Having finished reading Everything is Miscellaneous some time ago, I have had the book sitting around with some passages marked for a blog post. My personal and work life has been careening along the road at such a rapid pace that I have not had the time to sit and write. Today, I am carving out that time.
One part which caught my attention was in the chapter "Messiness as a Virtue." (pages 173 - 198) He talks about the issue which so many of us face with our digital photos. He uses the analogy of a shoe box of physical photos as a "first-order mess." If you create an index of the photos, you have a "second-order mess" because you can only find photos if you look under a term which has been assigned. Digital photos (with or without metadata attached) are a "third-order mess" only because there is no physical item which can be in only one place. It is an interesting concept.
As we digitize more and more, I think that we may be creating a "third-order mess" -- which is not a bad thing. Having just had the newspapers for Eau Claire digitized up until 1923 (copyright rules, you know), we are taking our "first-order" mess of microfilm, and skipping the "second-order mess" of an index and gone straight to a "third-order mess" (well, if I understand David Weinberger correctly). It is an interesting concept to ponder.