Judging someone by their Facebook Profile

Creative Commons License photo: nyki_m

New Scientist reports this week on a study which looked for a correlation between how “friendly” somebody was percieved to be and how “friendly” their Facebook profiles page appeared to be.

University students considered likeable by people that met them in real life have been found to make a similar impression on people who view their Facebook profiles.

“People who were expressive in tone of voice and facial expression were also socially expressive on Facebook. They posted a lot of pictures, they posted photo albums, they seemed to have a lot of conversations with people,” says Max Weisbuch, a psychologist at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts who led the study.

I suppose it’s interesting to quantify, but not particularly surprising. People don’t make things up on their Facebook profile because their network is full of people they know well.

It would be interesting to see whether the same relationship could be seen from somebody’s tweets or their Myspace profiles. I suspect that the relationship is stronger for Facebook because it’s based around keeping in touch with people you know – as other social networks have more of an emphasis on meeting new people, people may be more tempted to portray “idealised” versions of themselves.

MEPs support surfer's rights

European flag flying; Budapest Parliament
Creative Commons License photo: soylentgreen23

Congratulations to Members of the European Parliament for backing an amendment which respects and strengthens the rights of internet users:

The agreement therefore builds citizens’ rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms into EU telecoms legislation. Binding provisions state that any actions taken by Member States which have an impact on users’ access to, or use of, electronic communications services and applications must respect their fundamental rights and freedoms, especially their right to privacy, freedom of expression and access to information and their right to a judgment by an independent and impartial tribunal.

This amendment contradicts a draft French law which can ban people from the internet for downloading pirated material.

As much as I dislike piracy, I feel the French law is very dangerous and is a very disproportionate response to the problem of piracy. With so many services moving online (banking, government, communications & email, university applications and enrolment, e-learning, access to news and information), I’d argue that internet access is beginning to enter the realm where it should be considered a fundamental right of every person. A ban from the internet would fundamentally affect citizen’s ability to participate in their society. So whilst the state should be able to reserve the ability to take away that right when it is in the public interest (e.g. preventing crime, terrorism), it is very hard to argue that someone should lose their ability to participate in society for downloading pirated materials.

Let’s hope that this is accepted by EU telecoms ministers and passed into law.

It’d be interesting to see whether any countries presently have any charters for fundamental citizens rights with regards to the internet… anybody know?

Sick of Quizzes and Application Spam on your Facebook News Feed?

Creative Commons License photo: Andrew Mason

I’m sure it’s not just me who is beginning to get sick of “quiz spam” on Facebook. By this, I mean when you’re greeted with other people’s results from pointless quizzes such as “What Pokemon are you?”, “What does your name really mean?” and “What is your IQ?”.

Not only are these tests pointless, they are inaccurate. I’ve seen IQ tests where everybody I know has had a IQ above 130. I don’t believe it’s accurate for a second but application developers know that if they massage your ego then you’ll be more likely to tell your friends about the application.

These applications have absolutely blossomed over the last few months because they force you to invite dozens of friends before you can view results. Additionally, jumping onto the whole user-generated content theme, there are now Facebook applications that allow anybody to create their own quiz applications. The result is an exponential growth (but decrease in quality) of quiz applications and the associated news feed spam.

Regular reader Ryan asks how long it will be until Facebook goes the way of MySpace – the answer is probably not too long unless Facebook does something about this problem.

Users of Firefox and Greasemonkey can take issues into their own hands, however. The Facebook Purity Greasemonkey script removes all messages on your Facebook News Feeds from quizzes and other external applications. It’ll only leave behind status updates, wall posts, links, posted items, photos, notes and videos. Very, very useful.

Exams & Blogging

Tutti i colori della mia vita.
Creative Commons License photo: mao_lini

So the first batch of summer exams at university are over. One of my comprehensive summer exam questions involved calculating the CO2 footprint of a Google search. By a stroke of chance, I happened to have blogged about that exact topic just a couple of months ago and made my own calculations. So it really does seem like being a blogger can really help you out in places you really never would have expected it to.

And in another example, last November I wrote about how I used my blog statistics page as a MSN Messenger service status page. Whenever I’ve had issues accessing the MSN/Windows Live Messenger service, Microsoft’s official status page has never had any useful information. Yet on my blog, I often immediately see increases in traffic in the order of 10x-15x on certain pages. That signals to me that there is a service outage for everybody — as opposed to a network connection problem on my end. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating my own “unofficial service status page” which would be automatically generated using some statistical techniques (to determine whether there are irregular service problems) and geolocation (to determine exactly where people are finding problems connecting from i.e. whether it’s a worldwide issue). Alas, I’ve never had the time to put this together properly.

So anyway, blogging is really rewarding and it really can help you gain insights which you just wouldn’t have otherwise.

Anyhow, I’ve decided that this blog needs a bit of a change as I feel it’s identity and purpose has changed a lot over recent times. Long time readers will be used to articles about programming, economics & current affairs and science. But more recently, I feel the blog has changed pace – focusing more on how to get the best out of technology and communications technology. This was a result from the fantastic feedback on these posts.

I’ve tried to reconcile the two visions of what the blog should be about but I feel that it’s best the blog is split into two:

  • A consumer-focused technology and communications blog
  • A possibly more technical blog with random experiments, bits of science and economics and thoughts on life.

So you’ll be seeing a couple of changes – hopefully improvements – round here in the coming weeks. Thank you so much for your support with the blog and I hope you’ll enjoy the new blogs!