From Wikipedia: In probability theory, the birthday problem, or birthday paradox pertains to the probability that in a set of randomly chosen people some pair of them will have the same birthday. In a group of at least 23 randomly chosen people, there is more than 50% probability that some pair of them will both have been born on the same day. For 57 or more people, the probability is more than 99%, and it reaches 100% when the number of people reaches 367 (there are a maximum of 366 possible birthdays). The mathematics behind this problem leads to a well-known cryptographic attack called the birthday attack. The birthday problem asks whether any of the 23 people have a matching birthday with any of the others — not one in particular. (See "Same birthday as you" below for an analysis of this much less surprising alternative problem.)
Who’s taken research methods and seen this bell curve on the left? Great. That’s not how media works.Let’s say the y-axis is number of things in common and the x-axis is the number of people who share those interests. Media looks like the graph on the right. In a power law, the amount of a group/population with the highest exposure/views/audience (whatever that metric may be) is incredibly small. Basically, the highest percentage of the result comes from the smallest percentage of the population.This chart looks an awful lot like something called the “Long Tail” of online media, made popular by author Chris Anderson. What that says is, look, the amount of people with a high audience is tiny – that’s mainstream media. As we’ve already talked about, that audience is so huge there really isn’t anything common between them – so it has to be general.
That list of the news sources I had a slide back? The same Pew study indicated that people over 40 rely on newspapers and TVs for almost the entire group of information (save local business and restaurant info) that people under 40 went online to get.
#SHRIMPALERTTHE BEAUTIFUL COLLISION OF ASHRIMP ON A TREADMILL, YAKETYSAKS, BASEBALL& ONLINE COMMUNITY
LIFE IN DIGITAL MEDIAHere’s how we’ll do this:1) After a small amount of setup, we’ll walkthrough a ridiculous, but hopefully helpful, example of one corner of the digital media world2) Mix in relative examples to you all in this classroom that may not seem as crazy3) Qualify it with broad media changes and the whatnot to try to get from the granular to the big picture4) Point out how this all affects my day job (as a Digital PR/Media and blogger)
FIRST UP:SHRIMPWE’LL GET BACK TO THIS – AND WHY ITRELATES TO BASEBALL – IN A BIT
UNRELATED:LET’S PLAY A GAMEThe probability of twopeople out of a randomgroup of 57 having the samebirthday is over 99 percent.What does this have to dowith digital media andshrimp? Everything. Source: Flickr user MangoPOPTART
POWER LAWDISTRIBUTION Source: Future Perfect Publishing
“THE LONG TAIL” IN MEDIA You get VERY different audiences up here… …and down here Original Picture by Hay Kranen / PD
BACK TO BIRTHDAYS:FORGET STATS You are likely to find someone who shares a birthday with you here because the room is so big. That’s probability, it’s how we got by in media for years. …but down here, you can find a room just for people who share your birthday. The freedom to create rooms at will changes the way you think about the issue. Original Picture by Hay Kranen / PD
THEDISTRIBUTIONDEMOCRACY “…then came broadband, which essentially removed any channel scarcity. The distribution, which had been in the hands of a few large media conglomerates, was suddenly available to everyone…Just like television, we have seen the same drama unfold in the music, radio, newspaper and magazine industries. The gatekeepers of attention have been disrupted.” Om Malik, May 11, 2011
WHEN MEDIA WASLIMITED BY TECH,IT NEEDED TOREPORT BROADLY That’s why we have box scores. They tell us the score at the end of the game. Most people reading the newspaper want to know the basics of who did what, and that’s what broad media tells them. There’s no line in a box score for when those hits, appearances, runs and walks happened – perhaps, say, to end a game. It doesn’t make sense to include that.
