Someone once said to me that if you do something once, it’s an accident. Do it twice and it’s a coincidence. Do it three or more times and that’s just the way you’re living. The underlying message is that if you repeat something enough, then the patterns of use start to tell their own story. Your repeated activity starts to build up into a pattern of use and looking at those patterns can often give insights into the activity that are not apparent by looking at the individual instances of the activity.
This idea of allowing data to “rest where it lays” and deriving insights from it is essentially the idea behind tag clouds, whose patterns reflect repeated use of words, tags, keywords or ideas. If you look at someone’s Delicious tag cloud and see the patterns emerging in the form of highlighted, emphasised words, then you see a clear indication of what interests that person. The more they bookmark using tags, the more evident their interests. The numbers don’t lie when there are enough of them.
if you aggregate enough tag clouds you start to get an insight into the “patterns of the patterns” – you see not just the interests of individuals emerging, but the interests of the group. This is the whole notion of a folksonomy, and it taps into the fascinating concept of the “wisdom of the crowds”. Data, especially when you have enough of it to form reliable patterns, starts to become very interesting.
In the same spirit, I was a little intriugued by a twitter app I saw today, called TweetPsych. TweetPsych looks at the contents of your last 1000 messages on Twitter, analyses the words you use and the way your sentences are constructed, and tries to draw conclusions about what you do, what interests you, and what sort of person you might be – psychologically speaking. I’ve no idea how accurate it might be, but it’s an interesting idea. I’ll be honest and admit to you that I have absolutely no idea what they really mean, but here’s my results anyway… http://tweetpsych.com/?name=betchaboy.
Regardless of whether TweetPsych is accurate and up to scratch just yet or not, I think it signals an interesting development in what is sure to become a much bigger deal. The notion that some level of machine intelligence can be derived from an analysis of massive amounts of our online footprints. We are all leaving massive amounts of data behind us as we trawl around the Net, and somewhere in that trail of data there are machines piecing together an accurate picture of us… what we like, where we go on holidays, who we talk to, what our preferences are, and so on. It’s not a new idea – Google’s entire advertising strategy is based on the concept of knowing more and more about you – but seeing TweetPsych’s attempt at psychoanalysing me from these 140 character snippets of my thoughts just threw it into a new light.
Let’s just hope that this data can be put to use in positive, creative ways that help enhance our lives.
You are what you Tweet by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.