Saturday Feb 28, 2009

The Three Forces of the Long Tail and the Classic Market

Chris Anderson's study of The Long Tail identifies three economic forces that the modern computing technologies, the Internet and the Web have helped unleash: (1) Improvements in tools of production of content and goods. (2) Improvements in tools of distribution. (3) Reductions in search costs through improvements in search technologies. (When we speak of "search technologies," we should understand them to mean any method of search, including the physical search, which is the "classic" search technology.)

These three forces join and orchestrate a move, in the consumption curve, from "hits" to "niches".

The argument is that this increases overall economic value. It does, indeed, for some firms and large numbers of consumers that engage in related "modern" search-and-consume activities on the Net. However, the classic market economy does not improve and will suffer, without a fast enough replacement in all niches and certainly in "hits" which provide the batteries for the classic market. Unless we reformulate the classic consumption game in new innovative ways, through innovations in general logistics of moving people and goods, I remain skpetical whether the replacement rate will be sufficient to outpace the overal reduction in consumption due to the diminishing physical search habits.

Sunday Jan 25, 2009

Dialog Style

For a while, at their start, blogs were about conducting a continuous dialog on the web.

In some cases, this went a bit too far. You would write a blog, someone else will comment on it and would write some other blog, and all these will be tracked back to each other and a network of connections will create a kind of a strange open-ended non-converging conversation, that could hardly even be called "a conversation" but would instead become a strange, often awkward interconnection of half-finished ideas, notes and scraps.

As a vehicle of pure (and even mildly organized) content and information, the blog is probably the poorest form although its ability to attract search engines can more easily be managed. Hence, its popularity for content, including corporate content.

As a vehicle for continuous dialog, the blog is probably one of the richest forms created by the users of the Internet. With a bit of discipline it could do a ton of magic.

Wednesday Aug 27, 2008

Brand Value vs. Logos

Jim Buckmaster, Craig's list CEO:

We pay zero attention to brand. We never use that word internally. We do zero advertising. We don't have a logo. We've never done a focus group. We don't care about any of that. And now we're told we have the strongest brand ever for a company our size.

What a great example, and still, isn't there a little symbol, a little logo, a little peace sign in the browser URL box?

Friday Aug 01, 2008

Web Smarts -- Using Time

Imagine how much easier it will be if my wife and I, who share calendars on Google, can use some kind of service that would  propose a few flights for our family to some desired destination at some free cross section of our time—the move from Internet calendars and other identity-rich measures (whether of the Google, Yahoo or other variety) to integration with already existing web services we all use (for everything from travel and budget planning to various other purchases, projects and plans) should be a relatively trivial matter.  

Another scenario—I'm looking for a house. My calendar is on the web. Some service can arrange house seeing expeditions for me and reserve time on my calendar.

This does not seem to be a tremendously difficult mathematical problem, and it doesn't involve much AI.

So, why don't we have these types of services yet. Lack of proper integration?

This type of integration simply allows to deploy other dimensions of search and constraint satisfaction technology—any search or technology that reduces transaction costs and brings real convenience to us. There is not really much else to it!

Friday May 30, 2008

The tortuous path to Internet research

Oddly, tonight, when I try to find and browse (on my iMac w/ OS-X Leopard) Pew Internet and American Life Project, one of the most credible Internet watchers, using Google Search, I may end up in a place containing a warning that "visiting this web site may harm your computer" or what Google calls a "Malware Warning"—apparently "Google has found that some portion of pewinternet.org/ contains or links to badware or otherwise violates Google's software guidelines."

Now, I used to visit Pew Internet and American Life Project, often, because it has absolutely wonderful papers and research on the use of the Internet.

So, what's all of Google's malware warning about, and what are "Google's software guidelines" which need to be imposed on web sites before Google search would direct the search user to the object of their search, directly and simply?

Thursday May 22, 2008

Sun OpenSolaris on Amazon Web Services

Simone Brunozzi writes about availability of OpenSolaris on Amazon Web Services.

Saturday Apr 12, 2008

The Real News

In modern times, distribution has become the bottleneck or the "filter" for ideas.

Those sources that have access or control of distribution shape the ideas that arrive before our eyes and ears. 

Internet, at least as it stands today, affords distribution to other sources. However, this medium of distribution might not last long as we know it and, as the volume of content grows, searching for what matters becomes like searching for a needle in a giant haystack.


Example: I don't even remember how I ran into The Real News Network (Beta) reports, including the report embedded here, and some others, including one on Iraq.

Saturday Aug 04, 2007

Aljazeera on the Net

As far as I know, no major U.S. cable carrier currently offers Aljazeera English, but if you are in the U.S., you can still watch Aljazeera English programs on YouTube or directly from Aljazeera.net/English.