BUT BASEBALL GAMES DO END INDIFFERENT WAYS – SOMETIMES INDRAMATIC “WALKOFF” FASHIONNot all Walkoffs are built the same way, though: Walkoff Samples from 1973-2011 2500 2000 1500 1000 Walk-Offs 500 0 Walk Home Run Triples HBPs
SOME PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THEUBER-SPECIFIC WAYS THATGAMES END
THIS BRINGS US ALL BACK TOSHRIMPI’ll let Rob Iracane – founder of blog Walkoff Walk – explain it. As hewrote in a Yahoo! Sports post* earlier this year: In my previous stint as a co-founder of the baseball blog called, you guessed it, "Walkoff Walk," we had a peculiar way of celebrating each time a walkoff walk happened in the bigs. After then-Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth(notes) drew one in April 2008, my co-blogger Kris Liakos spontaneously posted a video of a shrimp running on a treadmill accompanied by "Yakety Sax," the Benny Hill theme song. It was a tradition that continued for the next two seasons. Even since we have shuttered the blog, the shrimp video has taken to Twitter. Any time a team gets close to winning a game on a bases-loaded walk, the hashtag #shrimpalert starts appearing in the Twittersphere to alert fellow shrimp devotees that a walkoff walk is nigh somewhere in baseball and the treadmill video could get posted any second. *Some of the other numbers in this presentation are also from that great post.
PEOPLE WHO STALK WALK-OFFWALKS ARE NOT COMMONBut this is why I love the Internet – there is in fact an activecommunity of them online who have rallied around this videoand this gimmick.
IN ONE SENSE, IT’S JUST A SHRIMPThe shrimp had nothing to do with baseball, and was recentlybrought into questions about the validity of governmentspending and research into the habits of aquatic creatures.
IN ANOTHER SENSE, IT’S JUSTANOTHER BENNY HILL MASH-UPThe video of ourfriend Shrimp-on-a-treadmill is far fromthe first or lastvideo to get theBenny Hilltreatment. In fact…
IT’S EASY TO DO (AND IT MAKES MEFEEL BETTER ABOUT FOOTBALL) I call it #YaketyShinskie, and absolutely no one will ever use it again.
BUT IT WAS WHEN THEY ALL CAMETOGETHER THAT SOMETHING ELSEHAPPENED
THESE THINGS MADE#SHRIMPALERT POSSIBLE1. Technology changes in the last decade have made it really easy and cheap to create and consume media – video, blogs, etc.2. So easy, in fact, that people are trying different stuff within their own interests everyday: • Instead of waiting for chance to bring them people with similar interests, the opportunity cost to search for people with really specific similarities is really low.3. The cost of failure to connect would have been zero. • That means that posting a ridiculous video – and using it for equally ridiculous means – has no cost if it doesn’t catch on.Amazing things can happen when you take away the barriers to createand to connect. • Amazing things like celebrating the rare occurrence of a walkoff walk with 435 of your closest friends and a hashtag through a video of a shrimp running on a treadmill set to Yakety Sax.
ENVIRONMENTMATTERSFor every communitythat latches on tosomething, there aremyriad other ideas thatdon’t work.48 hours of video areuploaded every minute toYouTube – why did that90-second video get 1.5million views?
THERE’S ALSO THE CHANGINGWAYS WE GET OUR NEWSPew’s Journalism study looked at the different channels thatsomeone under 40 uses to get information: • Internet: weather, politics, crime, arts/cultural events, local businesses, schools, community events, restaurants, traffic, taxes, housing, local government, jobs, social services, and zoning/development • Newspapers: crime, arts/cultural events, community events, taxes, local government, jobs, social services, zoning/development • TV stations: weather, breaking news, politics, crime, traffic, local government, and social services • Radio: traffic • Word of mouth: Community events
BUT THE CHANGE IS JUST AS MUCHABOUT THE FACT THAT WE CAREABOUT MORE THAN ONE THING –AND AREN’T LIMITED BY SOURCEANY LONGERThat is to say, every single person reads the newspaper in adifferent way – but if they read it all, no matter whatorder, they end up with that perspective of the news.When you open up the floodgates to consuming and creatingnews, the ability to dive deep and use myriad sourcesfundamentally changes how we get information.
SELECTING SOURCE AND CONTENT CREATES THE COMMUNITYIn selecting specific sources forthe content we seek, we get verydifferent approaches to the samestory.I’d be lying if I said that ShrimpAlert, the retired Walkoff Walk blogand the Yahoo! blog are the onlyplaces out there to find the exactsame information of how abaseball game ended.But in choosing to digest mywalkoff walk news via thoseavenues, I get a very differentpresentation of it (namely, youguessed it, a shrimp on a treadmillset to Yakety Saks).
