Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Long Tail

In the Wired Magazine Article "The Long Tail" the author explores the shifting nature of the entertainment industry that is coming about due to on-line businesses that are able to provide a much larger selection of media including books, movies, music. I'm a big fan of this shift although I have to admit that I'm just really beginning to explore the depths of these new services. I still haven't downloaded my first song or signed up for Netflix but it's just a matter of time before I do. This is the same reason that I'm entertaining the idea of digital radio and look forward to getting my DVR setup. I want to explore and consume what I want when I want it. Now the tools are there to do just that.

Take a look at the whole article or read the highlighted quotes I pulled out below. I'd be interested to hear what others think about the Long Tail and if any of you have done a deep dive and discovered some treasures.

"Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream."

"Ultimately selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what's available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find, the more they like. As they wader further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lock of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture)."

"Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching - a market response to inefficient distribution."

"In the tyranny of physical space, an audience too thinly spread is the same as no audience at all."

"But most of us want more than just hits. Everyone's taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we're drawn to them."

"This is the power of the Long Tail. The companies at the vanguard of it are showing the way with three big lessons. Call them the new rules for the new entertainment economy. Rule 1 - Make Everything Available. Rule 2 - Cut the Price in Half. Now Lower It. Rule 3 - Help Me Find It."

2/26/05 Update: I thought I'd update this post with a couple of additional references that I've seen to the Long Tail concept. First is the Wikipedia entry about The long Tail. This entry provides a nice summary of the concept and some good refernces.

The second site I wanted to point out is Tim Bray's comments on Organizing the Long Tail. He provides a different, and I think unique perspective on this idea.

Sad Statistics

Angry Bear is a blog that focuses on "Slightly left of center comments on news, politics, and economics from an economist." It's a good blog and this post, Who is to Blame?, highlights some sad statistics about what the American public believes about 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. Take a look.

Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes

There is a hugh debate and scrap going on (somewhat quietly) in the world of science education that has potential to dramatically shape the view of future generations. This article gives a nice introduction to this topic and for anyone that cares about the issue of science education I'd suggest taking the time to read it. It's a long article so I'm not going to include all of the text here but the link below should take you to the NYTimes archive to see it. Please let me know if the link doesn't work.

February 1, 2005

Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes


How Wikipedia Works

For any of you that have heard of the Wikipedia but had a hard time understanding what people were talking about this little article might be helpful for you.

How Wiki Works

Published: February 8, 2005

I'd heard of the Wikipedia (, but I'd never quite understood it. It's supposed to be a free online encyclopedia, written and edited by EVERYBODY. A collaborative worldwide effort, in other words, with 469,700 articles so far.

It sounds like a cool idea, but I just never understood how it could work. In this age of viruses, spyware and other rampant software vandalism, how could such a thing survive? What would stop antisocial jerks from sabotaging the good work of everyone else?

I finally got a clue when I saw this ( It's a movie, narrated by Infoworld blogger Jon Udell, that tracks the life cycle of one particular Wikipedia entry. It's fairy long, but it gives a dazzling time-lapse view of how the whole Wiki thing works.

(It turns out that there are, in fact, administrators who alone wield ultimate editing power. Too bad; for one fleeting minute there, I actually thought I'd found an example of an online community building something worthwhile simply by working toward the greater good.)

Important infor about the history of slavery

When I started reading this short article in the NYTimes I had no idea what to expect. By the time I'd finished reading it I throught it deserved to be read by more people. That's why I'm posting it here. I have to say that I didn't learn any of this stuff in my history classes in high school or college.
January 31, 2005


An Update on Corporate Slavery

IInvestors who visit the J. P. Morgan Chase Web site these days are finding more than the usual corporate news. The bank has posted a letter of apology and the results of an eye-opening research project, which found that two of its predecessor banks had participated in the slave trade, accepting about 13,000 enslaved people as collateral for loans issued in Louisiana in the mid-19th century. When the borrowers defaulted on their loans, the banks took ownership of some slaves and presumably sold them.

J. P. Morgan, which in addition to apologizing set up a scholarship fund for African-Americans in Louisiana, carried out this research to comply with a Chicago ordinance that requires companies doing business with the city government to divulge any links to slavery. A similar statute covers insurance companies operating in California, where several of the country's largest insurers have divulged links to slavery. These disclosures are exposing 18th- and 19th-century Northern businesses that sought to profit from the slave trade even after slavery had been outlawed in the North.

The disclosure laws grew out of an early attempt to seek damages from present-day companies for the misdeeds of their historical predecessors. The courts never took the reparations argument seriously, but the revelations of Northern corporate involvement were timely in the civic sense. They coincided with a revival of interest in slavery in the North, where many Americans had grown up believing that slavery had been confined to the cotton fields of the South.

When the new business disclosures are discussed publicly and integrated into the historical record, Americans will have been made aware that the tendrils of slavery spanned the length of the country and extended into the Northern financial elite. The inclusion of records of long-buried slave transactions on corporate Web sites shows that the process of reappraisal is well under way.

2004 Koufax Award Winners

This is the first year that I've heard of the Koufax Awards and I like what I've found. Here is the description of what the Koufax Awards are all about. "The Koufax Awards are intended to help forge a sense of community among lefty bloggers and their readership. We hope make introductions of bloggers to each other and to readers. We also hope to create a sense that we all live in the same virtual neighborhood and that it is a very nice neighborhood indeed."

I would suggest taking a look through the 2004 winners. The format of the site isn't great but it's worth digging through.