Friday Jul 13, 2007

Internet Radio Gets a Bruise

Recording industry's SoundExchange duked it out against SaveNetRadio Coalition in courts, and now, fees will start to hamper radio on the Internet, the greatest copy and distribution machine ever made.

Monday Jun 18, 2007

Cookies and Privacy

By now, it should be commonly known that Google has bent its privacy policy to address concerns expressed by EU's Article 29 Data Protection Working Group.  Google will make data anonymous in its server logs after 18 months. According to Financial Times, and prior to the agreement, "Google cookies are set to expire after 30 years" (June 12, 2007). Google FAQs on privacy should probably give the current cookie lifetime. (In fact, it should ideally be possible for any user to examine the properties of Google cookie(s) on a known Google web page linked through its privacy FAQs.)

Thursday May 17, 2007

Labels, The Internet and The Musician

 

Internet, as a giant copy and distribution machine, may and should continue to afford artists with greater autonomy well into the future. Reports of musicians' success in using this copy-and-distribution tool continue to pour in.

For example, Wall Street Journal's John Jurgensen writes about how musicians use the Internet to promote their work ("Singers Bypass Lables for Prime-Time Exposure," May 17, 2007, WSJ, B1). The report focuses on the case of singer and musician Ingrid Michaelson, "a 26-year-old Staten Island native who ... was discovered on MySpace by a management company that specializes in finding little-known acts and placing their works in soundtracks for TV shows, commercials, movies and videogames."

Many shows will only pay unsigned artists about $1,000 for the use of their music on TV, while artists on major labels might garner more than $30,000. Since she has been signed to Secret Road [Music Services, not a label], Ms. Michaelson has been paid up to $15,000 each time her music has been featured on a show or commercial, according to someone familiar with the deals. Secret Road says its cut of Ms. Michaelson's income is in keeping with industry standards of between 15% and 20%.

TV, of course, has become an increasingly powerful force for driving music sales. Apart from "American Idol" and "Saturday Night Live," possibly the most coveted TV slots for musicians are on "Grey's Anatomy," which has helped make songs like "How to Save a Life" by the Fray into top sellers on iTunes. A finale spot on "Grey's" is considered a particularly plum slot. Last year, the finale allowed Scottish band Snow Patrol to break through to a broad audience and played a role in making its featured song, "Chasing Cars," a hit.

Because Ms. Michaelson doesn't have a record-label contract, she stands to make substantially more from online sales of her music. For each 99-cent sale on iTunes, Ms. Michaelson grosses 63 cents, compared with perhaps 10 or 15 cents that typical major-label artists receives via their label. So far she has sold about 60,000 copies of her songs on iTunes and other digital stores. Ms. Michaelson is pouring most of her profits into pressing her own CDs and T-shirts, hiring a marketing company to produce promotional podcasts and setting up distribution for her CDS.

The fact that much good music today is discovered on the Internet before it ever makes it to the labels demonstrates that the labels need to reconsider their full "supply chain" and continue to review their policies and rules governing the protection and distribution of cultural content they come to license ("for a limited time").

On the same day as the report above, The Wall Street Journal also reported a significant move away from DRM which indicates the labels are recognizing the role of the Internet as a means to build networks of fans for artists through low-cost copy-and-distribution of content:

EMI Group PLC, the world's third-largest recorded-music company by sales (and the fourth-largest in the U.S. market) announced yesterday it would license its catalog to Amazon's DRM-free service. The three other major music companies haven't said publicly whether they expect to play ball with Amazon, but people close to all three companies said they don't expect to license content to Amazon in the near future. That means consumers shopping for downloads on Amazon will be able to buy tracks from EMI artists like Norah Jones and Coldplay, but are unlikely to be able to find music by most other major artists, including, for instance, each of the top-10 selling albums last week. Another complication: Apple's iTunes is moving toward offering music without copy protection, and also plans to release EMI's catalog in that format.

Much of the early use of DRM technologies has focused on limiting the power of digital copy and distribution of content.

Wednesday Dec 20, 2006

Torrents to Distribute Video Content

 

Legal writers on the Internet have viewed it as a giant copying and distribution machine.

They are not far off the mark, and from this position, they have argued that the Internet should be let loose as such a machine with only minimal limitations, and that the legislature need to reconsider and rewrite copyright laws to bring them back to their original intent.

Let the machine do what it does best and figure out how to use it to benefit society at large, they have argued.

Roberto Chinnici and Michael Calore write about a major use of BitTorrent protocol for (copying and) distribution of video content from a major news media outlet, the BBC. 

This is a grand idea and a great use of the machine.

