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Perils of Popularity

or how to design for hits
Talk about the nature of popularity at Yahoo Research Berkeley on May 25th, 2007

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Perils of Popularity

  1. The perils of popularity (or how to create hits) Rashmi Sinha
  2. 5 observations about today’s web 3 models of popularity 10 principles for design
  3. 5 observations
  4. 1. Second generation social networks <ul><li>Sharing in large networks, versus own site </li></ul><ul><li>Human crawlers </li></ul><ul><li>Urban sociality </li></ul>
  5. First generation Social Networks (Friendster, LinkedIn…) <ul><li>How it works </li></ul><ul><li>People connect to each other </li></ul><ul><li>Six degrees of separation </li></ul><ul><li>“ Are you my friend” awkwardness </li></ul>1) I am linked to -> -> to you --->You are linked to her -> -> to her…
  6. Hi I found you while I was searching my network at LinkedIn. Let's connect directly, so we can help each other with referrals. If we connect, both of our networks will grow… X
  7. Object mediated social networks <ul><li>“… sociality along lines that include objects in the concept of social relations.” </li></ul><ul><li>Katrin-Knorr Cetina </li></ul>Coffee Tomatoes
  8. Model a: Watercooler conversations (around objects e.g., Flickr, Yahoo answers) 1) I share my pics -> -> with you ---> -->You share your pics -> ---> with him <ul><li>How it works </li></ul><ul><li>People share objects | watch others </li></ul><ul><li>Connections through objects </li></ul><ul><li>Social info streams: emergence of popular, interesting items </li></ul>
  9. Model b: Viral sharing (passing on interesting stuff, e.g., YouTube videos) <ul><li>How it works </li></ul><ul><li>Individual to individual to individual </li></ul><ul><li>Popularity based navigation track “viral” items </li></ul>1) I send video I like -> -> to you. You pass on --> --> to her, who sends on to her, who passes on…
  10. Model c: Tag-based social sharing (linked by concepts. e.g., 1) I tag my bookmarks -> you see my tags -->You share your tags -> <ul><li>How it works </li></ul><ul><li>Saving & tagging your stuff (creating bookmarks). </li></ul><ul><li>Tags mediate social connections </li></ul><ul><li>Formation of social/conceptual information streams. Emergence of popular, interesting items </li></ul>politics lebanon Global voices politics technology Global voices web JAVA CNN networks blogs science science science brain
  11. Model d: Social news creation (rating news stories, e.g., digg, Newsvine) 1) I find interesting story -> you rate story -->Others rate stories <ul><li>How it works </li></ul><ul><li>Finding and rating stories </li></ul><ul><li>Popular stories rise to top </li></ul>5 4
  12. Urban sociality <ul><li>Crowds in MMORPGS </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Alone together </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Passive presence of others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Playing for the audience, but not interacting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Ducheneaut et al. CHI 2006) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social facilitation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>passive presence can influence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Observed in cockroaches! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Zajonc, 1960) </li></ul></ul>
  13. 2. Sharing is relevant to search <ul><li>Conversations around objects: community meets catalog </li></ul>
  14. Popularity is popular on sharing sites <ul><li>No multi-level menus! </li></ul><ul><li>Navigation = Top100 lists, tag clouds </li></ul>
  15. <ul><li>Did Paul Ford speak too soon? </li></ul>
  16. The sharing imperative
  17. is starting to influence search
  19. Sharing compared to search <ul><li>shared by creator </li></ul><ul><li>smaller reach </li></ul><ul><li>higher quality </li></ul><ul><li>centralized repositories </li></ul><ul><li>relatively homogenous </li></ul><ul><li>social activity inside indicates relevancy, popularity </li></ul>
  20. 3. conformity effects in social decisions <ul><li>sequential decisions </li></ul><ul><li>even 3 is enough </li></ul>
  21. How Influence Works The individual Conversion (private acceptance) Independence Counterconformity Information Influence Normative Influence Interpersonal Influence Compliance Social Influence
  22. Social influence in web-based systems <ul><li>Cognitive Diversity </li></ul><ul><li>Independence </li></ul><ul><li>Decentralization </li></ul><ul><li>Easy Aggregation </li></ul>
  23. 3. rich get richer effects at network level
  24. Duncan Watts experiments <ul><li>Two worlds </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Individual </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Influence – 8 separate worlds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Theory of cumulative advantage </li></ul></ul>
  25. 4. Era of hits is not over
