Friday, December 15, 2006


The Long Tail

I have just discovered the so-called "Long Tail" idea that particularly applies to digital content, but also physical content to some extent. It seems very interesting and is something I would like to dip into in more detail.

Essentially, as I understand it, one of the big changes in the future is that consumers will be driven much more towards niche products than in the mass-market offerings traditionally available. One of the reasons is that shelf space is virtually infinite in the digital world, whereas it is a costly commodity in the physical realm. Therefore, customers now can afford to be as choosy as they wish. We will not need to accept "good enough" - products that suit us can be chosen to maximum effect.

It puts the 80/20 rule on it's head: 80% of all customer demand in the future will be inside the "long tail" - typically that 80% of products that traditionally accounted for 20% of all sales.

I have my doubts as to whether the 80/20 rule disappears completely though, as 80/20 is about much more than just shelf-space or channel capacity. Interdependence and viral communication can generate huge demand for single products simply by them being in the right place at the right time and gaining the interest of highly influential individuals. In any case, I may have taken this up wrong, and I should read more about it.

The idea is the brainchild of Chris Anderson, Wired Magazine editor-in-chief and more details can be found at his Long Tail blog. He provides a summary of the theory and has recently published a book on the subject.


Friday, December 01, 2006


The IT Skills shortage

Something else struck me from the IT@Cork conference. A big issue we all know about is the IT skills shortage. I've done supervisory work in the recent past with students, and I have seen the numbers dwindle alarmingly year on year, to the extent that I am not doing any work this year. The numbers of students are just too low to sustain external supervisors.

And yet, this conference was one of the most mentally stimulating and informative conferences I have ever been at. It was very business focused and I left with an abiding impression that to understand business nowadays, you need to understand technology.

It's a sexy area to be involved in. A career in IT has a lot of promise, a huge amount of diversity and it opens up huge business possibilities for people. IT, quite literally, has changed, is changing, and will change the world.

What is being done, I wonder, to convey this sense of opportunity and potential to secondary students who are deciding on a future career? The IT@Cork conference certainly conveyed it to me, but are we doing as good a job reaching out to the younger generation? And if not, why not?

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