XKCDs map of online communitiesHOW DOES THIS RELATE TO WHAT I DO**as a PR pro who hangs around digital media and a blogger, nerd, etc.
THIS WORKS BEYOND SPORTSMEDIA – ACROSS CHANNELWe can go down that path any way wewant – searching for different communitiesabout many, many different things.The best way to understand thesecommunities is to participate and see howeach one reacts differently. The #WeAreBCtag that has grown on Twitter over the lastfew years talks about everything fromsports to activities on BC’s campus andacts very differently than #ShrimpAlert.These also change based on differentchannels. Facebook relies more on ahandful of close connections even if youhave a ton of friends, YouTube users lovesearch and related videos, Tumblr is adifferent beast all together and we couldspend days on traditional media news sites(and their comment sections). We couldspend days on each of these. We won’t.
NOT ONLY IS THERE A COMMUNITYBEHIND THIS LITTLE FELLA – BUT WE CAN LEARN ABOUT THEM
A REALLY FAST STUDY…The people following the @ShrimpAlert account are more active than most, andmany appear to be well-followed baseball bloggers and sportswriters, livingalmost entirely the east coast of the US.
THERE ARE A BUNCH OF PEOPLE WHO OBSESSOVER THE MINUTIAE OF BASEBALL TO THE POINTTHEY STALK WHEN GAMES END ON WALKS These people have something in common. They stalk Shrimp Alert. That’s one part of their identity...they are at once consuming the media of Shrimp while being media themselves.
THAT AUDIENCE HAS A VALUE TO SOMEONE. I mean, there has to be a reason to talk to active and well- followed baseball bloggers and sportswriters, living almost entirely the east coast of the US. Right?
MOVING FROMSPORTS TOHEALTH…I promise the pointof this lecture is not“watch how manythings we can connectto sports.”But this one is morefunctional thanshrimp, I promise.
ONLINE COMMUNITIES FOR SPORTS TEAMSOFFER THE FOLLOWING• A group of like-minded individuals who share the joy of victory or the agony of a tough season month day.• A place to build out personal connections based on no more than a single interest.• A support group that already knows what it’s like to follow the experience.• Around the clock access to a communications channel to stay up on what is happening in a world that matters to them.• A way to get involved in something that may seem distant, and unique ways of communicating and bonding within that shared experience.
ONLINE COMMUNITIES FOR PEOPLE WITHSIMILAR HEALTH CONDITIONS OFFER THEFOLLOWING• A group of like-minded individuals who share the joy of victory or the agony of a tough season month day.• A place to build out personal connections based on no more than a single interest.• A support group that already knows what it’s like to follow the experience.• Around the clock access to a communications channel to stay up on what is happening in a world that matters to them.• A way to get involved in something that may seem distant, and unique ways of communicating and bonding within that shared experience.
HOW THIS IMPACTS YOUIn the last five years, a few things changed:• Sure, I work in PR, but because of how the digital medium works, I ultimately have to be making things – writing posts, creating videos, jotting tweets, you name it – that gets my clients out there. • We don’t necessarily wait for other people to tell their story anymore. This is good and bad.• My job and industry went pretty starkly from the idea broadcast to narrowcast. Digging deep to tell your story to the right people is how we can impact the people most likely to continue that good will.
QUICK CASE STUDYThis YouTube video has 17,000 views in four days and went out to 152,109 subscribers.The quality is the same as a TV commercial, it’s 34 seconds long, and it cost $0 to post.Discussion question: is this an effective way to get people to go see a new movie?
…we are not driving a car, withgas, brakes, reverse and a lot ofchoice as to route. We are steering akayak, pushed rapidly andmonotonically down a routedetermined by the environment. Wehave a (very small) degree of controlover our course in this particularstretch of river, and that control doesnot extend to being able toreverse, stop, or even significantlyalter the direction were moving in.-C. Shirky, Many to Many, Jan 22 2005 Photo: Flickr user visbeek
QUESTIONS? DAVE LEVY (@LEVYDR/EMAIL) OCTOBER 2011