Power Laws Revisited

Yep, power laws.

Simply put, the theory is that if someone is popular — for whatever reason, be it real talent or just blind luck — he or she is likely to become even more popular, since people tend to gravitate towards things that are already perceived as being popular. In the study that is written up in the NYT magazine, a team set up a website where more than 14,000 participants signed up and were asked to listen to, rate and — if they chose — download songs by bands they had never heard of. Some of the participants saw only the names of the songs and bands, while others also saw how many times the songs had been downloaded by previous participants.

Mathew Ingram writes about a New York Times magazine study that looked, to paraphrase, how things become popular. Basically they somewhat state the obvious, the more you have of something the more likely you are to get even more, but also disproportinately so. The most popular songs were far more popular than their nearest rivals combined. The more market share you have, the more you will get and the bigger the gap between you and second place will become (think Google and Microsoft).

What is interesting about the phenomena is that we all make decisions about preference independently but at the same time we are impacted by countless social signals and interactions that shape our decisions.

I don’t know the meaning behind this, but imagine it’s rooted somewhere in human desire to be part of a group or tribe.

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