Building MultiUser Social Systems

by francine Hardaway on July 22, 2007

Rashmi Sinha’s presentation about how people connect, at WordCamp.

Summary: They don’t connect by saying, “let’s connect.” They connect around an object: a viral sharing, water cooler conversations, tag-based sharing, a cup of coffee.

Rashmi is a young Indian woman speaking at a tech conference full of young white males. Eventually they grow to respect her and listen to her presentation, but not until she proves that she has very important things to say.

Her project,, builds community around slide presentations. But it is really about creating a social system around a particular object — slides. It’s a web-based social system that takes a different spin on “The Wisdom of Crowds.” Web-based social systems can produce wisdom if they encourage cognitive diversity, independence, popularity (top 100 lists, tag clouds). She was amazed to find that churches use Powerpoints for sermons, and fifth graders use them for homework assignments. There is also Powerpoint pornography.

The way we design our social systems ends up deciding what becomes popular. And once someone or something is popular, it’s very hard to dislodge. The blogosphere is a perfect example of this. The early bloggers are heard and are popular, but the later entrants have a tough time developing an audience.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicolas Schriver July 23, 2007 at 6:51 pm

Thrilling article, I will probably use it for my blog.

francine hardaway July 23, 2007 at 6:53 pm

It was quite a presentation!

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