  26. Long tail hypothesis <ul><li>democratized production > more inventory </li></ul><ul><li>democratized distribution > more consumption lowered search costs > reach niches </li></ul>
  27. N Sync vs. lonely girl
  29. System designer as studio boss <ul><li>People want a shared reality </li></ul><ul><li>Mechanisms emerge to create trends </li></ul>
  30. Creating trends <ul><li>Everything starts as equal </li></ul><ul><li>People can connect locally </li></ul><ul><li>Highlight alternative viewpoints </li></ul><ul><li>System should be flexible </li></ul>
  31. 3 models of sociality <ul><li>Google </li></ul><ul><li>Digg </li></ul><ul><li>YouTube </li></ul>
  32. Google - Blind sociality <ul><li>less social engagement </li></ul><ul><li>sequential conformity reduced </li></ul>
  33. No way to navigate social network
  37. Digg as a laser beam <ul><li>Focused </li></ul><ul><li>in time </li></ul><ul><li>on tech topics </li></ul><ul><li>young male users </li></ul>
  38. encourages mobs <ul><ul><li>Quick, engaging, transparent metric </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sequential decisions </li></ul></ul>
  39. Youtube - promiscuous popularity <ul><ul><li>Many metrics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Different strokes for different folks </li></ul></ul>
  40. Popularity on SlideShare Keep it on your desktop Download Remember stuff, tell someone you like their stuff Favorite & tag Share with your friends Email Share on your blog Embed Watch it View Interact with others Comment Goal Metric
  41. Most viewed <ul><li>shown on front page </li></ul><ul><ul><li>content it surfaces </li></ul></ul>
  42. Most favorited & tagged <ul><ul><li>balance individual and social </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>reflect back tags in social stream </li></ul></ul><ul><li>main social gesture </li></ul>
  44. 10 principles to design for sharing
  45. Forget the ipod!
  46. Give up control This is messy!
  47. 1. Make system personally useful <ul><ul><li>memorable personal snippets (e.g., & Flickr) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-expression (e.g., Newsvine) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social status: Digg </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t count on altruism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>thrive on people’s selfishness </li></ul></ul>
  49. 2. Symbiotic relationship between personal & social <ul><li>Small individual contributions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>can be collected and mashed-up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Simple, guessable URLs for everything </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Personal snippets > Social stream </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pictures > by Events </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Music > by Playlists </li></ul></ul>
  50. 3. Porous boundary between public & private <ul><li>Personal desktop software vs. social websites </li></ul><ul><li>People will share for the right returns </li></ul><ul><ul><li>defaults to public, can change to private </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>user has control individual pieces & sets </li></ul></ul></ul>Privacy settings on Flickr
  51. 4. levels of participation <ul><li>Everyone does not need to create! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Implicit creation (creating by consuming) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remixing—adding value to others’ content </li></ul></ul>Source: Bradley Horowitz’s weblog, Elatable, Feb. 17, 2006, “Creators, Synthesizers, and Consumers”
  52. 5. Let people feel presence of others <ul><ul><li>Sense that others are out there </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>what paths are worn </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>real time updating </li></ul></ul>
  53. 6. and yet, moments of Independence… <ul><li>Choreography: when alone, when part of group </li></ul><ul><li>prevent mobs </li></ul><ul><li>not too easy to mimic others </li></ul><ul><ul><li>incentives for originality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>allow for alternative viewpoints </li></ul></ul>
  54. 7. Add in serendipity <ul><li>navigation not just about popularity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>access to some popular stuff (keep this fast moving) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>make “long tail” accessible </li></ul><ul><ul><li>popularity as a jump off point to other ways of exploring </li></ul></ul><ul><li>personalization & recommendations </li></ul><ul><li>ad-hoc groups? </li></ul>
  55. 8. Complete circle of sharing I share You use it ?
  56. 9. Add in a dash of experts <ul><li>contest on SlideShare: both judges & popular votes </li></ul>
  57. 10. Most of all, allow for play
  58. Finally <ul><li>your slides at </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>find me at </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>