Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The hottest 100 and the long tail (with a note on George Gilder)

OK so the Triple J Hottest 100 has been decided for another year.

Managed to listen to most of it - simulcast with the tennis!

My own selections either did very well, or very badly. Here's how they went;

BLUEJUICE - Broken Leg, 5
DAN SULTAN - Letter, no rank
DRUMS, THE - Let's Go Surfing, no rank
GOSSIP, THE - Heavy Cross, 16
LILY ALLEN - Not Fair, 8
LISA MITCHELL - Coin Laundry, 7
OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT - The Girl From The BBC, no rank
SALLY SELTMANN - Harmony To My Heartbeat, no rank

Don't ask me about the logic of my choices - my biggest problem is that by the end of the year I can't remember well enough what I liked.

What I'd love to see is the actual votes. It becomes significant if you believe in Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory, because the long tail idea is that there is a lot of content out there that traditional distribution models "cut off". In the theory new media becomes self-funding through all the new stuff. A good example he gives is of the gross take of movies and his suggestion that if only there were more cinema screens the distributio would follow the "power law" distribution of long tail theory, whereas in reality it follows a "log-normal" distrubtion. The difference in these is shown on a "Zipf plot" (a log-log plot of scalar by rank) - the lowerlaw is linear, the log-normal starts linear then drops off).

I'd love to know the data for iTunes!

But maybe the Hottest 100 voting data would make an interesting alternative. Does anyone know if I can get the voting data?

As an aside - some of you might have heard "Havyatt's Law" - which is "what Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away". I owe its original formulation to George Gilder, who wrote two books Microcosm and Telecosm. Anderson on his blog has a story about a Wired interview. I think one Gilder quote summarises it nicely;

Over the last 30 years, we've seen transistors (or switching power) move from being expensive, crafted vacuum tubes to being virtually free. So today, the prime rule of thrift in business is "waste transistors." We "waste" them to correct our spelling, to play solitaire, to do anything. As a matter of fact, you've got to waste transistors in order to succeed in business these days.

My thesis is that bandwidth is going to be virtually free in the next era in the same way that transistors are in this era. It doesn't mean there won't be expensive technologies associated with the exploitation of bandwidth - just as there are expensive computers employing transistors; but it does mean that people will have to use this bandwidth, they'll have to waste bandwidth rather than economize on bandwidth. The wasters of bandwidth will win rather than the people who are developing exquisite new compression tools and all these other devices designed to exploit some limited bandwidth.

This interview, by the way, dates from 1993!

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