[p2p-research] recommender systems lead to monopoly populism

Samuel Rose samuel.rose at gmail.com
Sat Nov 7 15:36:41 CET 2009


I don't think that this article argues that the longtail is an
illusion everywhere. I think it shows that the "longest" parts of the
"longtail" are the most difficult to see. A one-person niche doesn't
spread around online like a virus.  I think the article argues that
the "longtail" may be an illusion in places that are trying to foment
a monoculture to drive sales (like Amazon). Actually, Amazon tries to
tie popular monoculture to "niche" sales, by showing "people who
bought this also bought this".

The article talks about how something that is a niche spreads to
become basically more than a "niche"; it becomes "popular".  The model
in the article does not account for how the system may open
exponentially more niches by way of it's affordances. I believe that
the model is useful for understanding what happens when decision
making is affected by recommendation engine feedback loops in
networks, but may not be reflective of the greater ecology of systems
like Amazon.

It does seem, however, to show that when the primary focus is sales of
a product, such as on a system like amazon, that tensions will try to
drive towards monoculture (because the rules of the system are pushing
things in that direction).

It would be interesting to adjust this model to represent a system of
making/using/sharing instead of sales, and see what emerges from

On Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 11:04 PM, Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Dear Paul,
> This is an important article, and I hope you can comment this for our blog,
> it it basically argues that the long tail is an illusion,
> let me know if you can't do it,
> Michel
> http://whimsley.typepad.com/whimsley/2009/03/online-monoculture-and-the-end-of-the-niche.html
> So there it is. Individual diversity and cultural homogeneity coexisting in
> what we might call monopoly populism.
> But don't think this is just about automated recommender systems, like the
> ones that Amazon and Netflix use. The recommender "system" could be anything
> that tends to build on its own popularity, including word of mouth. A couple
> of weeks ago someone pointed me to this video of Madin, a six-year-old
> soccer prodigy from Algeria, and the next day my son, who moves in very
> different online circles to me, was watching the same one. I know who Jim
> Cramer is even though we don't get CNBC in Canada because everyone is
> talking about him and helping his disembodied head to shoot down Jon
> Stewart. More people watched Tina Fey being Sarah Palin online than on
> Saturday Night Live, and Fey is now famous in countries where no one watches
> the TV show. Clay Shirky writes an essay and I get five different links to
> it in my Google Reader feed in one morning. Our online experiences are
> heavily correlated, and we end up with monopoly populism.
> A "niche", remember, is a protected and hidden recess or cranny, not just
> another row in a big database. Ecological niches need protection from the
> surrounding harsh environment if they are to thrive. Simply putting lots of
> music into a single online iTunes store is no recipe for a broad,
> niche-friendly culture.
> --
> Work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhurakij_Pundit_University - Research:
> http://www.dpu.ac.th/dpuic/info/Research.html - Think thank:
> http://www.asianforesightinstitute.org/index.php/eng/The-AFI
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Sam Rose
Social Synergy
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"The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human
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