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Turnstyle: App gives Facebook users new perspective on their favorite topic – themselves


Remember a year ago when Facebook announced Timeline? How it was going to change the way that people shared information about themselves? Then it came out and everyone just hated it because if there is one thing that people on the internet hate most it’s change?

If you try to remember the announcements at the F8 conference last year, you’ll recall that part of the hype around Timeline was that Facebook had pulled in information aggregator/designer Nicholas Feltron (profiled in this episode of 99% Invisible) in order to make Timeline a visual representation of who Facebook users are.

It is, if you will, the poetic side of Big Data. The idea that we can create a visual representation of who we are with just a few clicks of a mouse. That there is insight to be gained, perhaps, into our hidden selves by the traces we leave on the digital world. Traces that go beyond what is useful to faceless corporations, and that can be used as tools of self discovery.

Yet Timeline has so far turned out to just be the Facebook Wall with delusions of grandeur. We’re still left without interesting visualizations of our online personas. At least from Facebook proper.

Britney Fitzgerald, writing for The Huffington Post, cast a light on Zeebly which is looking to fill in missing gaps. They launched an app called Social Me back in August which digs into a users’ Facebook profile (once granted permission) to make analytical infographics.

What we get is something a step up from the old “Take this test to find out which Harry Potter house you belong to” type of results. Social Me does some kind of stat alchemy to make judgements about how intro- or extroverted a user is. How spiritual, etc. How the program makes such decisons are opaque. So too is the reasoning behind delvrations such as “Noah uses more advanced words than 92% of people.” Which I find particularly flattering. But while Zeebly can attempt to inveigle their way into my heart through faint praise, it won’t spare them my own cold analytical stare.

Perhaps there is more in the way of explanation for Social Me’s summary if only I’d share the results of their data mining on my Timeline. Otherwise known as the eternal devil’s bargain of Facebook. Perhaps I’ll be weak enough over the long weekend, but until then I think I’ll just grumble on a status update about how much Timeline sucks.

This article was originally published on TurnstyleNews.com on November 21, 2012.