Monthly Archives: April 2009

Power Law, Twitter, Headlines, and the NBA Playoffs

I’ve been thinking more about the “power law” distribution graph of communities and the role of information in maintaining something we might identify as a “community.” These thoughts are pretty scattered right now, but there’s something here, I think, so bear with me.

I was watching “sportscenter” last night. I’m not really a sports fan, and I can’t recall the last time I watched a sporting event on TV from start to finish. But, in watching highlight after highlight, I realized that I knew a little bit about a lot of players: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul. And that I, like a lot of people are “casual fans” of the NBA.

I imagine that every cultural phenomenon has a lot of casual fans. In all likelihood, they have more casual fans than hardcore fans.

And, I think, that the casual fans are where the balance lies. Hardcore fans (of any cultural phenomenon) are a gimmie — they’re going to watch everything or buy everything of listen to everything or read everything because they’re interested. The rest of us have limited time and attention for the intricacies of the phenomenon, but we’ll pay attention for big events (the Oscars, March Madness, end-of-the-year lists, and so on).

But because there are more of us casual types than the hardcore types, not only does the shape of viewers look like a power-law distribution, but, I would argue, the reporting does too — because it wants to attract people like me, and takes the harder core center as a given.

So: while the community might follow a power-law distribution pattern, conversations of and about the community might follow the exact INVERSE — treating me and the rest of the casual fans as the primary audience. What does this mean — if I’m the primary audience of something I don’t really care that much about?
I don’t know, but I’m beginning to think that there are tons of ways of re-thinking how communities work, and I’m just scratching the surface.


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