Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Long Tail

I like the long tail idea because it is an expression of human potential. Basically, what the long tail idea says is that people's interests are far more individuated than the mass market has historically been able to support. So, for instance, if you have a big thing for blotter acid art, you're out of luck because ABC and Random House aren't going to do TV specials or publish coffee table books about the topic you love.

But now that computer storage and searching are getting so cheap, sub-cultural art and craft will flourish because you can find pages like this, which not only shows you pictures of blotter acid art, but will sell you posters made from it. You can see the applications on the web from conspiracy theory to toys. Nothing sells niche better than the web.

I was equally interested in this post by the long tail dude, that says bored people have lots of energy to do other things. It sounds common sense, but what it really means is that if you put even a fraction of your boredom into a craft, hobby, or personal interest, you are contributing to the advancement of the human race. It's a sort of cubical Christianity: bettering mankind through the harnessing of ennui.

David Brin
touches on the spare cycles thing in both The Transparent Society and Kiln People. In Transparent Society, he suggests that hoards of interested amateurs will help make advances in fields like astronomy. In Kiln People, he sort of literalizes the connection. Kiln people are time limited pseudo-biological copies of yourself that you can send off to work while you participate in hobbies. Spare cycles galore.

I like the energy and optimism of these ideas. What they mean to me is that someday in the not too distant future, lots of edumicated people will be able to make a living exploiting intellectual niches that they love, or at the very least get compensated for contributing to the culture at large.