Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The SNR May Be Falling, but Not the Signal

Many people complain that the ability for anyone to write online has lead to vast amounts of information being produced. The SNR ratio gets lower and lower. Who can sort through all that information?

But this logic somehow extends this into assuming that we are therefore producing less useful content. That's not true.

The signal is not going down, only the ratio. More worthwhile information is produced than would be without blogging, emails, message boards and so on.

Consider the glorious days of our past, a few centuries ago. We can count in double digits the number of influential philosophers whose voices have been preserved. We only took the time to preserve the thoughts of those who a) had many important things to say and b) could overcome the difficulties involved in producing a written and published body of material.

Nowadays, the obstacles to producing a written and published body of material is practically non-existent. I think, I blog, there it is; usually I reserve what I wrote a day for editing and publishing, but that's it, in essence. So b) is overcome.

That leaves a) those who have many important things to say. Name the number of respected philosophers from previous centuries who only had one important thing to say; say, something that would take up no more than a few pages.

The loss of barriers to publishing not only permits those with large quantities of important things to say, it also permits those with only a few pages of things to say. Important things.

Oh look. Another example of the Long Tail.

The distribution of important things is not equal among all people. Few people have many brilliant things to say, many have none. A whole lot have a few, and they write one book or an album and then disappear. But how many have not enough even for an album, but have that one important idea that is worth preserving along with human history?

I am guessing, off the top of my head, that the number of good ideas that get lost each generation equals or exceeds the number that get recorded, because until now, only collected large bodies of information were considered important enough to publish.

What if now, with our blogs and forums, we are suddenly tapping into the vast untapped potential of millions of great ideas that would otherwise die along with their possessor? And only because the barriers to publishing are so low and so quick.

The noise may be increasing exponentially, but the signal is growing, too. Maybe the first million have X to say, and the next million X/10, and the next X/100, but it's still increasing. And we have unlimited and timeless storage capacity. Which means that eventually, someone will find them. Unlike all the great ideas that went to their graves with their owners in generations past.

I don't know about you, but this gives me the warm fuzzies.

Update: Note that this ignores the issue of things being said better when they are reflected upon and edited.


Abridged is a new form of Bridge, with special cards, that is aimed at making the game of Bridge faster and easier. An article in the Independent describes it:
In Abridged, there is no bidding. The contract is calculated by a different method. Players go round the table, first stating their hand strength, and then stating their color strength (how many of the most numerous color you are holding). The team with the highest number of points immediately becomes the declaring team, and must estimate how many tricks he thinks his partnership can win. A contract has been arrived at, and play can start.
The cards are changed to 2 to 14, with colors instead of suits. There is still a dummy.

Erm. Sounds like a joke I wrote a month or two ago.

The U.K. is considering easing restrictions on betting on card games, especially poker, at local pubs and so on. And just in time, as here's a story of a couple who claims their marriage was saved by learning to play poker together.
According to Debora and Mike they have tried, during the last 5 years of their marriage, to find a mutual interest, but they could not find anything they both liked, let alone loved. The lack of this mutual interest has made the distance between them greater. They say this new passion has helped their marriage where many other things have failed.
Lastly, Grateful Dead, The Game. Doesn't look like a great game, but probably it will become a collector's item.


No comments: