Number 9, Revisited

There is this thing called the “90-9-1 rule” — that is not what this is about. This post is all about the number 99.


My rough estimate is that about 99% of the world-wide web is basically “personal websites”. The remaining 1% are where the really interesting stuff happens. One might perhaps refer to the 99% as “instances”, and the 1% as “types” — or perhaps it’s simpler to say that whereas the 99% are “specific cases”, the 1% are ideas,… — well, in any case: something like that.

I would say that of these ideas, some exist in the real world (such as apples and oranges) and some are abstract (such as circles) or even fictional (such as unicorns). I might even venture to suppose that 99% of the “idea-websites” represent real-world communities (for example, a community of people who are thinking about “weather” might congregate at; or a community of people who are thinking about “movies” might congregate at; and also: the community of  people who are thinking about jeeps might congregate at, nirvana fans might congregate at, and so on…), and the remaining 1% (that’s 1% of 1% — so actually 0.01% of all web sites) are about ideas that are not associated with any idea, and that are also not associated with anyone or any thing — these are purely made up strings, that are completely random. Some of these strings might be familiar to you: bebo, hi5, facebook, etc. They are not “about” anything; they are simply virtual places where people “hang out” and “socialize“. I wrote about such “social media” yesterday.

Why? Because my primary interest on the web is actually “idea-sites“. I spend a lot of time thinking about ideas — on the one hand the vocabulary of “natural language”, but on the other hand also ideas such as “jeep”, “coke”, “lego” or “kleenex” which are almost natural language terms. All of these terms (including such clearly “natural language” terms as “baby”, “book” or “bicycle”) have communities associated with them.

I view “community” and “social media” as mutually exclusive entities. If you are engaged in a community, then you are thinking about something, involved with something, participating in something, and so on. In contrast, a “social media” website exists without any inherent unifying concept — it is sort of like a fan club without needing to be a fan of anything in particular. Perhaps you could say people who think about, engage and participate in social media are fans of being a fan, or maybe fans of being together, or something like that.

Whereas online communities can be very plentiful (just as the number of words in a dictionary can be quite large), the number of social media websites that people can normally keep track of are rather limited (simply because nonsense strings are hard to memorize). This is why even though many, many social media websites exist across the entire world-wide web, only a small number are widely known to a large number of people across the entire globe.

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