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Implications of a global market on random success


From Cliffski's Positech blog: Implications of a global market on random success

He has a lot of interesting ideas... one of the reasons I follow him.  At times, the articles make me rage... and other times pensive.  This one, while the writing takes a while to get there, I agree with to an extent.

I think there is a phenomena that is becoming stronger and stronger and I think its bad news for all content creators. Well, for 99.99% of us. That phenomena is the globalization of media, and the concentration of it in a few hands.

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And another blurb:

What I’m saying is that gangnam style, minecraft, flappy bird and star citizen are not *THAT* good. I’m not saying they aren’t good, or great even, or amazing even, but the level of popularity is totally disconnected from the quality at some point above the ‘ten million copies sold’ level. Stuff is getting bought *because it is getting bought*. And stuff is becoming popular *because it is already popular* and that sucks, because when you produce content, the success of it is too much attributed to luck. And thats bad, bad bad.

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I've noticed this for a while, and haven't been able to put my finger on it.  But it's a good article, and helped clarify my thoughts on it.

I've noticed and dwelled on it and agonized and stressed over it.  It's very troubling.
Nice to see I'm not the only one.  Thanks for the links I'm looking forward to reading his take on it.

So here's a semi-off-topic reply. I was thinking about the advantages of homogeneity. And while the article was really more about the poor process that leads some song/show/game to become popular, I was thinking about the effect of having a universally popular or known song/show/game rather than fragmentation.

Thinking of TV, I guess I'm comparing the situation today to that when I was a child, and there were four or so networks in everyone's home. You could go to work, and everyone would have watched "the game" or Bob Newhart or MacGyver or whatever, and there was a shared cultural (if I use the term broadly) experience. Similar, I'd like to think, to the folks in Cliffski's article who all heard the same lutenist.

Now I go to the barber and the conversation goes like this:
"So have you seen {random Netflix show}"
"No. But I was watching {random other Netflix show}. Have you seen it?"
"How about this weather?"

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So I'm happier when I'm consuming media - I'm watching what I want, on my terms, because of the huge profusion of choice. But I miss the opportunity to connect with other people as a result.

Likewise, my sister-in-law is a gamer. It is literally the only thing she and I have in common. And I follow RockPaperShotgun often enough I can engage with her in conversation. But we have very rarely played the same game. Yesterday I opened "Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight" and "Cities:Skylines." She posted on Twitter about NBA2k, a game I can't really talk intelligently about.

So I think to some extent the segmentation of media (for example on Steam, as mentioned by Cliffski) has served to segment people. And I'm not sure that's all good. Maybe if we all played flappy bird we could connect a little better with fellow humans, instead of (as I'm likely to do) feeling smug and superior for making better, less popular choices.

Anyway, that's not exactly what he was talking about, but the article was a jumping-off point for all those thoughts.


I've noticed this for a while, and haven't been able to put my finger on it.  But it's a good article, and helped clarify my thoughts on it.
-wraith808 (May 15, 2015, 05:46 PM)
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Here's another phrasing of the problem:

"Other users searched for X trending now".

So whatever the numbers it takes to hit the wave, at Z point, you exactly get the "you are clicking on this because someone else is clicking on this, and now because you clicked on it, you induce someone else to click on it, and if you "threaten not to click on it", then there is subtle peer pressure against you for not knowing what it is". I actually had no idea even what Gangnam Style *was* until so late in the game that it finally figuratively clubbed me over the head!

Interesting sideways projects include:

- Stephen King's Richard Bachman pen name experiments, to get some info cutting through exactly this problem. (Result: His competent writing still showed, so eventually "Richard Bachman" also became famous enough he ended the experiment.)

- Some professors took certain "English Class legends" (Non-Shakespeare, who is in a category all by himself for other reasons!), and then when stripped of that name-dropping fame, they ended up getting rated "not that good". I think I remember Majorie Kinan Rawlings "The Yearling" ending up in this category.

I'll leave Minecraft alone as I am unqualified to comment, but certainly Gangnam Style and Flappy Bird / Angry Birds are in this category!


"Just follow the other sheep..."

Time to start some online communities and services for lone wolfs (I think there's quite a lot of them out there)... ;-)


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