Seth Goldstein has begun a series of essays on arbitrage. I’ve heard him speak about this fascinating topic before — as it applies to Internet advertising, of course — but it’s great to read this all in one place. (Seth suggests printing out his blog entries, as he tends toward treatises rather than short posts.)
Every new search that emerges on the Internet creates its own ecology of algorithmic and sponsored results. The more obscure the search, typically, the less experience the engines have with covering the results smoothly with a common group of relevant advertisers…. Wittgenstein claims that “to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.” (LW, PI, #19) and so despite the curious assortment of sponsors, there is a certain vitality that emerges from their unique combination. While Internet companies and their investors consider a query that returns no products or advertisers to be “dead” space, these moments are in fact the most life-affirming of all.