"To be generalised you must be comprehensively so, to be specialised you must be exclusively so."

These words of wisdom contain more truth than meets the eye, but can be illustrated quite easily by applying them to web design.
Generalised sites, like portals and search engines, have to have a comprehensive index: the idea is that the site encompasses everything.
Specialised sites, however, have to remain specialised: they have to contain all available information on their chosen subject, and possibly a few links to related subjects. As well as this, the webmaster has to ensure that he doesn't stray onto other topics, or the site will lose its specialisation.

Robert A. Heinlein said that "Specialisation is for insects," but it may be said that specialisation is also for works of reference: the science dictionary has its place as much as the enyclopedia. In the same way, portals are merely the indices of what is to be found in the volumes of specialised sites. Only in this way an the world wide web fulfill its function as the World's Greatest Encyclopedia.

The advancement and wealth creation of civilization has been an exercise of more and more specialisation in the economy.

At first, everyone fended for themselves. Then, with the founding of cities and empires, people began to acquire expertise. Once the physiological needs of a populace were secure, others could start to work on professions. At first, we had people who became experts at still quite general areas, such as "building houses". Today it is recognised that it takes many different professionals to build a house.

The expertise that specialisation grants people leads to much higher efficiency and output per head. The classic story of the pin factory Adam Smith used as an example shows the massive advantages of specialisation. A factory that was churning out only a few pins a day was turned into a productive dynamo when everyone had their own task to accomplish efficiently.

There is, however, a trade-off. Although specialisation has enabled society to advance a lot quicker, it generally causes a decrease in motivation in the work-place. People get bored carrying out the same task over and over again - the efficiency granted by specialisation is usually a bigger boon than this downside, however.

Spe`cial*i*za"tion (?), n.

1.

The act of specializing, or the state of being specialized.

2. Biol.

The setting apart of a particular organ for the performance of a particular function.

Darwin.

 

© Webster 1913.

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