In the two weeks I have been using Wisdom, an iPad and iPhone app that gives you detailed demographic data about your Facebook friends, the number of users has gone from just over 4 million to just under 6 million. Part of that rapid growth is most likely attributable to an extensive advertising campaign on the iPad version of the New York Times (which is where I first heard about it).
Well, maybe. Depending on your definition of “smarter.”
For example, does it make me smarter to know that New Engald Patriots fans on the Wisdom network like Narragansett Beer and New York Giants fans prefer Hennessy? Or that fans of both teams prefer Dunkin Donuts? And why is Wisdom still teasing its analysis of Super Bowl fans nearly a full-week after the game?
The U.S. Election breakdown is slightly more telling. Based on “likes” of candidates on Facebook in the last 12 months, it shows a handsome U.S. map showing which states favor which candidates, then shows the demographic makeup of each candidates followers (in other words, the same information found in almost any decent political poll).
You can also drill down and look at your friends — you can see who has posted on Facebook the most in the past 30 days, the average number of words they used in each post and other trivia.I now know that in the past 30 days Maya Angelou and David Sedaris were the most popular authors among my friends, and U2 and Johnny Cash were the most popular musicians. Nine of my friends have made a combined 27 trips to Fenway Park, and one of my friends has been to the same hospital six times (whoever it is, I hope everything is okay).
I can also look at who I interact with most. There’s loads of other data, but not as much as you’d think: I can generally check every chart and figure on Wisdom within five or 10 minutes. And even as the network increases in size, not much changes on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.
Among other things, Wisdom lets you check where your Facebook friends have been checking in to find places you may want to go to.
Wisdom gives you a chance to do some very limited number crunching of your own, but not much. The design is beautiful, and it seems somewhat addictive the first time you play around with it, but then you realize there’s not much you can do with the data aside from look at it.
And that’s the problem: Every time I finish scanning through Wisdom, I’m left with that “Now what?” feeling we get when we don’t really know what else to do with an app. The data is interesting, but there’s not much I can do with it: I can’t download it, I can’t even access it from my desktop, making it harder to crunch.
Wisdom has some recommendations of how to use the app, including finding places to go when traveling and find out what’s popular. I have loads of other apps that do all of the things Wisdom claims to be able to do, and, since their focused (finding the best place to eat, keeping me up-to-date on news and trends), the information in those apps comes off as being far more manageable than the artfully-presented glut I get in Wisdom.
Q: What Does It Say About The Wisdom Of The Crowd That “White People Stink” Has Been Trending On Twitter For Almost 24 Hours?
doperative writes “Much conventional wisdom about programs written by volunteers is wrong. The authors took money for research from Microsoft, long the arch- enemy of the open-source movement— although they assure readers that the funds came with no strings attached) Free programs are not always cheaper. To be sure, the upfront cost of proprietary software is higher (although open-source programs are not always free). But companies that use such programs spend more on such things as learning to use them and making them work with other software”
Conventional wisdom holds that fans of the Internet are introverted losers with few discernable social skills who gain pleasure from being backward and apolitical. However, according to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, conventional wisdom is wrong.
The study, based on interviews with 2,303 adults aged 18 and older, found that 80% of Internet users are active in voluntary organization or real world groups compared to 56% of non-Internet users. Of these same Internet users, 53% felt that social media helped them get a candidate elected to office while 46% believe that the Internet plays a major role in getting the word out about a cause.
The Pew Report is focused on online groups and it says, in short, that social media involvement is helping people join groups, thereby negating some of Putnams “bowling alone” circa-2000 social estrangement theories. It seems that instead of joining the PTA and maybe participating in a pot-luck, Internet users ascribe far more power to their groups than earlier generations. In fact, 65% of the respondents replied that they believed that the Internet was an excellent source for learning about and attending rallies and meetings in the real world.
What does this all mean, on the aggregate, besides suggesting that given my Internet usage that I should be getting out more? Well, it seems that the Internet, contrary to popular opinion, is making us closer and more connected. This is good news but is also ascribes to the Internet a power over political and group events that it may or may not have. After all, the Internet is a medium of communication that simply reduces the cost of reaching thousands, if not millions, of people. Hosting a party or a political rally is easy when you can reach a few million folks, whether it’s electronically or through the printed page. Less popular groups, say the “Grannies Who Love Headbanging” group on Yahoo, however, will still remain unpopular. The Internet does not guarantee popularity but it does augment it.
I, for one, intend to attend some more physical meet-ups with other people. That is right after I upgrade my Mac Pro and maybe play a little Civ V.