Categories of lusers

With respect to interaction with computers, there are engineers, programmers (hackers), and people who should just stay away.

It takes engineering to make high-reliability software, like what you’d want to operate the engine of your car.  It takes an aptitude for programming to use scripting tools to get quick and easy solutions to problems, and it takes yet another kind of mindset to just keep clicking the mouse and watching the hourglass in rote patterns.


The myth of the long tail – Big Ideas – ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

‘In 2011, there were eight million unique tracks that sold at least a copy in the US. That’s eight million individual songs that were in the market. That’s a very long tail. But then if you look closely, of those, 74 per cent sold fewer than ten copies. And a full third of all the songs that sold at least once, sold exactly once.’ Music streaming service Spotify has been around for five years and has a library of 20 million songs. According to Elberse, four million of those—a full 20 per cent—have not been played at all.

via The myth of the long tail – Big Ideas – ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Four million songs on Spotify that have never sold even once, and 2.6 million on iTunes that have sold exactly once.  I guess I’m glad I’m not trying to make a living as a musician.

I suppose that most of these are utter rubbish, but still, even if 95% are really bad, that still leaves more than I’ll have time to listen to in my lifetime.  Well, lets see.  Five percent of four million songs, say an average of three minutes each, is ten thousand hours of good music.

But lets pursue this a little further.  26% of 8 million songs on iTunes did sell more than 10 copies.  Not Platinum, and not enough to make a living, but still.  Two million songs times three minutes is a hundred thousand hours of music.  Played continuously, each song only once, that’s more than eleven years.

The thin tail is really, really long, but the fatter part of the tail is not so very short.


Robert Reich (Inequality, Productivity, and WhatsApp)

Robert Reich (Inequality, Productivity, and WhatsApp).

Think about it.  Nineteen billion dollars divided by 55 people is 345 million each.  Even if you give half to the top two guys and divide the rest among the others, that averages 179 million each.  So how many new jobs are created by all this money.  How many of these new multimillionaires are going to hire more than a nanny, a gardener, a cook, maybe a personal trainer?  This wonderful big business deal might produce maybe 300 new jobs?  Call it 3 thousand.  Makes no difference to the 20 million or so Americans who would like to have a job but don’t.

But we wouldn’t dare to ask these new multimillionaires for higher taxes so we could repair the roads, bridges, power grid, and other infrastructure that they as well as we depend on.  We wouldn’t even dare to borrow the money (that they’re not using for anything else) from them at zero interest.


Public Books — Storybook Plutocracy

Public Books — Storybook Plutocracy.

I’m not so much impressed by the book being reviewed, as by the reviewer.  He describes “at least a thousand” books on basically the same subject, and then says this:

Two things need to be said about this tsunami of sad. First, that the vast size of it, when compared to the effect that it has had—close to nothing—should perhaps call into question the utility of journalism and argument and maybe even prose itself. The gradual Appalachification of much of the United States has been a well-known phenomenon for 20 years now; it is not difficult to understand why and how it happened; and yet the ship of state sails serenely on in the same political direction as though nothing had changed. We like to remember the muckraking era because of the amazing real-world transformations journalism was able to bring; our grandchildren will remember our era because of the big futile naught accomplished by our prose.

And a little later remarks, “The truth is that journalism is almost completely irrelevant.”


The Burning Question of the Age

There’s no question that smart people these days are very much smarter than they’ve ever been before.  The question is, are ordinary, average people really so very much stupider than they were twenty or thirty years ago?

Or is it just that technology, for example blogs like this one, and even more so, the ability (nay, the encouragement) to “comment” on other people’s blogs, has given all these ordinary people a voice?  I suspect that, thirty years ago, I didn’t have all that much exposure to the confused opinions and benighted ideas of so very many people.  Today, I can’t seem to help but scroll down to the comments section, even knowing that I’m sure to be appalled by what I find.