Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Witch's Hat

Several writers are blogging about the so-called long tail of distributions of various resources such as readership, sales, contributions, work performed and other values based on connectionist technologies. That's a good approximation and what the graph looks like in a single case, but take all of those cases and plot instances of the populations in the z-dimension. That plot looks like a cliff if side by side, but the more economical rendering puts the XYZ orgin in the middle of the global space and plots around it. Then it looks like the familar witch's hat.

That's a resonant image. Most of us don't live in the tail of the curve, we live on the brim of the hat. We don't wear hats for the point, fashionable though it might be at the time; we wear them for the brim because it is the brim that protects our eyes from the sun and our ears from the rain. It is the brim we can curve up or down or flatten as the seasons and the styles change. It is the brim we hold in our hand when we say hello or wave goodbye. The brim is the reason for the hat. It is the service, the valuable surface that with the sides covers our bald spot, holds down our hair, and supports the top. As the hat grows old and the pointy top begins to curve and the sides begin to wrinkle coming at last to resemble the sorting hat from Harry Potter, the brim still serves us.

There is no great moral here, except to note that being average doesn't mean something is necessarily of lesser value. After all, it is the point of having the hat.


Joshua Allen said...

Fantastic metaphor!

Tony Fisk said...

...although I'm not so sure that it is the brim that hides the bald spot!

len said...

Thanks guys. Appreciated.

It depends on the size of the bald spot, the head and the hat. Didja ever see Anton La Vey?

Ideas one has in the bathroom require vetting. Gad we are engineers. "I'm sorry Mr. Keats, but we can't conclusively certify that beauty is truth until you tell us if the value is Boolean or string."

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