There is a lot of hype these days around the so-called Long Tail. The Long Tail idea is fairly simple. It goes roughly like this: Capitalism has endowed us with opulence (at least in developed countries). From goods to ideas, many things are available. However, we, as customers, get to see only the emerged part of the iceberg. Think of books, we see only what bookstores can carry (that is books that match their "dollar return per bookshelf square inch" benchmark over a rather short time). We don't see the rest (a bit with Amazon maybe). But the rest may be precisely what we need! So much for capitalistic opulence. Capitalism ends up synonymous of waste.
However each individual knows something that may be valuable to another person. The challenge is to find how these two people can identify each other and start to share. This is where the whole shabam of social networks, tagging, blogs, wikis, folksonomy etc... comes into motion. People at their own individual level are endowed and empowered with technological tools that enable them to spread their bits of knowledge. If I know this book that nobody knows about I can spread the gospel and attract new readers to it. In a nutshell, the "humane long tail" (me) advocates the "content long tail" (the unknown book).
Great! But how come the short tail (the experts, the gurus) does not do the same. After all, they know a great deal, a greater deal than I do. How come they are so unwilling to share? We know this for a fact at Cyberlibris: Indeed, we have more often than not asked faculty members who use Cyberlibris to share their favourite readings with the Cyberlibris community. End result, pretty disappointing in my own view.
Hope may be back though. I just read an article from the French newspaper Le Monde. As a matter of fact this is an interview of Kenzaburô Oé, a famous Japanese author who won the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature. At the end of the interview Kenzaburô Oé explains why he has created a literature prize where the jury has only one member: Him! When asked why he says that he is unsatisfied with the current literature critic system in Japan. He wants to make sure that authentic voices are heard even if they don't sell well in bookstores. And, he concludes "A weird idea of an old man, is not it...?"
No, Mr Kenzaburô Oé, this is not a silly idea. This is a bright idea that people of your calibre should buy and develop. The more initiatives like yours, the shorter the long tail!