September 25, 2006

The Long Tail

I finished The Long Tail on the drive in this morning. A really interesting book on the economics of niche markets and how technology has enable companies like Google and Lego to capture these small markets by empowering users through technology. I wasn't new to the concept before I listened to the book, but I am glad that I dug deeper by listening to the entire text.

I have often thought about the long tail of learning. At one level, the internet has enabled the long tail of learning by providing self-serve tools that allow individuals to search for concepts or have "Fingertip Knowledge" as Elliot has called it. This is also now being called informal learning or watercooler learning.

At another level, it would seem that there could be additional tools to improve the more formal approaches to learning. Such tools would empower learners to manage their own learning and increase the efficiencies of creating learning content. We are working at these tools at my company. I am not sure how long it will be before we will have one ready for the public, but I am really excited about the opportunities that they present.


  1. Personally, I find informal learning to be almost as powerful (if not more powerful) than formal learning. I look back at my undergraduate experience and I compare what I've been taught with what I taught myself. Of course, there are many things that I could not (or would not have know to) teach myself concerning good, sound engineering practices, but looking at what I've learned on my own shows me how powerful informal learning can be. I used Google extensively to search the web to find what I wanted. When I did find what I wanted, I often dug even deeper until I had a collection of things that, when combined, gave me all I needed to know about that instance of what I was trying to figure out.

    Informal learning is a self-paced, self-directed path to figure out what YOU set out to figure out. Sure, classes and/or training definitely helps, don't get me wrong, but often a learner knows precisely what he/she is looking for, therefore, only the learner knows when he/she has found it. So, letting the learner control the flow of what's on their list of things to learn is a very powerful option.

    Having a teacher teach you is fine. Having the class contributing as well is good. Having a community of inspired, dedicated learners supporting the very thing you're learning is great. But that's just my two cents.

  2. I agree Ryan. Particularly when performance is the final outcome, having the ability to perform a task or apply new knowledge or articulate a particular point, enabling a learner or yourself to consume information is powerful. The critical component now is to use filtering tools to enable this process and make it hype-efficient.

  3. Anonymous10:46 AM

    I find some informations that are werry useful for me. I am glad you finished the book. The Long Tail will be most certanly a big sukcess.

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