You're Talking a Lot, But You're Not Saying Anything


How does commentary affect the world around us?

Do Your Tweets Model You?

In Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte talks about the need to “model” his sister-in-law so he can buy her a present. In Remix, Lawrence Lessig mentions how Amazon can best model his purchasing habits, thanks to all the information they have about him. Now, there’s Twanalyst, which can tell you all about you based on your tweets.

It’s somewhat scarily accurate. The report for my personal Twitter account nails my personality as “likeable, inquisitive, cautious,” and calls my style “chatty” and “coherent” (wonder what it takes to be labeled incoherent!). I’m called a WRITER, which may be because I am one, or because I say I’m one in my personality. Either way, it’s relatively on par with reality (or so I’d like to think).

What does the service have to say about the Twitter account for Bostonist, the website about Boston that I help run? Bostonist’s personality is “renowned, sociable, vain” and our style is “chatty, academic.” (Is it chatty because I write so many of the posts?) We are identified as a ROBOT. The Bostonist Twitter account is primarily just a feed of our blog posts, so that makes sense. I am interested in our “renowned, sociable, vain” personality though. Are we renowned because we have so many followers (only about 1500, but more than many Twitter accounts)? Because we get retweeted a decent amount? Or is the retweeting what makes us sociable? Finally, “Vain” is perhaps the most interesting comment… does it stem from US not retweeting other content often (we don’t)? From our “royal we” writing style (which doesn’t usually come through in the tweeted content, I don’t think)? I’m not sure. Regardless, an interesting outcome.

Finally… what does the Twanalyst have to say about the Twitter feed of THIS blog? Well, it’s a little disappointing. My “talking” personality is “ordinary, sociable, cautious”–basically a blend of Bostonist and my personal account, but with “ordinary” thrown in. Ordinary is never a word you want applied to you! My style is “quiet, academic,” which makes sense. I am identified as a ROBOT which is true because the Twitter account is just a feed of the blog.

So it seems that automated personality analysis can have something to say about what we say on Twitter, and at least some of it is reasonably accurate. But what can it really be used for, other than telling us some things we probably already knew? Could it be used to connect people with similar personalities? Is that even a good idea, since “opposites attract” and all? Twanalyst in particular seems to be in beginning stages, but I think that “metatweets” containing information about what your tweets mean and what demographic your tweets peg you as will become valuable, particularly for advertisers. So, careful what you tweet… they’ll know what brands you’re looking for!


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