Saturday, March 03, 2007

Long Tails and Large Populations

There are two competing tendencies that seem to be at work in the world. Forgive me if I'm stating the obvious, but let me talk through this in public here.

Excellent, But Not Good Enough: Competing with the Whole World

Not all that long ago, communities were relatively isolated. Few people traveled far from where they were born. If you were the best at something in your town, say the best singer, you had a job. Where else would people go?

Time goes on, and communication and technology improves. Suddenly, people are exposed to not just all the singers in town, but all the singers in the state, the country, the world. With that vastly increased population, there are more at the extremes—far better than the rest, including you.

Not just at the extremes of the distribution of singing ability, but others as well... and the intersections of those extrema aren't empty, either. Oh, you're just the best violinist? Well, {Anne-Sophie Mutter, Vanessa Mae} are excellent violinists, and they're babelicious, too. (If you're male, plug in "Joshua Bell" and "hunk.")

How is one to compete in such an environment? Maybe there's an answer...

Long Tails, or Joe Tex as Futurist

The increasing population at the extremes can be beneficial. If the distribution is one of preferences, it means that it becomes more and more likely that someone wants what you have, even if it's not what the majority wants... or as Joe Tex put it in his song predating The Long Tail by decades, "Some man, somewhere will take you, baby, skinny legs and all." You may not come out on top, but you can find someone for whom you are the top.

Conversely, if you're on the customer side and in the long tail, you're more likely to have company (and hence collective clout) as well as someone who provides what you want. You needn't settle for the mass-market product.

Sigh. Romantic and economic issues are getting mixed here, perhaps nudged by my referring to that old song. OTOH, the same issues do apply. Over and above the question of image enhancement, women are compared with Carmen Electra et al., men with Kevin Sorbo and so forth. For the flip side, search for any aesthetic preference in SL and you're likely to find a group devoted to it.

Perhaps I'll come up with some nice conclusion to tie it all together... or perhaps I should've stopped before bringing up the application to relationships.


Mordecai Scaggs said...

Beloved, I am sorry that you think you only deserve some man, somewhere, that man happening to be me, which is not much. You are so very beautiful, so very wise, so very witty, so very anything and everything good you care to name. You could have any man you choose. You know you have many many admirers who would all love to have you as their muse and partner.

I am sorry that I am just some man, somewhere. I wish I could be more wise, more handsome, more witty, more anything and everything that you are, as then perhaps you would feel happier about my being completely in love with you. I quite understand that as I am only me, it is no great thing to be loved by me, however completely and selflessly that may be.

I am sure a great man, who is your equal in every way, will come along at some point, as the Grid is expanding daily. Then perhaps you will have found someone you are happy to be loved by, and I will return to my rightful place down amongst the great mass of somebodies, all of whom live somewhere.

Until that day, I will continue to think myself the luckiest somebody in all creation, as even though it is no great thing to be loved by me, at least I have the greatest prize a somebody could ever have, and that is to be in love with you, which is a very great thing indeed.

Véronique Lalonde said...

Mordecai, I might be wrong, and only Melissa can say for sure, but that's not what I got from what she wrote.