Essay on a busy market place

Please forward this error screen to host. 03 to point to the updated “Blogging Ecosystem” project, and to Jason Kottke’s work using Technorati.

essay on a busy market place

Added addendum pointing to David Sifry’s “Technorati Interesting Newcomers” list, which is in part a response to this article. A-list, a small set of webloggers who account for a majority of the traffic in the weblog world. This complaint follows a common pattern we’ve seen with MUDs, BBSes, and online communities like Echo and the WELL. Prior to recent theoretical work on social networks, the usual explanations invoked individual behaviors: some members of the community had sold out, the spirit of the early days was being diluted by the newcomers, et cetera. We now know that these explanations are wrong, or at least beside the point.

What matters is this: Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution. We are all so used to bell curve distributions that power law distributions can seem odd.

1, several hundred blogs ranked by number of inbound links, is roughly a power law distribution. 1: 433 weblogs arranged in rank order by number of inbound links. The data is drawn from N. Z Bear’s 2002 work on the blogosphere ecosystem. The inbound link data is just an example: power law distributions are ubiquitous.

Yahoo Groups mailing lists ranked by subscribers is a power law distribution. Jason Kottke has graphed the power law distribution of Technorati link data. The traffic to this article will be a power law, with a tiny percentage of the sites sending most of the traffic.

For whatever is being ranked — income, links, traffic — the value of second place will be half that of first place, and tenth place will be one-tenth of first place. There are other, more complex formulae that make the slope more or less extreme, but they all relate to this curve. We’ve seen this shape in many systems.

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