The Longest Now


Getting the word out
Sunday November 16th 2003, 6:18 pm
Filed under: metrics

Broadcasting timely / breaking information to those who care about it should be easy


The absolute cost of broadcasting from one computer to another is under $1/GB, even after amortizing the cost of the sending machine/hardware and assuming moderate economies of scale.  This is on the order of a millicent per memo(sorry, Millicent)


Clustering on each end of this process can further reduce cost by another few orders of magnitude.  Making use of something simple like a public electronic bulletin-board would allow each such titbit to be broadcast to thousands; similarly, gathering together similar sources of information to reduce {time, topic, audience flag} redundancy would allow a five-fold reduction in the number of broadcast titbits. 


Now, however, you must pay for hardware; half of your $60 bulletin board is replaced with a ten thousand dollar screen.  If a hundred clustered titbits are broadcast a day, a hundred thousand over 3 years, this means an extra twenty cents per tb, or an extra centicent per memo[= 5 tb] if two thousand people pause long enough during the day to scan the board.


Oops.  Looks like we’ve actually upped the cost of transmission by a magnitude.  But now we’ve also taken care of contextualizing (clustering increases relevance, helps recipients compare similar events/happenings/announcements), dissemination (how did you get your list of interested parties in the first place?  were they able to tell they shouldn’t filter it into the trash? [this happens to me with a few messages a day that I honestly care about] etc…), and have left the vagaries of displaying information in the central hands of experts.  Before, you were limited to the lowest common denominator of the display terminals of your recipients; but now you can access just about any high-resolution display format, if the display boards are well-designed (which extras you have on the order of $1k per display to pay for).


Good displays can provide another half magnitude of information density; good use of familiar logos can greatly increase scanning[reading] speed; more subtle interleaving and refreshing can improve on the transmission rate of 100 tb a day.  Each of these improvements makes the use of the system enjoyable, a more rewarding daily ritual — and we’re also back down to the microcent memo.  This means that reminding five hundred people twenty times each about a timely bit of information costs you around $1… after paying off middle-men, and accounting for the many people who won’t care about it in the first place. 



[of course the sources are now spending a bit more time dealing with clustering, but they will  welcome the excuse to stop padding one-fact messages.  When we have a true information-glut problem, our world will already have become a much richer place.]


That’s about as much as it costs to have your secretary spend five minutes proofreading it and sending it off.  As for acquiring timely information and splitting it up into useful bits… I’m not yet sure how that works  I’d have to ask a news channel, calendar maintainer, news librarian, or maybe even a high-speed current events commentator


Once I do, have no fear, you’ll be the first to hear about it. 




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