Duke Computer Science Colloquium

In Age of Information Overload, Ability To Sustain Attention Determines Success of Internet Startups

Speaker:Bruno Ribeiro
Date: Monday, November 3, 2014
Time: 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Location: D106 LSRC, Duke


The outstanding success stories of Internet startups such as Facebook and LinkedIn has attracted much attention to study of online social network dynamics and growth. These success stories, however, overshadow an untold number of similar ventures that fail. The study of website popularity is ultimately incomplete without general mechanisms that can describe both successes and failures. In this talk I will present the evolution of the daily number of users (DAU) of twenty-two membership-based Internet startups measured over the span of six years -- encompassing online social networks, grassroots movements, online forums, and membership-only Internet stores -- well balanced between successes and failures. I will then introduce two interacting reaction-diffusion processes to model the dynamics of user attention and activity on these websites. I will show that my model not only explains the curious shapes of the DAU time series in my dataset but also provides means to roughly predict their evolution.

This work appeared at WWW'14 and ​has been featured at CNET, ACM TechNews, and The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. An extended summary can be found at Carnegie Mellon's press release:

In Age of Information Overload, Ability To Sustain Attention Determines Success


Dr. Bruno Ribeiro is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science. Dr. Ribeiro completed his Ph.D. in 2010 at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Between 2012 and 2013 Dr. Ribeiro was a visiting researcher at the Department of Physics at Northeastern University. His interests are in data mining, complex systems, and computer networks.

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George Konidaris