or two and just finish them, thus minimizing the amount of time I spend juggling them.
Most important concepts
Weinbergern loves the concept of miscellaneity perhaps too much; I find the concept of a sort of battle against the miscellaneous to be the most important point in this chapter. Order may not reflect the natural state of the world but it is the preferred means of human interaction with reality - we as a species have advanced from the small pack unit living and dying with the seasons solely by reorganizing both the physical reality of the world around us and our perception of it.
The quote below about photos of Aunt Sally makes a valuable point about the weight of the data we produce in modern life exceeding our capacity to organize it. This is especially problematical from the perspective of preservation - how can we save the significant portions of this information if we cannot find it?“When you have ten, twenty, or thirty thousand photos on your computer, storing a photo of Aunt Sally labeled ‘DSC00165.jpg’ is functionally the same as throwing it out, because you’ll never find it again.”
“The real world, though, limits the amount of additional data we can supply: Staples has to keep the product information labels on the shelves small enough so they won’t obscure the product; a manila folder’s label can’t have more than a few dozen characters on it without becoming illegible; and if previous students have already highlighted every other sentence in your textbook, the marks you make won’t add much information at all.”
I didn't get to chapter 2 as I've still not gotten the book yet... The other two books have arrived, naturally.