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On Lorites and Long Tails

Do you ever get the feeling that your caught up in a discussion you've been having too many times before?

That weird feeling when you find yourselves talking about (media) issues you thought were resolved many years back, or arguments you thought had been put to rest ages ago?

It's often an awkward position to be in when you feel you really should point out that we had this discussion in 2001, 2005, 2007 or ... (insert year) and arrived at those and those conclusions to the arguments someone is bringing forth now.

Sometimes of course, you're only to happy to steer the debate in a more interesting direction by doing so, though other times, when these issues are being discussed anew in full earnest and with much passion, it really does make you feel like a Lorite.

See, I just found a new term for this when I read Neil Stephenson's "Anathem" recently. It's a rather complex book - interesting, very Stephensonesque but not my favourite Stephenson book - which I reviewed briefly on Facebook, but I was taken by the role Lorites play:

Lorite: A member of an order founded by Saunt Lora, who believed that all ideas that the human mind was capable of coming up with had already come up with. Lorites are, therefore, historians of thought who assist other avout in their work by making them aware of others who have thought similar things in the past, and thereby preventing them from reeinventing the wheel.

That's a rather useful role to play, but, even though I've actually studied the history of ideas, I can't for the life of me remember which philosophical direction Lorites alludes to (though I did spot lots of Plato, Spinoza, Heidegger, Kant etc in the book). Come to think of it, it can often be very useful to keep in mind the history of science, of ideas, of printing etc when contemplating today's debates on media and technology - there are many universal, reocurring themes - but why I associated Lorites withe Long tails when I first started writing this post (probably a few months or so back) evades me right now...


I'm particularly concious of this in journalism, and especially on journalism blog - I'm seeing people covering ground we old timers (;-)) covered back in 2006 or 2007.

I've found that drinking heavily helps me cope...

Ha, ha... sometimes I wonder if only going back to say 2006 is too short a perspective though. A mentor of mine recently said journalism has been in a state of perpepetual crisis since he started out as a hack in the early seventies. Maybe that's one favour journalism blogging is doing the world: making it possible to easily check (google) what issues the industry is debating year by year and perhaps reveal how many of these we've been discussing for ages;-)

Thinking back even a bit further, I think of all the online strategy fads. The 'Content is King' meme is on about its fourth time round. A quick Google shows me that no less than Bill Gates wrote an article on how 'Content is King' in 1996 saying that micro-payments were the future. He wrote:

"For the Internet to thrive, content providers must be paid for their work. The long-term prospects are good, but I expect a lot of disappointment in the short-term as content companies struggle to make money through advertising or subscriptions. It isn't working yet, and it may not for some time....

In the long run, advertising is promising. An advantage of interactive advertising is that an initial message needs only to attract attention rather than convey much information. A user can click on the ad to get additional information-and an advertiser can measure whether people are doing so...."

Another post from 2003 that quotes Gates essay and then goes on to talk about the low click-through rates for banner advertising http://www.v7n.com/content-isnt-king.php

That post even has this gem:

"As we saw the banner click through ratio drop to 0.2%, content sites scrambled to subscriptions, where they met with even more disappointment."

Sound familiar? These zombie memes come around every few years. I'm waiting for someone to say: "The future is portals."

Portals, eh? I'm thinking perhaps I should start a log of all those arguments and slogans I see brought up again and again as they were brand new...

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