Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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Long Comments on the Long Tail

I left a fairly lengthy comment on Renee Blodgett’s post titled “Internet Archiving & Engaging in Knowledge”. Go read the whole entry, but here’s an excerpt that really got me thinking:

Clearly, the Internet has opened up a whole new paradigm for learning and communicating. Today, we can participate in television, share news with others and put our own spin on it, and be part of a larger creation. We can edit and build something and engage in what’s happening in the world. Hell, we can even be in an Internet library if we choose to.

Obviously blogs are an extension of this empowerment to participate in life rather than have ‘life happen to you.’

Yet with so much knowledge out there, we have to choose where to focus our energies and our time. Should we edit some of this stuff out…..who decides what should be available and not available? Do we really want a detailed account of how to build a landmine available to everyone? Who’s decision should that be in a democratic society that values free press and unlimited speech?

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately (and not so lately). So I left this comment:

Just wondering if you ran across this blog entry on the “digital photo effect” hitting all parts of our digital life. Specifically how because it’s so easy to have access to every album out there, it’s hard to pay a lot of attention to any of them. The article is here: http://www.rootburn.com/2004/12/too-much-of-good-thing.html.

This has also made me think about something I wrote about a while back which related “The Long Tail” to all parts of our digital life (that entry is here: http://www.noahbrier.com/archives/2004/11/the_long_tail_o.html). In that entry I talk about how digital technology allows us to finally archive the long tail of our lives. Now we can keep track of that once missed 80 percent of our time because space constraints no longer exist. I think this is incredibly exciting.

As for the landmine diagrams, anyone could probably take a book out of their local library with the same information. I understand that now they don’t even have to leave their houses. But on the other hand, the first site you find when you search for “landmine” on Google is The Landmine Survivors Network (http://www.landminesurvivors.org). Maybe some misguided person will run across that and be swayed.

Just some thoughts.

It was kind of a long comment, and I don’t think I articulated myself all that well (I just started writing what I was thinking and posted it). So here’s a little more.

First, the entry I was talking about at the beginning of the comment is titled “Too much of a good thing?” and appears on rootburn. Here’s an excerpt from that entry:

Back in the day, I’d get a CD and I’d listen to it. A lot. A CD was a considered purchase – if I was going to make the effort to go to the store and spend my hard earned money on it, it was going to be worth it. In the car, at the gym, at work, at home – I’d listen to it everywhere. The first few listens usually couldn’t be at work, because I’d be listening. Once my brain knew the album, then it could become soundtrack to whatever else I was working on.

Now, the time between when I think that I might be interested in hearing, say, the new Bjork album and when I can actually have it is minutes. Transaction cost can be as low as free (depending on if I use something like iTunes or something like BitTorrent). Assuming I used BitTorrent, it’s cost me nothing and taken me no time, so there’s no inherent pressure to listen to it. Repeat this a bunch of times, and all of a sudden, my hard drive is full of music that I’ve never heard, and the DPE starts to kick in. So what do I do? I listen to the same old albums over and over (lately Akufen), because I know I like them and that they won’t disturb me while working. Most of the time these happen to be albums that I’ve ripped myself, after having listened to the CDs a lot. So having more music available has made me seek the comfort of what I already know. Do I just need more time so that I can “catch up”? Do I need a mobility solution so that I can leverage non-PC time? Do I need a curator like Activaire? Do I need to raise my transaction costs so that I feel a need to get my money’s worth?

Having all this information available at such a small cost has changed the relationship one has with the information. I know for myself collecting music has become a bit of an obsession (I have over 200 albums from this year alone). It’s absolutely true that I listen to each less than I would without access to the internet. However, I don’t know that this is such a bad thing. I feel much better informed, as though I’m honing my music listening skills by listening to this vast collection. I am better prepared to get a good idea of what I think of an album after first listen and I enjoy the act of listening and critiquing music, as well as the music itself. There’s a whole other 80 percent of the world that’s been opened up to me and I’m trying to take advantage of it.

I’m not exactly sure how much this relates to what Renee wrote in the entry (I suggest you go read the entry and her blog, both are quite good). However, I get excited when I see the long tail showing up in new places and being spoken of in new ways.

I guess I’m just a dork.

December 17, 2004