Web Directions Conferences for web and digital professionals

Rashmi Sinha – The perils of popularity

A presentation given at Web Directions South, Sydney Australia, September 27 2007.

Presentation slides

Session description

Can web-based social systems with their wide reach, user-generated and user-filtered content harness the wisdom of crowds? Duncan Watts’ recent experiments reveal how popularity based web social systems can throw up fickle, random trends that are essentially unreplicable, and only tangentially related to quality. However, popularity as a way to filter information continues to rise in popularity – replacing hierarchical menus, overtaking tags, and even used in lieu of relevance. Rashmi will link decades of psychology research on group decision making and social influence to what is happening on the web today. She will discuss different models of popularity based filtering such as Digg and YouTube. What are ways to avoid the Watts dilemma – including Google’s model of sociality, tag-based social systems, and object-based social networks. She will present some principles for the design of web social systems and how there were used in the design of SlideShare and discuss how SlideShare as an evolving social system handles popularity.

About Rashmi Sinha


Rashmi Sinha PortraitRashmi Sinha is a designer, researcher and entrepreneur. She is the CEO for SlideShare, a rapidly growing site for sharing slideshows. Rashmi writes a blog at rashmisinha.com.

Rashmi received a PhD in cognitive psychology from Brown University in 1998. After moving to UC Berkeley for a PostDoc, she fell in love with the web, and realized that many issues that web technologists think about are problems of human psychology. She switched departments and worked on search interfaces & recommender systems at the Information School, UC Berkeley. Deciding that she enjoyed practical problems more, she co-founded Uzanto, a user experience consulting company. Lately Uzanto has focused on products – their first product MindCanvas (released Nov 2005) – reshapes traditional research techniques like card-sorting, and divide-the-dollar into game-like experiences for remote research. In Oct 2006, Uzanto released its second product – Slideshare, a website for sharing presentations. Now, Rashmi is focused on the business side of things but is still intimately involved with design for both products.

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