New Media Trainee

April 2, 2007

The Infinite Aisle…

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 8:39 pm

The Infinite Aisle-the last half of The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

 

I’ve heard it a lot from older people, “The internet is just full of crap.” Hell, even I’ve thought of it in that regard before google search came along. Is there crap in the Long Tail? Duh. Yes, there’s crap in the long tail, but I like how Anderson frames it, “one person’s noise is another’s signal.” The internet, and especially search, has allowed us to filter what’s in the long tail to pull those gems from the garbage dump that is the World Wide Web.

The long tail has given us abundance, choice. I no longer have to pray that the local blockbuster has that movie my punk rock friend (By the way, punk rock in the late 70’s spawned its own long tail in my opinion) recommended is sitting on a shelf. I can order it, or better yet, download it from the web. That’s liberating because we all have niche needs or hobbies or interests we can pursue.

In The Long Tail, Anderson quotes an essay published in the New Atlantis by Christine Rosen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center basically says that all this choice is a bad thing. She states “…these technologies risk making us incapable of ever being surprised.” Anderson disagrees stating that filters and recommendations create the opposite effect. Another great example of this is the jam experiment. Basically, it you’re given a bunch of choices, you’re going to be unsatisfied, but if you’re given those same choices in a meaningful way to select them, then bam, you’re going to be happier with your lemon curd.

I do have to agree with Rosen that we’re not surprised anymore. In fact, I think she says that culture is becoming fragmented (Scary, since I say the same in my previous post only having read the first 6 chapters at that point). But, really, I’m only surprised when I can’t find something on the web. The experience of consuming that niche find, I would argue, is even more enjoyable because it’s what I was in the mood for at the time and I didn’t have to pass the time watching something I didn’t really want to. That’s where I see the advantages of the long tail economy. It’s optimization of our time, rather than a fragmentation.

The  Long Tail is a concept that every other book author on this blog would agree with, at least, in principle. I’m sure there are fine points to argue, but the long tail is applicable in so many ways: Media, Butter, or thumb tacks….there are lots of choices just waiting for our consumption.

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