Look at the Long Tail for the highest-value conversations

Excerpt: Where do you think creativity and innovation is born? And where do you think that the best-match conversations about the things you are interested in are taking place? The answer is: in Long Tail conversations!

[UPDATE, July 29, 2007: Whoa, I just noticed on Technorati that it’s
Doc Searls’ birthday today. Happy "round" birthday, Doc! (I just
celebrated my 40th on 070707)]

Not perfectly sure how and why Doc Searls associates my excerpts from the Cluetrain Manifesto with Ben Peters‘ talk
about close reading of text (particularly since I haven’t heard Ben’s
talk), but I hope he means he can see that I’ve read the cluetrain
closely  šŸ™‚

Doc: "1) I haven’t read the book in years;"

I
was somewhat suprised to read that, although surely the contents of the
book are so much part of Doc’s being that in practice, he may never
really feel the need to go back and look things up. (I do.)

Doc: "2) There’s a lot of good stuff in there;"

*Only* good stuf, I dare say.

Doc: "3) The future, as William Gibson said, is not evenly distributed."

Indeed. Some of us live it today, some will tomorrow, others never will.

Doc: "Looking through the long pile of comments [on the Cluetrain’s signatories page], most strike me as overly optimistic… and now, anachronistic. (…)

[Dom DeBellis says (…) …Um, are you listening?] – In too many cases the answer is still "Not yet"."

Doc,
I’d love to read your views on why the cluetrain comments strike you as
anachronistic. Sure, we’ve had a dot-com fallout, we now have social
media, and we are living post-911. But the Walls of Fort Business have
certainly not come down – which indeed rather supports your perception
of the cluetrain comments as being "overly optimistic".

But anachronistic?

"Although there is no demand for messages, there is a tremendous demand for good conversation," Doc wrote on page 95 of the book.

At
the corporate communications team with the global company that I work
for, I keep telling people that the Cluetrain is just as timely today
as it has ever been. Especially with control-obsessed babyboomers, the
elegant simplicity of Hugh MacLeod‘s porous membrane only rarely seems to strike a chord.

While it may very well be inevitable and happening as we speak, it
could easily take another generation change in management before
business at large will really appreciate not only the inevitability,
but also the value proposition that our return to the Conversation of
the Bazaar brings along.

What I am currently trying to get my head around is to combine learnings from the cluetrain and the Long Tail theory, with a view to applying those learnings to online conversations.

There must be tremendous value in niche conversations.

When we search on a certain topic, we are usually directed to the
mainstream conversations around that topic. The media coverage and blog
entries that are most linked to, i.e. are most amplified, are the ones
that rank highest in Google results.

Similarly, the bloggers that are most linked too are the ones that build "authority" on Technorati, and their contributions to *any* conversation will rank them high in search results. Social rating such as on Digg is just another way to amplify (parts of) conversations. The same thing goes for social bookmarking on, say, del.icio.us.

 

Amplification does NOT get me closer to the conversations that are most relevant to *me*.

What amplification does is that it influences the position of
particular pieces of content, or contributions to conversations, on the
horizontal axis of the Long Tail graph. Amplified content moves up
towards the Head, while other contributions slide down the Tail. And
when we search, we are hardly ever directed to any long-tail, niche
conversations.

But where do you think creativity and innovation is born? And where
do you think that the best-match conversations about the things you are
interested in are taking place? The answer is: in Long Tail
conversations!

So what I am working on is an approach that allows us to detect and
engage in conversations that are most valuable to us, by separating the
wheat from the chaff, all the way down the Long Tail.

After all, as Dave Winer pointed out last month: It’s time to open op networking, again:

"Eventually,
soon I think, we’ll see an explosive unbundling of the services that
make up social networks. What was centralized in the form of Facebook,
Linked-in, even YouTube, is going to blow up and reconstitute itself.
How exactly it will happen is something the historians can argue about
25 years from now. It hasn’t happened yet, but…"

Does any of this make sense at all?

 

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