Thursday, March 24, 2005

Long Tail vs. Bottom of Pyramid 

Chris Anderson
the BOP model is focused on taking a single product or service and finding ways to make it cheap enough to offer to a larger, poorer, market. This is why I think it's essentially about commodification. The Long Tail, on the other hand, is about nicheification. Rather than finding ways to create an even lower lowest common denominator, the Long Tail is about finding economically efficient ways to capitalize on the infinite diversity of taste and demand that has heretofore been overshadowed by mass markets. The millions who find themselves in the tail in some aspect of their life (and that includes all of us) are no poorer than those in the head. Indeed, they are often drawn down the tail by their refined taste, in pursuit of qualities that are not afforded by one-size-fits-all. And they are often willing to pay a premium for those goods and services that suit them better. The Long Tail is, indeed, the very opposite of commodification. So the Long Tail is made up of millions of niches. The Bottom of the Pyramid is made up of mass markets made even more mass. Both lower costs to reach more people, but they do so in different ways for different reasons.

Topics: Long Tail | Economics

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Consciousness Reassessed 

Pribram, K.H. (2004)
Thus, through consciousness we become related to each other and to the biological and physical universe. Just as gravity relates material bodies, so consciousness relates sentient bodies. One can no more hope to find consciousness by digging into the brain than one can find gravity by digging into the earth. One can, however, find out how the brain helps organize our relatedness through consciousness, just as one can dig into the earth to find out how its composition influences the relatedness among physical objects by gravitational attraction.

. . .

Taking conscious experience as the result of the complex of relations among brain systems, body systems, social systems and culture, the “cement” that unites them is stored memory. Relevant brain processes operate by virtue of neural modifiability that results in the brain’s memory store. Physical, biological and social consequences of behavior are memorable, both in changing brain organization and in changing culture. The cultural consequences that have developed, such as new technologies and new linguistic usages, feed back on the brain to alter its memory store, and the consequent brain processes feed forward onto culture.

Topics: Consciousness | Karl Pribram

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

A Taxonomy for Artificial Embryogeny 

K. O. Stanley and R. Miikkulainen
In order to be tractable, the number of genes required to specify a phenotype must be orders of magnitude less than the number of structural units composing that phenotype. Nature has shown such representational systems to be possible on an enormous scale. Even with 100 trillion neural connections in the human brain, there are only about 30 thousand active genes in the human genome (2800 million amino acids) [19, 23, 42, 89]. Such representational efficiency is made possible through gene reuse. In an indirect genetic encoding, a single gene may be used multiple times at different stages of development. There are two primary forms of reuse.

First, phenotypic structures can occur in repeating patterns, where the same structural theme, perhaps with some variation, appears over and over again. Each time a pattern repeats, the same gene group can provide the specification. Examples of repeating patterns in biological organisms include the numerous left-right symmetries of vertebrates [65: 302–303], and the numerous receptive fields in the visual cortex [29, 40]. Repetition frequently involves variation on a general theme. For example, each vertebra in the spine is formed similarly to the others, albeit with different incoming and outgoing connections [89: 30–31].

The second primary form of reuse occurs when the same gene product is used to initiate separate developmental pathways. For example, Cohn et al. [17] found that the same gene product, fibroblast growth factor (FGF), induces the appearance of both forelimbs and hindlimbs, depending on the part of the body where the FGF is applied. Thus, the same gene can be used to initiate different structures at different locations.

Natural organisms implement gene reuse through a process of development, or embryogeny.1 The same genes can be used at different points in development for different purposes, and the order in which activations of genes take place determines when and where a particular gene is expressed [65]. Recently, researchers have begun to replicate this process in artificial developmental systems. The hope is that extremely compact codes can evolve to represent immensely complex phenotypes.

Topics: Artificial Life | Representation | Development | Generative Programming

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No Magical Solution to Software Development 

Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.
The first step toward the management of disease was replacement of demon theories and humours theories by the germ theory. That very step, the beginning of hope, in itself dashed all hopes of magical solutions. It told workers that progress would be made stepwise, at great effort, and that a persistent, unremitting care would have to be paid to a discipline of cleanliness. So it is with software engineering today.

Not only are there no silver bullets now in view, the very nature of software makes it unlikely that there will be any--no inventions that will do for software productivity, reliability, and simplicity what electronics, transistors, and large-scale integration did for computer hardware. We cannot expect ever to see twofold gains every two years.

First, one must observe that the anomaly is not that software progress is so slow, but that computer hardware progress is so fast. No other technology since civilization began has seen six orders of magnitude in performance price gain in 30 years. In no other technology can one choose to take the gain in either improved performance or in reduced costs. These gains flow from the transformation of computer manufacture from an assembly industry into a process industry.

Topics: Software Development

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Two Dimensions of Web Services 

Radovan Janecek
I see two innovation areas in the web services world: innovation in service-oriented technology and innovation in how to provide services. While we can say that services were around for a very long time, the really interesting stuff is relatively recent – just few examples: Flickr, Plaxo, Orbitz, Technorati, LinkedIn, Bloglines, FeedBurner, Amazon (I mean AWS and similar), and of course Google (maps, mail, search, froogle, picasa, orkut, ads, ...) - and I'm sure I forgot tons of other very interesting and business-changing services right now. Compared to these fancy and cool services, the technology is quite boring set of WS-* specs, RESTful hints, methodologies, legacy apps integration issues, and so on. Imagine how fun it will be to integrate legacy apps, implement and outsource business processes, etc once intranets will be full of similar fancy services.

Topics: SOA

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