May 112009

I am not a big fan of the numerical sociologists of the Internet , Fang Wu and Bernardo A. Huberman., but I thought for a bit they had finally come up with something interesting with their paper “Persistence and Success in the Attention Economy”. Their data reveal a seeming paradox: the more videos a person uploads on YouTube, the less likely the video will be an attention success, that is will garner more than 1% of all downloads for videos uploaded in that week. They make it seem that persistence in continuing to upload new videos in that situation is foolish at best.

What they ignore is that seeking attention does not automatically mean seeking the widest possible audience. Given the popularity of Youtube overall, there are probably many specialized audiences, and it could well be that persistent up-loaders are seeking and even have found a substantial niche audience, even though it be less than 1% of the undifferentiated total. They also ignore that uploading a video takes very little effort, is free, and may be intended just for friends or relatives. What this study really demonstrates is only that individual motivation cannot be determined just by numerics. An actual look at the videos of the “persistent” up-loaders would probably offer more insight into the aims behind them.

May 012009

In earlier posts I noted that even if “Wall Street” is temporarily saved and more carefully regulated, it will be difficult to prevent a meltdown similar to the current one from happening soon again. The reason is that it will be impossible to prevent new risky ways of playing tricks to obtain high returns by manipulating digital money streams. This is under way already. Banks have found apparently legal ways to cook their books to make it look as if they are very profitable, when they still have plenty of toxic assets. This allows them to plan large bonuses so that their “talented” employees don’t head off to greener pastures (or pig farming). Paul Krugman has pointed out the dishonesty in this, but can anyone prevent this kind of shell game? The more it is played, the faster money in any form will cease to be useful. …

Here comes Facebook feudalism! …even sooner than I expected.