Four short links: 21 September 2009

Bad Writing, Tech Immigration, Long Tail Fail?, and The Real McKoi

  1. Dan Brown’s 20 Worst Sentences — awful awful writing, and glorious glorious mockery of it.

    Deception Point, chapter 8: Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.

    It’s not clear what Brown thinks ‘precarious’ means here.

  2. From Australia to the World: The Story of Google Maps and Google Wave (PDF, HTML Cached here) — history of Google Maps and Wave, from the creator. This particularly struck me: I know few matters more frustrating than finding funding for a start-up. Immigration tops the list.
  3. Rethinking The Long Tail: How to Define ‘Hits’ and ‘Niches’ — the argument comes down to absolute vs relative measurements of popularity. Anderson says that relative hides too much, because percentages are meaningless in a world of infinite inventory. Researchers respond that hits and niches are defined in absolute numbers (top 10, bottom 100). The real takeaway is that infinite inventory requires excellent discovery tools drawing upon collective intelligence systems (hence the Netflix recommendation contest). (via timoreilly on Twitter)
  4. The Mckoi Database MckoiDDB is a database system used by software developers to create applications that store data over a cluster of machines in a network. It is designed to be used in online environments where there are very large sets of both small and big data items that need to be stored, accessed and indexed efficiently in a network cluster. The focus of the MckoiDDB architecture is to support low latency query performance, provide strong data consistency through snapshot transaction isolation, and provide tools to manage logical data models that may change dramatically in physical network environments that may experience similar dramatic change. (via joshua on delicious)
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  • Long Tail. It is good to see that continuing academic study is focused on this idea. However to some extent, these studies miss the point, because of Anderson’s defininition of “long tail”.

    Businesses have traditionally tried to find/make/shape the “winners” because the costs of locating/manufacturing/marketing losers is finite and winners are more profitable/unit than losers.
    Retail businesses thus constantly churn product offerings in order to maximize $/floor area. This tends to make successful retailers focus on popular items. The real value of Anderson’s insight is that electronic storage makes inventory holding almost costless and thus extends the range of possible offerings to almost infinite level. As Google is about to show, print on demand means that any book ever printed or still in existence that has an electronic version can be reproduced and delivered. As the amount of material is expanding so fast, this is going to be increasingly important in the future. It is also going to mean that the artificial scarcity of out of print books will end unless it for collectible purposes.

    I really could care less whether Pareto laws are correct or not. What I care about is variety and that is impacted by the ability to locate specific items in the catalog.

    Suppose that Borges’ “Library of Babel” was possible, how would one search it?

  • Shane

    “awful awful writing, and glorious glorious mockery of it.” Now that is prose! You should probably have commas between your repeated adjectives, and you should not have a comma preceding the last item listed in the headline of this post.

    Don’t be so elitist.

  • bowerbird

    the best thing you have to do right now is mock dan brown?


    that’s certainly “doing work that matters”…


  • Work That Matters

    Just be glad they’re still publishing something more substantial than tweets, bowerbird… at least for now!

  • RE the Lars Rasmussen and Google Maps, if you are an audio/visual type, you can watch and listen to Lars presenting his Innovation Lecture by going to