The only potential downside I could see is that BitTorrent works best when a piece is popular. For it to work for programming that does not always suit the popular taste of the masses, a major news outlet must also use enough torrent seeds to ensure these programs remain available for distribution. This way the less popular programming can still have the minimal torrent seeding necessary for efficient distribution while the more popular programming gets the benefit of additional distribution through the collaborative distribution BitTorrent makes possible as a piece becomes increasingly popular. In other words, popularity should (and can, thanks to BitTorrent) pay for itself.

One day, the designer of BitTorrent will be considered a great visionary who changed the face of the Internet. He made a great leap to make the copying and distribution machine more efficient and more fair.

 

Saturday Nov 25, 2006

Unintended Transaction Costs on the Web

Other transaction costs on the web which have recently received much attention have to do with unintended operations such as click fraud and e-mail spams. To what extent do the costs of handling such unintended or undesired behavior affect any overal savings in marketing, search or communications costs afforded on the web? What potential new schemes can inoculate transactions against costs related to spam and click fraud on the Internet? Or will we have to look for another transformation of far broader impact on transactions than what Internet has brought so far?

Monday Oct 10, 2005

Existential Phenomenology Of The Internet

Søren Kierkegaard

The Internet has introduced, among other things, new modes of transactions, mostly involving what one can buy from a relatively competitive market. The Internet has reduced some transaction costs while increasing others.

The pundits have often exaggerated the effectiveness of the Internet in organizing and searching for "information," in distant "learning," and in citizen participation and "democratization" even if we include more recent phenomena such as blogs and podcasts. Much more has been said about the role, importance, expansion and revolutionary effects of the Internet than about how it can stultify action and movement.

Hubert Dreyfus is the one philosopher who has paid attention to these other concerns regarding the Internet. Earlier, on this weblog, I have written short entries on Dreyfus' book On The Internet. Now, I'd like to point to an essay of his whose content can also be found near the end of this book: "Kierkegaard on the Internet: Anonymity vrs. Commitment in the Present Age".

In this essay, Dreyfus explains why "Kierkegaard would have hated the Internet."

This is a must-read essay for anyone who wants to know what is going on with the Internet. I will quote a few paragraphs to titillate your interest:

Kierkegaard would surely have seen in the Internet, with its web sites full of anonymous information from all over the world and its interest groups which anyone in the world can join and where one can discuss any topic endlessly without consequences, the hi-tech synthesis of the worst features of the newspaper and the coffee house. On their web page anyone can put any alleged information into circulation. Kierkegaard could have been speaking of the Internet when he said of the Press, "It is frightful that someone who is no one ... can set any error into circulation with no thought of responsibility and with the aid of this dreadful disproportioned means of communication" (Journals and Papers, Vol. 2, p 481.) And in interest groups anyone can have an opinion on anything. In both cases, all are only too eager to respond to the equally deracinated opinions of other anonymous amateurs who post their views from nowhere. Such commentators do not take a stand on the issues they speak about. Indeed, the very ubiquity of the Net generally makes any such local stand seem irrelevant.

What is striking about such interest groups is that no experience or skill is required to enter the conversation. Indeed, a serious danger of the Public Sphere, as illustrated on the Internet, is that it undermines expertise. Learning a skill requires interpreting the situation as being of a sort that requires a certain action, taking that action, and learning from the results. As Kierkegaard understood, there is no way to gain wisdom but by making risky commitments and thereby experiencing both failure and success. Studies of skill acquisition have shown that, unless the outcome matters and unless the person developing the skill is willing to accept the pain that comes from failure and the elation that comes with success, the learner will be stuck at the level of competence and never achieve mastery. Since expertise can only be acquired through involved engagement with actual situations, what is lost in disengaged discussion is precisely the conditions for acquiring practical wisdom. Thus the heroes of the Public Sphere who appear on serious radio and TV programs, such as the United States's MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, have a view on every issue, and can justify their view by appeal [to] abstract principles, but they do not have to act on the principles they defend and therefore lack the passionate perspective that alone can lead to risk of serious error and also to the gradual acquisition of wisdom.

Kierkegaard even saw that the ultimate activity the Internet would encourage would be speculation on how big it is, how much bigger it will get, and what, if anything, all this means for our culture. This sort of discussion is, of course, in danger of becoming part of the very cloud of anonymous speculation Kierkegaard abhorred. Ever sensitive to his own position as a speaker, Kierkegaard concluded his analysis of the dangers of the present age and his dark predictions of what was ahead for Europe with the ironic remark that: "In our times, when so little is done, an extraordinary number of prophecies, apocalypses, glances at and studies of the future appear, and there is nothing to do but to join in and be one with the rest" (85).

From Hubert Dreyfus, "Kierkegaard on the Internet: Anonymity vrs. Commitment in the Present Age"

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