I didn't read all of the winner's blogs and posts but here are two that really stood out.

Poker with Dick Cheney

If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Surprises of Travel: The Farting Evangelist

A friend of mine is spending some time (I think 6 months) traveling in New Zealand. She has created a blog to document her travels and I'm a regular reader. This post about her experience with a Farting Kiwi Evangelist is really worth reading. If you're interested in traveling to New Zealand I'd suggest becoming a regular reader of this blog as she packs in a lot of info and fun stories.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Quote: Patience and Cowardice

George Jackson

"Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice."

I don't know who George Jackson is but I think this quote rings a lot of truth - at least for me.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A Leader Born of Budget Decadence

I don't usually agree with David Brooks but in this case I think he is on to something. I don't agree with everything he says but I think his general premise about a moral aproach to spending control coming out of the current situation is accurate. I disagree with him about the types of events that will bring about that moral outrage.

Still worth a read.

2/22/2005 update: See these comments from Mark Schmitt on the same article.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

"Google" for Statistics

I wanted to point out the suggestion that Mark Schmitt makes about something like a "Google" for statistics. I think that would be very handy! See this blog entry listed above for more info.

For the love of Bicycle

I wanted to call out this Valentine's day note that was written by a cyclist revealing the depth of feelings he has for his ride. It's something that I can relate to - and I'm guessing doesn't make a whole lot of sense to a lot of other people. Some of you may have heard me make comments about the emotional connection that I feel to my bikes. Here is the best description of those feelings I've seen.


So, without further ado, I'd like to pay homage to the lady I've given my blood, sweat and tears over the past 10 years. Maybe I should have titled this "My Bloody Valentine." Maybe some of you can relate.


She is waiting. She always is.

It's not hard to find her. She's in the wind and among the trees. She's on busy two-lane roads and vacant hillsides. She's wherever you last saw her and wherever you'd like to take her next.

She's all you could ask for. She's reliable. Her beauty is timeless. She mingles well in mixed company. And efficient; man, is she efficient.

And she's there for you, waiting patiently, whether it's for a cold, coffee-fueled morning or a late-evening sunset. Through scorching gusts of hair-dryer heat and torrential showers, she doesn't complain.

She occupies your thoughts, yet sometimes in passing you catch yourself looking away, pretending not to see her. Guilt, shame, call it what you will. As always, you've got your reasons. Work's been busy. The weather has been unkind. There were these guests, from out of town. And to this, she smiles. She's heard it all before, and she knows she'll hear it again.

She doesn't press you about time spent apart, but just the same, she could do without the excuses. She knows you care. For her you clean, you shave, you make sacrifices, and this she sees. From time to time you bring her shiny new jewelry, and she appreciates it. Let's just go, she says. We could talk about it later, she says, but talk is cheap.

Together at last, sharing the dance floor you create, it's as if you haven't missed a beat. And after a few short minutes, you don't.

You begin slowly, and before long you're moving in unison. Beads of sweat drip down your back, but she remains as calm and cool as ever, responding effortlessly to your every move. She's got rhythm. She can spin. She can dip. She's not afraid. She moves better than you. She leaves you breathless.

She fits to your body with perfection. If ever there was such as thing as "poetry in motion," this is it. The longer you go, the better she gets. At times, you teeter on the edge, but she holds you steady - except for when she doesn't.

She's dependable, she says, but you're an adult. Don't blame me, she'll say, when your blood is spilled. You make your own decisions.

As a companion she's been with you at your finest moments and stood by you during your most difficult. She allows you to believe you have what it takes to be a champion. She doesn't beleaguer your shortcomings. She's fiercely loyal and brutally honest; she's never lied to you, no matter how many times you've tried, in vain, to fool her. If it feels as though she can read your mind, it's because she can. She can see right through you.

But you're enchanted with her. She brings you to life, and life to you. She's more addictive than a drug, more dangerous than a train wreck. Through her you will hurt and heal and hurt again, but when you're with her, your problems disappear, and so the cycle continues. You cherish your times together; they seem to be the only instances in your life you don't feel as though you should be doing something else, and because of this, seconds fly by and stand still in tandem.

If you look forward to your outings as though they're some kind of a vacation, it's because they are.

With the release she brings, she may be the closest thing you've ever had to a therapist, but she doesn't come easy. She'll lead you into temptation, without apology. If you're looking to have your ego stroked, you best look elsewhere. As do all meaningful relationships, yours requires regular maintenance, but this you knew going into it. The better you treat me, she tells you, the better I am to you. This is how it works.

And from you she requires a different kind of commitment - not absolute devotion, but a promise, to uphold your end of the arrangement. It's an arrangement you asked for, she'll remind you. You asked for this.

But with the certainty of every setting sun, your time together invariably must come to a close. When the music finally stops, the band must eventually put its instruments away. She's aware of the situation. Only under the most rare of situations do you invite her in, and still, she doesn't complain.

It's been fun, you tell her, and as always, it has. With a gleam, she smiles. I'll see you again, soon, you say. Maybe tomorrow?

Sure, she says. I'll be here. I'll be waiting.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Soren Kierkegaard

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

I like this one. It reminds me of another quote that I've seen that is something like - You only get experience shortly after you needed it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the (Heterosexual) Union

In his State of the Union Address Bush mentioned the environment only one time and this was in relation to the economy (and stressed the environmental regulations that needed changing for the sake of the economy) but stated his support for a constitutional ammendment for a ban on gay marriage. This is a day after Minneapolis just experienced the worst ever air polution levels in recorded history.