Social mechanisms of the Digg user revolt

People who know me know that I am fascinated by Digg as an example of a flawed but very effective social system. That effectiveness of Digg was evident yesterday as the users revolted against the censoring of some stories on HD-DVD by Digg. Enough has been said about the censoring by Digg, the response by users, so let me focus on the social mechanics of the situation. Digg has always been particularly effective in funneling a lot of user energy into a few stories that drive a lot of traffic and energy. There are a number of ways Digg achieves that.

a) There is only one metric that matters on Digg – the number of Diggs. Contrast that with the many metrics on a site like YouTube or SlideShare (number of views, comments, favorites, embeds, downloads). The primary self-expression on Digg however, is the number of Diggs. That’s what users focus on and that’s what the system responds to.

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Thoughts about the Web 2.0 expo and some presentation slides

I was there yesterday. Gave a talk at the Web 2.0 open and spent the rest of the day listening to talks, catching up with friends. The talk that I enjoyed the most was David Hornik’s presentation: What I Learned from Syphilis: Epidemiology & Viral Marketing. The talk was about how to apply lessons from successful viruses to web apps. David is an engaging speaker and his approach made you think about the problem of virality of web apps from a different angle.

Some of the presentations (listed below) are starting to show up on SlideShare as part of the SlideShare Web 2.0 group. The ones that I see so far are
Thomas Vanderwal: Tagging that works
Kellan: Casual Privacy
Steve Souders and Tenni Theurer: High Performance Web sites
Andre Charland: Web usability for the rest of us

Thomas Howe: Writing voice mashups with Amazon Turks
and my own of course

Please add yours if you did upload to SlideShare (or anywhere else for that matter).

Social websites and the theory of cumulative advantage (or the rich get richer effect)

Duncan Watts (author of Six Degrees) wrote an article in the New York Times about the rich get richer effect (via). He reports on a series of experiments on the web where they tracked the rise in popularity of music in different “parallel worlds” where participants could either see what others were doing (social influence condition) or not (individual conditon). Their main findings were that in the social influence condition (where participants could see what others were doing), the hits were much more popular (and unpopular songs more unpopular) than in the individual condition (where participants could not see what others were doing).

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Basecamp – great for communication, bad for finding information

I love Basecamp. Have been using it for pretty much from the beginning. I would love to keep on using it. But it just is not keeping up with us.

Basecamp is great for short term consulting projects. Sometimes, it was hard to get clients to post to Basecamp instead of emailing. But overall, it worked well for communication. After the end of the project as well, it serves as an archive, letting me go back and get an overview of project, look at associated files etc., whenever I want to.

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All roads lead to search (and advertising)

Though my beginning is this field was with search, in recent years, I have not focused on it. Expect that to change, as we increasingly focus on search with SlideShare. A huge part of what we are doing is to webify the content locked up in powerpoint and other presentation files. Webifying the content means enabling it to be found by anyone who might be interested. It means search. We realize that our search sucked (there is no other way to describe it) and we did not want users to wait while we fixed it. So, the first step was simply to outsource the problem to Google – meaning use their custom site search. However, this is simply a starting point. We expect to come back and build other types of advanced search more suited to the specific nature and format of the content on SlideShare.

The second issue I am increasingly interested in is Advertising. As you can imagine, that is something we are playing around with on SlideShare. We want to get more experimental – trying more formats and placements – both with Google ads (which we currently have and on our own) and on our own.

So readers, what blogs should I start reading as I pursue this interest? Are there any books/articles that are a must read?

Massively multiplayer online sharing?

I came across this article by Jeremy Liew about how game mechanics can be applied to social media. He was referring to how many of the principles of game design can apply to social sharing sites. For example, easy to learn, hard to master, collecting things, providing feedback etc. I have been talking about similar issues in my “Designing for Social Sharing” talk for a little while now. And like with him, I have been inspired by Amy Jo Kim’s work. Another inspiration has been Katrin Knorr’s Cetina’s work on object-centered sociality and its interpretation by Jyri Engeström.

After all, what are sites like YouTube or SlideShare, but places for massively-multiplayer sharing of digital objects like photos, slides or video, kind of like MMORPGS, but different. Now, if only we could come up with another equally awkward acronym for these sites? How about MMOS – Massively Multiplayer Online Sharing OR maybe MMOOS or Massively Multiplayer Online Object Sharing? Thats not nearly awakward enough! Anyone else want to have a go at an acronym? Share below.

My slides for the IA Summit plenery

I was asked to do the closing plenery at the IA Summit this year. This is a real honor and I thought for a long time about what I wanted to talk about. I ended up talking about designing SlideShare and why we did not use many of the typical UX methods and tools for that. Instead we opted for an agile design process that works well with fast-paced development of a social (ok, I will use the word – “Web2.0”) application.

Update: Alberto Mucignat has a point by point analysis of my talk – in Italian!. Go here for original Italian version and here for Google translation.

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Twitter and the intermingling of our streams of consciousness

I looked at my Twitter webpage yesterday and it occurred to me that I was seeing the streams of consciousness for several of my friends mixed together. Its somewhat strange, because a stream of concsiousness is such a personal thing. But inhibitions have droppped sufficiently, and technology has made it sufficiently easy that people post short updates about whatever is happening with them. And I do mean “whatever”. One person might be partying while the other is deciding what to eat and a third person is simply bored. And Twitter presents it as a linear stream organized by time.

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