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November 13, 2006

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Carl Caputo

Chris, there's no link to Nick Carr's article-length post.

Chris Anderson

Carl,

Whoops. Thanks for the catch. Fixed...

Chris

Mike Abundo

Abundance. Sounds like a great title for a book.

Ken O'neill

Water , basically has no cost. But in the last twenty years . Many many marketers have figure out wayst to get people to bay close to 20$ a gallon .for something that is essencially free.

today selling almost anything .. is an excersise in selling water

Alberto

The McKinsey Quarterly has published a book called profiting from proliferation: basically a clone of the Long Tail theory with lots of cream on it i.e. the "Long Tail" is much smarter, clearer and innovative in making its points :)

José Moreno

The scarcity/abundance view is probably the decisive way to look at it. It only has economic value that which is scarce, abundance has no value.
As a mater of fact, I think that when you put things on that perpective you get a glimpse of what net neutrality is all about and how it relates to the survival of tradicional media. Tradicional media are eroding because content providers are suddenly abundant whereas they were scarce. If a non-neutral internet should prevail, society would probably have much do loose, but the media and telephone and cable companies would gain scarcity over abundance. See what I mean in this post: http://teseeantitese.wordpress.com/2006/10/25/on-net-neutrality/

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Ben Miller

I think Herbert Simon's work provides a useful point of departure for thinking about a world of growing abundance.

Simon argued that the most fundamental constraint of all is the computational constraint of the human brain.

(A recent variant of this is the idea that attention - which I view as a subset of Simon's argument - is the scarce and valuable commodity.)

"Practically free" (e.g. gmail - why file, when you can pile?) seems put to best use when applied to working around this constraint.

Vince Kuraitis

On the one hand, I find it intellectually liberating to think about a world of abundance that defies traditional economics.

One the other hand, I'm not yet (figuratively) ready to throw away my college econ learnings (even tho I threw away the actual books a long time ago).

I suspect that we will find a world of difference in the definitions of "free" and "practically free". Does "practically" free imply that the old econ rules of supply and demand will still apply?

...and how can anything be truly "free" when you factor in opportunity costs -- the costs of foregone opportunities when I'm spending all my time drinking "free" water or listening to "free" podcasts.

Casey Chung

I recently attended an Infosys conference where Chris Anderson was a speaker. I had not heard of the "the long tail" but was very disappointed at the information presented.

His characterization of Blockbuster vs Netflix appears to be either biased or very poorly researched. He compared Blockbuster stores vs Netflix online and completely disregarded the Blockbuster online component.

When considering true apples to apples Blockbuster online has a larger SKU base (a longer tail) than Netflix. When looking at the companies as a whole Netflix offers only a long tail whereas Blockbuster offers a longer tail preceded by an the high velocity / lower sku base component.

I am not sure if I am hoping this is a simple oversight (which brings the competence of the author, Hyperion Press and all long tail disciples into question) or a pay off by Netflix (an ethical question). Either way not a good situation!

Ben Miller

C. Chung:

As I see it, the possibilities you have raised include:

1) you did not understand the argument

2) the author is incompetent

3) publishers are to be deemed incompetent if they publish something you have not read and/or do not understand and/or do not agree with

4) the group of people who think lower search (for information) costs and lower transactions costs, along with the near-zero marginal cost of digital reproduction and distribution, are a useful way to think about some internet-related phenomena are incompetent

5) the author is accepting bribes

I would venture that of the possibilities #1 has the greatest explanatory power

I would also add that completely unfounded challenges to an individual's ethics are -- let's not mince words here -- despicable.

Bert Van Wassenhove

I ran into a great example of the long tail in a developing country. No fancy internet startup in the entertainment sphere, but a telco initiative for micro entrepreneurs. Read more about it on my blog:
http://bertvanwassenhove.blogspot.com/2006/11/micro-telco-another-long-tail-story.html
and see the video (in French):
http://bertvanwassenhove.blogspot.com/2006/11/liajlicom-project-video.html

Chris, if you want more info just give me a shout. I've got more pics and can hook you up with the man behind this who is a friend of mine.

Daniel Sanchez

Chris,
I really admire your work, but in this case you're working with a false dichotomy. Abundance is not the absence of scarcity, as scarcity is defined by economists. We have an over-abundance of food in America, but there is still a scarcity, in economic terms, or else the market couldn't set a price for cheeseburgers. "Little scarcity" is not "no scarcity," and "ridiculously cheap" is not free. As cheap as digital storage has become, it is not free. To say there is absolutely no scarcity is to either say there is zero demand or infinite supply. And on earth, there isn't an infinite amount of anything.

Mary Warner

Several thoughts. I'm not an economist, but my husband and I have always wondered why the economy must continue to grow in order for people to feel it's successful. Why can't it stay stagnant in the sense that there's a balance between what's produced and what's consumed with people living at a comfortable level - not outrageously rich or stupendously poor?

I often wonder, if so many people produce content for free online, how are we going to have paying jobs from the online community that will allow us to pay the bills? However, if we are able to get services like VOIP and WiFi and the like for free, then perhaps we won't need larger incomes in order to keep up.

Abundance theory is something I've seen discussed in religious communities, especially in the more liberal traditions. The trouble with practicing the principles of abundance is that too many people stick with scarcity thinking. They think there isn't enough, so they horde. If you look at the current U.S. economy, with the widening gap between the rich and the poor, you'll see a lot of hording going on. How do you get the scarcity thinkers to loosen up?

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Brad

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Abundance 'theory' is actually terribly under-rated, and scarcity is the thinking of horders (as another poster so aptly put it.) What I'm getting at, is that this world has everything we need and more, and the abundance of what we can do is only limited by our thinking – not by our resources. For instance, we all know that oil is not the only source for fuel in the world, but because of traditional politics and economics, they just can't get rid of that dark monster. Other fuels can be cheaper, and more available (abundant) but the horders would prefer for fuel to be a commodity, and entire countries are running on the buying and selling of the stuff. If we ditched oil, our economies might spring back in an interesting way, as living and business expenses drop, and we can focus more on progress which will build economy as well. Man, there is actually so much I'd love to say on this topic, but I'm not going to write another book here!

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Tidbits

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

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