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Preface to the Third Edition

The Third Editions

For a book to be republished in a third edition barely two years after its first is highly unusual, but we were compelled to update the book by the extremely positive reception it has received. In 2014 The Discipline of Organizing was named an “Information Science Book of the Year” by the Association of Information Science and Technology. As gratifying as this recognition is for all of us who have applied themselves to this work, it is even more gratifying that nearly 60 schools—three times as many as a year ago—are using it in a very diverse set of courses. Each new course ratifies the idea that multiple perspectives can reinforce a shared focus on organizing, while at the same time highlighting the concepts, technologies, and methods that distinguish those points of view.

The discipline of organizing emerges at the intersection of existing disciplines. Because the book structure mirrors this content structure with a transdisciplinary core supplemented with discipline-specific content, it is easy to add content when new courses or instructors identify a need for it. However, even when they were suggesting revisions or new content, many instructors expressed concern about the “syllabus backward compatibility” of a new edition. To help with this, we have made very few changes to the Table of Contents structure in the 3rd edition. Instead, most of the new content appears at the end of sections to provide more depth and breadth to a topic, or else it appears in sidebars or endnotes, which can easily be ignored by instructors and students if the content does not fit the perspective of a particular course. As before, in addition to the Professional Edition that contains all the content, we are publishing a Core Concepts Edition that omits the endnotes and other highly specialized content because many instructors of undergraduate courses prefer a shorter and less academic book. But unlike the 2nd editions, which were only available in ebook format, the 3rd editions are also available in PDF format because of accessibility considerations and because some instructors and students prefer a printable, fixed-layout format.

The 3rd editions add thousands of words of new content in almost two hundred new paragraphs, a dozen new sidebars, and fifty-four new discipline-specific endnotes. The major content additions in the 3rd editions are:

  • Incorporating “organizing people” as a topic
      Organizations of people have always fit the definition of organizing system, especially for business organizations, and from the beginning TDO has included some examples. but mostly in passing. However, our students kept bringing “organizing people” into their discussions and questions, so we are now talking about selecting, organizing, and managing “human resources” in a more systematic way. People are now more prominent in §1.3.2, “What Is Being Organized?” in Chapter 1, and sidebars on People as Resources in Chapter 3 and Business Structures in Chapter 5 are also focal points.
  • Introducing values and ethics into discussions of why and how we organize
      Information and computer science disciplines emphasize the functional efficiency of design, but it is obvious that organizing system design is not neutral. It can shape or constrain behavior, enforce or create bias, and define winners and losers. These issues are introduced in §1.3.3, “Why Is It Being Organized?” in Chapter 1, with a sidebar on Power and Politics in Organizing nearby, and developed further in Chapters 2, 7, 9 (with a sidebar on Behavioral Economics, and 10.
  • Expanded treatment of information architecture
    • Expanded treatment of where we organize
        We have expanded the repertoire of W's with §1.3.7, “Where is it being Organized?” to include consideration of where an organizing system and its resources are located geographically, politically, temporally, or otherwise. We explore the land, built environments, and way-finding in §2.3.2, “Organizing Places”.
    • Five new user-contributed case studies
        An out-of-this-world organizing system in §11.6, “Earth Orbiting Satellites”, an entomology museum in §11.7, “CalBug and its Search Interface Redesign”, making “all the world’s art” accessible in §11.14, “The Art Genome Project”, a much-studied lunchbox-delivery system §11.16, “The Dabbawalas of Mumbai”, and an independent book classification system in §11.19, “A Nonprofit Book Publisher”.
    • Stop and Think exercises
        “Stop and Think” sidebars are now included in the Professional Edition.

    • The Discipline of Organizing has always discussed resource description, classification, and interactions in ways that integrate the concepts and methods that apply to people with those that apply to computational agents. It is challenging to keep up with the pace of technology and business innovation, but we added §, “Aggregated Information Objects”, updated §4.4.3, “Describing Music”, and added new sidebars on Latent Feature Creation and Netflix Recommendations and Computational Descriptions of People in Chapter 4 and updated §7.6, “Computational Classification” in Chapter 7.

    An enumeration of every instructor, student, or reader who contributed to this effort would surely omit some people by mistake, so I will only mention people whose work was so substantial it would be remiss not to thank them by name.

    The overall plan for the 3rd edition emerged from a "book club" seminar in Spring 2015 when twelve Berkeley graduate students and I read a number of books with wildly different points of view about organizing. Our goals were to use The Discipline of Organizing concepts and methods as a common framework for discussing the other books, which would test the book's robustness and identify gaps in coverage. The book club participants were Katey Basye, Phil Braddock, Laura Desmond-Black. Shaun Giudici, Daniel Griffin, Ian MacFarland, Jason Ost, Emily Paul, Robyn Perry, Shom Sarkar, Jordan Shedlock, and Pete Swigert. After the book club ended, several of the students helped write the new content to fill the gaps. Gracen Brilmyer, Bill Chambers, Vijay Velagapudi, and Anne Wootton also helped with new content.

    Instructors who teach with The Discipline of Organizing can easily see places to improve it, but Carl Lagoze, Isabelle Sperano, and Deborah Maron actually wrote needed content. Likewise, any reader can find faults with a book, but not many make the effort to point them out and suggest detailed revisions, as did Graham Freeman, Michael McDowell, Steve Tolkin, and Dan Turner.

    Finally, the 3rd editions would not have been possible without Murray Maloney's relentless devotion to pragmatic perfection.

    Robert J. Glushko, 18 July 2015