Subject: Re: near/medium future digital media economics
From: "Ben Tilly" <>
Date: Fri, 19 May 2006 08:02:30 -0700

 Fri, 19 May 2006 08:02:30 -0700
I'm sorry, this was sent because my 1.5 year old son found the
computer.  I'll complete this response later.

On 5/19/06, Ben Tilly <> wrote:
> On 5/18/06, Stephen J. Turnbull <> wrote:
> > >>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <> writes:
> >
> >     Ben> Given the known power laws governing the distribution of
> >     Ben> articles of interest for researchers, it is extremely
> >     Ben> unlikely that Metcalfe's Law applies in Tom's setting.
> >
> > Get out of your ivory tower, man!  The fact that it's not interesting
> > to you doesn't mean that it's not interesting to somebody.
> Of course most of us are interesting to someone.  My point was that
> very, very few of us are interesting to  everyone .  Therefore most
> people do not derive much value from the potential connections to most
> other people.
> > The point that Tom is making is that from the point of view of the
> > distribution network, documents become a homogeneous commodity since
> > finding "something interesting to the customer" is O(1), not O(N)
> > (where N is the number of documents).
> >
> > That is the assumption you need to discuss.  But on the basis of that
> > assumption, your "known power laws" do not apply to the distribution
> > network.
> Sorry, but you've completely misunderstood my argument, probably
> because I did not provide it.
> Bradford's Law (sorry, I mixed the name up with Benford's Law) says
> how many interesting articles a researcher will find after searching a
> given number of journals.  From Bradford's Law, for a large number of
> journals n, the number of articles of interest that can be found will
> be proportional to log(n).  The number that a researcher will find
> using a traditional library search will be fixed because researchers
> do not actually search more than a few journals.  So the actual value
> (measured here in number of articles found) will be between a fixed
> number and proportional to the log of the number of articles that are
> available.  The actual number will depend greatly on how effective the
> search techniques are that the researcher can use (Google is very
> effective).
> Note that this is very, very far from being linear per person.
> Now one can argue many details of this example in trying to project
> out to the value of all articles across all researchers.  For instance
> not all researchers are created equal, but from Lotka's law of
> scientific productivity, given n researchers of a minimum level of
> productivity, the excess from some being better than the others is
> about n * log(n) * that level of productivity.  Conversely not all
> interesting articles are created equal.  However Zipf's law allows us
> to project that if you find k articles above a threshold of interest,
> then the most intersting should be k times as interesting as the
> threshold.  From which one can add another potential factor of log(n).
>  However people have a limited amount of attention that they can give,
> so one can *also* use Zipf's Law to project that your total interest
> in the fixed number of best articles that you can read is directly
> proportional to how many articles there were of a threshold where you
> would previously have called them interesting.
> So across all of these factors the best estimate could be artued to n log(n)
> >     >> Tom isn't talking about a mature network, he's talking about
> >     >> one in its infancy.
> >
> >     Ben> True, but I suspect that doesn't matter much.  My point about
> >     Ben> mature vs immature is one of size, not age.
> >
> >     Ben> That is, there is a significant difference between being part
> >     Ben> of a network of 1000 people and one of 100,000 people.  But
> >     Ben> the difference between 100,000 and 10,000,000 is not just a
> >     Ben> big gap.  So until you hit significant size, the larger
> >     Ben> competitor has a significant advantage.  After you both hit
> >     Ben> significant size, this advantage becomes fairly small.
> >
> > No.  The *absolute advantage* continues to increase as size increases.
> > The fact that rate of increase is *positive* is what matters at the
> > margin.  In the contexts where your argument makes sense the absolute
> > advantage *decreases* at the margin.
> >
> >     >> Also, you should remember that in terms of dynamics, a mature
> >     >> industry will be increasing with the rest of the economy, ie,
> >     >> exponentially.  In an industry where costs can be expected to
> >     >> fall while prices are rising linearly with time ... I'm sure
> >     >> you can draw the picture, too.
> >
> >     Ben> In a competitive industry, sometimes falling costs result in
> >     Ben> falling prices and profits that might go up and might go
> >     Ben> down...
> >
> > This industry is not going to be competitive unless its organization
> > changes radically.  That's Tom's thesis.
> >
> >     Ben> However size is not the only factor.  While collaborative
> >     Ben> content is big and will get bigger, there are limits to what
> >     Ben> you can do with it.  For instance wikipedia has a
> >     Ben> demonstrated history of accidentally *discouraging* experts
> >     Ben> from getting involved
> >
> > It's not an accident, it's essential (cf. Fred Brooks).  I won't touch
> > Wikipedia in my areas of expertise.  I didn't need to experience it in
> > that context to know what I would be getting into.  And it's quite
> > clear that Wikipedia is mostly written by wannabes, incompletely
> > researched and content-biased.  Often enough there's a clear political
> > bias, too.
> >
> > It is nonetheless extremely useful, because for any given human the
> > set of knowledge for which he has even wannabe status is of measure
> > zero.  And it may be successful enough to evoke a Gresham's Law of
> > Encyclopedias unless somebody figures out a way to take advantage of
> > the medium for high quality encyclopedias.  That's where Tom is going.
> >
> > However, it is that "Gresham's Law" that convinces me that copyright
> > will continue to have a role indefinitely.  It is just wishful
> > thinking to believe that people in general will contribute their
> > expertise to *others'* areas of interest unless they are directly
> > compensated for not blathering about what interests them most.
> >
> > --
> > Graduate School of Systems and Information Engineering   University of Tsukuba
> >        Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
> >         Economics of Information Communication and Computation Systems
> >           Experimental Economics, Microeconomic Theory, Game Theory
> >