aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
To have and to hold wrongly
There are exactly 316 benefits of marriage. I learned that from the decision of New York’s highest court upholding the ban on same-sex marriage, which means that the often-wed Elizabeth Taylor has enjoyed these benefits 2,528 times, while a lesbian could not have any of them, despite having a stable relationship and a child or two. If it pleases the court, your decision is just plain idiotic. [...]
Gay marriage, like abortion, is a highly emotional issue and, at the moment, commands nowhere near overwhelming support. Depending on how the question is asked, and the polling organization itself, anywhere from 40 to nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriage. If the latter figure is accurate, permitting same-sex marriage by judicial fiat would produce yet another protracted fight over yet another social issue. Roe has been bad enough, thank you.
Yet the case for same-sex marriage is so much clearer and easier to make than the complexities that produced the tortured reasoning of Roe. It is based primarily on the easily understood and widely accepted words of the Declaration of Independence: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Since none of the counterarguments can prove any damage at all to society, the New York state high court missed a chance to further an education process and, justly, grant to homosexuals and lesbians the benefits of marriage so casually granted to heterosexuals. Way before getting to 316, it’s clear one of the benefits is as American as apple pie: the pursuit of happiness itself.
MySpace 4300% increase
Speaking of hits, Hitwise:
Today Hitwise issued a press release reporting that for the first time, http://www.myspace.com has surpassed Yahoo! Mail as the most visited domain on the Internet for US Internet users. To put MySpace’s growth in perspective, if we look back to July 2004 myspace.com represented only .1% of all Internet visits. This time last year myspace.com represented 1.9% of all Internet visits. With the week ending July 8, 2006 market share figure of 4.5% of all the US Internet visits, myspace.com has achieved a 4300% increase in visits over two years and 132% increase in visits since the same time last year.
For the entire month of June, ComScore’s data still places Yahoo over MySpace in terms of visitors, but said that MySpace still grew in both page views and unique visitors. We’ll see when next month’s numbers emerge if the trend stays the same. When it comes to unique visitors, though, MySpace isn’t growing as fast as Yahoo, Time Warner Network, MSN-Microsoft, Google, or eBay-it’s ranked 6th on uniques.
The Long Tail today
Today marks the debut of the book. I’m glad Chris got around to answering critics, in his way. I read John Cassidy’s New Yorker review las week and found it less ”largely positive” than Chris did, but I’ll quote the same part:
[T]his is snappily argued and thought-provoking, if not quite as original as Anderson’s publishers would have us believe. Back in 1980, another futurologist, Alvin Toffler, anticipated the “de-massifying” of society in his best-selling book “The Third Wave” (Bantam; $7.99), which is still in print. “The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation and entertainment,Ã¢â‚¬Â� Toffler said in a 1999 interview. But no longer: “The era of mass society is over. . . . No more mass production. No more mass consumption. . . . No more mass entertainment.”
You might imagine that I was a fan of Tofler’s then and, given that I believe everything’s derivative, I give Anderson more credit for his insight than does Cassidy. I tell students all the time that I’m not the slightest bit interested in an orginal idea, I want an original mix, iteration or synthesis of ideas.
The Long Tail is one brilliant synthesis!
The real novelty of Anderson’s book is not his thesis but its representation in the form of a neat, readily graspable picture: the long-tail curve. For decades, economists and scientists have been using this graph, which is formally known as a power-law distribution, to describe things like the distribution of wealth or the relative size of cities. By applying the long tail to the online world, Anderson brings intellectual order to what often looks like pointless activity. The teen-ager who spends his weekends updating a blog that nobody reads and shooting silly videos to post on YouTube.com? He is, as Anderson’s chapter on “The New ProducersÃ¢â‚¬Â� tells us, a valiant citizen of the long tail.
The least convincing part of Anderson’s book is his treatment of what he calls “the short head,” the part of the curve where popular products reside. Although he acknowledges that best-selling books and blockbuster movies won’t vanish overnight, he suggests that demand for them will gradually decline: “the primary effect of the long tail is to shift our taste towards niches.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
Cassidy goes on to argue that the success of hits today and “giant, exploitative firms” dominating the network is evidence disputing the theory. I haven’t read the book, I’ve just ordered it, but I’ve been following along on Anderson’s blog for a good long while.
My understanding of the theory is and always has been that yes, hits continue. Not only do they continue, they play an important role as a stepping off point for all of us to find our niches. When I bought The Long Tail I was interested to note the suggestion of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom so I might follow that path from suggestion to suggestion down deeper into my niche.
My conservative blogger friend Basil may have been more interested to follow An Army of Davids : How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths down deeper into his.
In that way the hit that Chris’s book is bound to be can lead both Basil and me, and you dear reader and those that follow, each into our respective niches. Only to come together again for the next hit. Hits aren’t dead; it’s the rise of a new kind of hit.
Chris Anderson: Hits aren’t dead!
As I see it, there are essentially three kinds of hits, which we can call Type 1,2, and 3:
- "Top-down" hits created by the usual hit-making machine: major labels, major publishers, major studios, etc. Those fall into two categories:
- Type 1: Authentic hits: products that are excellent and resonate with a broad audience (think anything from Coldplay to the World Cup). These start big and stay big.
- Type 2: Synthetic hits: lame products that are marketed within an inch
of their life, sucessfully getting lots of people to try them even though they’re probably sorry they did. (think Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties). These start big but quickly plummet.
- Type 3: "Bottoms-up" hits, that rise on word-of-mouth and grassroots support. (think Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or March of the Penguins). These start small and get big.
I think Type 1 hits will continue to do well. Type 3 hits will do even better, since the web is the greatest word-of-mouth amplifier ever created. But Type 2 hits will suffer, as the consumers spread the word of their suckitude faster than ever.
Straight to Jesus
Last month I pointed to a sensitively written article in the Boston Globe on the ex-gay movement by Tanya Erzen, an assistant professor at Ohio State University.
Her book, ”Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement,” has just come out and is reviewed today in Salon:
Erzen spent 18 months hanging out with and interviewing the members and administrators of New Hope Ministry, which runs a residential program for evangelical Christian men who are “struggling with homosexuality” in the San Francisco Bay Area. She even volunteered in the ministry’s office, revamping its Web site, all as fieldwork for her dissertation. (She’s now assistant professor of comparative studies at Ohio State University.)
Erzen wasn’t interested in collecting fodder for political battles, though, and that’s what makes “Straight to Jesus” so enlightening. As an ethnographer, she made every effort to listen to and understand everyone at New Hope Ministry, whether or not she agreed with their beliefs (and it’s fairly clear that most of the time she didn’t). That’s practically unheard of in most popular discussions of charged issues like homosexuality—and rare in scholarly discussions, either. Nowadays, everyone’s convinced that they already know everything the other side has to say and that actually having to listen to it would constitute an insupportable demand on their own patience. Everyone thinks their side of the argument never gets any exposure, yet rabid, ranting opinion of all varieties howls at us everywhere we turn.
What emerges from “Straight to Jesus” is a far more nuanced and moving picture of the “ex-gay” movement than most readers will expect.