Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Algorithms and long tails oh my!

You probably didn't know it just by looking at me, but I was a Math and Natural Sciences major when I was enrolled in college, Ohio Northern University to be specific.  Yes, looks can be deceiving.  You probably thought for sure that I was a fashion major, yes?  Ah, that's OK because I do have a keen passion for fashion on many a good day.

Well folks!  I was directed this afternoon to check out a recent Matt Cutts video explaining the importance of the long tail.  Huh?  A long tail?  I must admit that I have been hearing more and more about long tail searches and long tail search engine optimization ... and while I get it, the theory, I don't necessarily get everything about it. But, that's OK ... I'll bet that YOU don't necessarily get it and won't necessarily be getting it for some time into the future.  So, you and I really need to figure that out!  Sooner rather than later.

So here I am once again exploring my short tail searches for algorithms ... one thing leads to another. Here is a play out of my journey ... First, I've searched Google on "long tail" yes, really! I know that is a rather short search term. I naturally gravitate to the Wikipedia reference for "long tail" as behind Google [Google has always been #1 in my book!], Wikipedia rocks for me.  "The long tail refers to the statistical property that a larger share of population rests within the tail of a probability distribution than observed under a 'normal' or Gaussian distribution."

So, wow, that is some reference page as it is not meant for the typical blonde, I think.  I am thinking back to those two semesters of Probability and Statistics at ONU! C and B; not my usual A.  I should have paid closer attention to the professor!  Who knew that I would need that at this advanced stage in my life?

I scanned through the technical information on the Wikipedia reference and stopped at "see more" which directed me to swarm intelligence. A word jumped out at me; i.e. stochastic ... as I remember using such a term for a fountain solution that a former company developed ... using that in my marketing literature!

My eyes were next directed on that page to example algorithms ... and that my dears is where I was heard to utter [not udder], "Holy Cow!" You have GOT to check out all those example algorithms; you won't believe all those algorithms!

Next ... I was into reading about Ant colony optimization and before you know it, I got into something rather scientific too, the Firefly algorithm. Now, I truly get fireflies but never would have guessed that there would be an algorithm based on their behavior. It is just frigging amazing!

Something that also stuck with me as I read about the long tail today was how Google can tweak their algorithm with over 400 tweaks in a twelve month period of time. I think that sounds like a lot. So, my action plan is to get me up to speed on understanding long tails and perhaps algorithms too.

What is an algorithm? "An algorithm is an effective method for solving a problem expressed as a finite sequence of instructions."  And, what the heck is a long tail?  Do you get it?  Algorithms and long tails, oh my!!!

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