Trivia VS Knowledge

Have you ever met anyone with an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure rock bands? I knew a group of people in Los Angeles who spent their time browsing the used bins at record shops back in the days when music was recorded on vinyl (which is making a comeback these days, even though most kids have never heard anything other than compressed 128-kilobite-per-second digital recordings). Some of these people were so obsessed with obscure bands that they deserved the moniker "vinyl vermin." They collected lists of band names and knew all the rarest albums available. There could be an obscure garage band from England that rest of us would ever have heard of the band, but the vinyl vermin could tell you more about it than you ever wanted to know.

The problem with most vinyl vermin, I've found, is that they let their knowledge of trivia overwhelm their judgment. Despite their encyclopedic learning, I can't recall having a single discussion with them about whether any of the bands were actually any good. Maybe a band that released just five hundred copies of an album was an undiscovered gem, or maybe the music was so bad that no other record company would hire it to make another album. I never knew what most of the vinyl vermin thought about the qualities of musical groups or genres, because they never talked about anything other than trivial facts and statistics.

The lesson I learned from the vinyl vermin was that the most important thing about gathering information is what you do with it. The "secret language" of taxonomy might have made me feel special, but words applied to fossil species (or obscure records) didn't satisfy me. Taxonomy is a beautiful art. But without theory behind it, taxonomy amounts to words on a museum label. Even today, new species are being discovered and described at a remarkable rate, and each newly discovered species receives a unique official name. But what does the naming and ordering of species say about their relationship to other species and to us? I wanted wisdom, not just knowledge.


Graffin relates the story of "Vinyl Vermin" who collected trivia about music rather than cultivating opinions on what was good or bad. He relates this to amassing taxonomy knowledge without a theory.

Folksonomies: theory hypothesis trivia

/science/biology/botany (0.561025)
/pets/birds (0.390108)
/art and entertainment/music (0.367944)

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Los Angeles:City (0.747616 (neutral:0.000000)), England:Country (0.653679 (negative:-0.299234)), official:JobTitle (0.634505 (neutral:0.000000))

The Band (0.917525): website | dbpedia | freebase | yago | musicBrainz
Learning (0.881123): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Gramophone record (0.719592): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Band (0.585332): dbpedia | opencyc
Music (0.584959): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Evolution (0.575414): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Obscure Records (0.571560): dbpedia | freebase
Trivia (0.568457): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Anarchy Evolution
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Graffin , Greg and Olson , Steve (2011-10-18), Anarchy Evolution, Harper Perennial, Retrieved on 2013-01-08
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: evolution science punk rebellion counter culture