Mimicking how social networks analyze user content for advertising purposes, a Berkeley-based startup, Five, has launched a web tool that predicts users' personalities based on their Facebook posts.
Five Labs (labs.five.com) examines the linguistic content of Facebook wall posts, pulling key words to make predictions about individual personalities. Using an artificial intelligence method designed by H. Andrew Schwartz, researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's Worldwide Well-Being Project, the application's predictions are based around five personality traits: Extraversion, Openness, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.
The fun part comes when you compare your personality makeup to Facebook friends (including significant others) as well as public figures. Those include many in the tech world (Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, etc.) as well as everyone from Barack Obama to actress Jennifer Lawrence and Mahatma Gandhi. Users can, for instance, see if their personality overall is similar to Lebron James, and gauge whether they're more or less neurotic than the NBA star or how their other specific personality traits match up.
Nikita Bier, the co-founder of Five, told The New York Times that based on the initial responses to the site on Twitter, "people seem to identify pretty strongly with the personalities we generate." He added, "Only about 10 percent said we were outright wrong about them."
Quentin Hardy, the Times writer, said the feeling of recognition may be due to the "overall vagueness" of the typecasting, likening it to how people identify with horoscopes.
That view works for Five, which is working to launch an application focused on private social experiences in Fall 2014. On Gigaom.com, Derrick Harris writes that Five "wants to give us a new way of communicating with our friends that's more akin to a dinner table conversation than it is to shouting to one another across a crowded restaurant."
In its press release, Mr. Bier notes that although Five Labs employs similar techniques as highly public platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google, Five Labs never stores the information.
"Think of this as a personality snapshot," suggests Mr. Bier. "It's all for fun." He adds, "But we're also hoping to educate. People need to ask themselves a profound question: 'How does my data portray me on public networks — and how might that be used?'"
To what degree would a social network experience based on "private social experiences" work better for individuals and marketers?