Highlights from three of the sessions I attended today at the Web 2.0 Expo

User-Generated Censorship
Annalee Newitz, wrote an article in Wired, I Bought Votes on Digg, to illustrate how people can manipulate social networks. 

In today’s session, she contrasted the wisdom of crowds with their potential destructive nature.  Annalee went through several sites (Blogger, Flickr, YouTube, Digg, and Wikipedia) illustrating that clear rules, quick follow up, and easy ways for users to filter content (preventing them from “stumbling on to content that upsets them”) can prevent unwarranted censorship.

Web 2.0 Product Management: Optimizing Metrics and Viral Growth
Dan Olsen’s session on Web 2.0 product management was likely the most comprehensive and tangible session I’ve attended.  The only problem was that there was no way to take notes fast enough to keep up with him!

Dan spoke about how the lines between product management and marketing have blurred since many products are spread virally, by the customer not by marketing and sales.  On Facebook, for example, it’s your friends, acquaintances, and colleagues that get you to join, not the Facebook marketing department (if there even is one!).

Most of the presentation was concerned with how to define, measure, analyze, synthesize, implement, and impact metrics to increase ROI. 

If I hear that he’s posted his slides on his website, I’ll let you know. 

Every product manager should look at them!

The Next Generation of Tagging: Searching and Discovering a Better User Experience
This session was fascinating.  Kakul Srivastava, product manager at Flickr, discussed how combining user tagging with finely tuned algorithms can result in “inferred tags.” 

Inferred tags make it possible to disambiguate tagging (know that Washington means Washington DC and not the state, the president, or the mountain). 

How often tags are used (identifying “hot tags”) or if there are spikes in usage or searching helps identify breaking news or items of interest.