A problem with the Long Tail
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A problem with the Long Tail

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A talk by Chris Anderson at SciFoo (in Google) on whether the long tail a power law distribution or a lognormal distribution.

A talk by Chris Anderson at SciFoo (in Google) on whether the long tail a power law distribution or a lognormal distribution.

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  • Please read these notes to get a sense of what I’d be saying while talking through these slides. Needless to say, I talk a lot more than I’m writing here, but you’ll get the main points.

A problem with the Long Tail A problem with the Long Tail Presentation Transcript

  • A problem with the Long Tail (Although an amazing number of things are powerlaws, a lot of things aren’t. How can you tell the difference?) (Read the text in the notes panel at the bottom for narration)
  • A powerlaw
  • Shown another way
  • WTF?
  • The Missing Market
  • Source: Morris Rosenthal
  •  
  •  
  • The problem
  •  
  •  
  • Examples of phenomena that follow powerlaw distributions
    • Species distribution among plants
    • Square footage of Alaskan Inuit homes
    • Forest fires, by size
    • Cities, by population
    • Death toll in wars
    • Earthquakes
    • Word use
    • Number of papers published by scientists
  • Examples of phenomena that follow lognormal distributions
    • Concentration of elements in the earth's crust
    • Latent periods of infectious diseases
    • Survival times after cancer diagnosis
    • Distribution of chemicals in the environment (including pollution)
    • Species distribution among moths and diatoms
    • Crystals in ice cream
    • Length of words in spoken conversation
  • What’s the difference?
    • Powerlaws : created by “preferential attachment” in scale-free networks.
    • Lognormal distributions : created by "proportionate effects" (like growing by a proportion of your weight).
  • Question
    • Assuming it all comes down to network effects, how can you predict whether the “natural shape” (free of bottlenecks and other scarcity distortions) is a powerlaw or a lognormal distribution?