When Pundits Attack

Long Tail Tall Tale
(Image from Blaugh click image for full carton including funny caption)

Somethings in this world just make sense. You dont have to be told how or why, you just intuitively feel the rightness of it. My first encounter with ice cream inside a cone shaped cookie was one such a moment, melted cheddar on tuna between two slices of rye was another. Without explanation or commentary, these thing just made sense. The Long Tail, while not as moving an experience as the meeting of cream and cone, was another of those things that just made sense. But no sooner did Chris Anderson publish his tale of new markets, new models and new money then some print media hater chime in with a few barbed critiques aimed at souring what had been a pretty universal love fest for the book. What ensued over the course of the next several days was a somewhat less then epic battle of pundits with snippy comments and declarations of victory on all sides.

If you havent heard of the Long Tail, I’ve posted about it here and Clay Shirky kicked off the recent resurrection here. The basic idea is that if you a business with near $0 inventory carrying cost (digital goods) and you give people near infinite choice digital stores), along with the tools to discover stuff they otherwise wouldnt (US Media), then you can make lots of money selling things that only 1 or 2 people buy. Cris Anderson of wired picked up on the idea in this article back in 2004 and it grew into a popular blog and now a very sucessful book.

However, according to Lee Gomes, a cranky tech cynic who’s been poopoo’ing the web since before Al Gore invented it, the Long Tail is basically a long turd. He argues in this article that the book over emphasizes and misrepresents the available data and markets anomalies as trends. Lee Gomes takes umbrage with the irrational exuberance of the books author in touting the benefits and applicability of the Long Tail. He highlights a number of over-exuberant statements made in the book and gives a “wag of the finger” to Cris Anderson for not pointing out the many limitations of the theory. This set off a running debate between the two balding media titans and lots of other voices in the Blogosphere have chimed in.

Cris Anderson replied here and declared victory in his dust-up with Lee Gomes here. His basic rebuttal was that despite all the research, Lee Gomes doesnt really know what he’s talking about, doesnt understand math and should re-read the whole book (preferably a new copy). He also gives the knife a little twist and points out that Lee doesnt have a blog of his own in which to really enter the dabate but is left attempting to respond from the sidelines, via a technologically savvy proxies.

A few lessons to come out of this little tempest in a teapot were 1) If your gonna pick a fight with a blogger you need to have a blog. 2) When hyping a book remember not to believe your own BS and have a better response then “its just BS from the jacket cover” when someone calls you on it. 3) “never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”!

2 Responses to When Pundits Attack

  1. More from the long tail of The Long Tail debate.

    This week Chris Anderson was interviewed by Jack Trout about the Lee Gomes critique of the Long Tail. What was most interesting was the discussion about the “old school” business heads, and traditional companies who are staring at the pages of the Long tail, wondering why it’s a best seller and asking “what the heck do I do with this stuff.” As producer of the program, I was a fly on the wall. Though I’ve read the book, followed the discussions online and read a few of the research papers; I found several good “Ah HA’s” in the interview. Here’s the link:

  2. […] Brahmin Blogger – Much like their ancient Indian equivalent, Brahmin bloggers are the high priests of the Blogosphere. This is the group that the rest of the Blogosphere turns to for moral and cultural guidance, along with intellectual rigor and academic obfuscation. Like most ascetics, Brahmin bloggers arent very well known outside of the modern day bastion of religious orthodoxy, academia. Examples of blogging Brahmin’s include luminaries such as Clay Shirky, Lawrence Lessig, Danah Boyd, Henry Jenkins, and Michael Geist . From the minds and keyboards of these lettered intellectuals springs the mana that feeds the rest of us. Brahmin bloggers transcend their Technorati rankings and are afforded the privileges of blogging celebrities although their true popularity is much more limited. Brahmin Bloggers define and describe the evolving culture of the blogosphere. How to become one: There is almost no way to become a Brahmin Blogger unless you have an advanced degree (or you’re ABD) and have published some iconoclastic insight on a lightening rod issue, like copyright, commerce, social networks etc… How to improve your status: A true Brahmin Blogger does not seek to overtly enhance their status, especially since being a Brahmin Blogger is the height ofblogging success. The next step up from here is Blogging Divinity and only Matt Drudge has been able to achieve that status, although he uses his powers for evil rather then good… Shatya Blogger – The original Indian caste system revered a group known as the Shatriya’s. They were the warriors and ruling elite. For the Blogosphere’s updated Caste system, I’ve renamed this group the Shatya Caste.Shatya Bloggers are those members of the blogging A-list who pick fights on our behalf and lord over the Blogosphere with an iron fist; banning, blacklisting, exiling and defunding those who dare to offend their high minded ideals. This group is typified by Mark Cuban, Fred Wilson, Jason Calacanis, David Sifry, Michael Robertson and a bunch of other wealthy white men alpha-males. Their rule over the Blogosphere ranges from the benign to the overbearing. Members of this caste often become identified with a meme and play up the association with any trend they can hitch their names to. As a result this group has cornered the market on press quotes, Web 2.0 conference keynotes and launch party invites.Shatya bloggers see their roll as the defenders and directors of the evolution of the blogosphere’s culture. How to become one: Becoming a Shatriyas Blogger takes some work but it isnt impossible. All you need is a wildly successful Internet business, a contrarian bent, some media savvy and a typepad account. If you’ve got these pre-requisites then the next step is to publicly challenge another Shatya or Brahmin blooger and knock them down a peg or two. For example, Lee Gomes was almost elevated to Shatya blogger status when he took on Chris Anderson at the height of the love fest for The Long Tail, but he foolishly didnt have his own blog from which to fight and was ignominiously forced back into carping from the sidelines. How to improve your status: The key to Shatya blogging is hubris. You have to put some bass in your voice, talk in broad sweeping generalizations, assume that everything you say is fact and disagreement is a form of stupidity. The one thing that you can never be as a Shatyablogger is silent. Special Note: There is a disproportionately high level of testosterone inherent in the Shatya blogger Caste and unfortunately, this limits the opportunities for women to be Shatya bloggers. While its not definitive, both Maureen Dowd and years of evolutionary biology suggest that women have neither the capacity nor tolerance for the self-delusional pomposity required to be a trully iconic Shatya blogger. […]

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