The power of power laws

Clay Shirky has an interesting article on power laws. Most people know about power laws because of the “80/20” rule, or Pareto’s law. It turns out that power laws accurately describe any social system “where many people are free to choose between many options” – his example is the popularity of webloggers, but the theory can be applied to many other important aspects of social life. I immedately think of income and wealth distribution, hit products (crossing over the tipping point), and media stars.
Dave rebutts that weblogs are not like BBSs or The Well. Key quote: “How many of the weblogs he mentions have you heard of? I found that most of them were strange to me. So if we’re hitting a scaling wall, why are these blogs becoming popular, even dominant, without any of us knowing about them?” Good point.