Personas @ MIT

So, MIT has recently put out a service which via animating some pretty colours presents a user with a pictorial description of their “online persona”. The service is called Personas, and my persona can be found below. I like the thought of being aware of your digital persona, due to my interest in the topic during my PhD studies, my involvement in the Memories for Life network, and my current role work at Garlik, I give lots of thought to what it means to capture a snap shot of a someones digital persona or to even attempt to capture it in its entirety. I guess this could have implications to the way we are force fed online advertising, through to the thought of one day having a digital nomenclature, which feeds information about everyone you encounter, letting you judge for yourself…

Anyways, so I typed in my first and last name into the Personas site, and low and behold, this is result I was shown :

Mischa Tuffield's MIT Personas 24/08/09
Mischa Tuffield's MIT Personas 240809

Apparently, the three most prominent of my online characteristics are : “online, sports, illegal”. Hehe, I guess the online bit makes some sense, and after scratching my head, and re-running the service I think I have sussed it :

Which would definitely not be a good thing given that I am currently working trying to help people defend themselves from ID Fraud. So why, does Personas come to this conclusion? I think it is down to a blog post which a friend of mine Tom Heath wrote a while back, where you used the following words “was trying to steal my identity (presumably because he had a fragment of RDF about me in his FOAF file)”. This is a perfect example of how natural language processing can fail, and how much more sophisticated metrics must be used if we are to identify accusations, opinions, or any more complex statements from free text. Tom’s blog post was actually going on about how Google’s Social Graph API failed to understand his FOAF file, merging myself and Tom into one person, another technological fail, but I guess they follow on nicely from each other…

I should note that Google’s SocialGraph API is doing a better job than when it started, and as far as I am aware it now understands RDF natively, via libraptor.