27    Apr 20106 comments

For fun: How the Internet sees you!

Family history researchers can become rather single-minded about their quest for ancestral data.

It is always good to kick back and read something funny, such as Chris Dunham's The Genealogue, or try something else that might add a different perspective to our searches.

I've mentioned Chris' site as his unusual and humorous approach to genealogy is always welcome, and he also offers lists of categorized genealogy blogs for your enjoyment. However, here's a new site to try for a different reason. Personas is an interesting "installation."

Created by Aaron Zinman (who holds an MIT| PhD in Media Arts and Sciences) as an art installation - a component of Metropath(ologies), an interactive exhibit by the Sociable Media Group, MIT Media Lab - it was on display at the MIT Museum. In its first month, it was accessed by more than 1.5 million users.

According to the site, it creates "a data portrait of one's aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you." It purports to provide a visual graph of an individual's persona based on an Internet search, and you can see what it is finding as it searches the Web.

Enter the name of a person and watch the graph visualization take place as you read the text under the graph.

In addition to names of people, you can plug in the name of a genealogy blog, for example, and receive a "characterization" of it after an Internet search. Here are some of the blogs searched on Personas:

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CAVEAT: For real name searches, be aware that many people share common given and surnames. A persona might include the well-known individual as well as a high school athlete or college student with the same name, so take these graphs with more than a grain of salt. It also locates resources in languages other than English. For blog searches, be aware that searching for Miriam Midkiff's Ancestories will also provide hits from people who have misspelled "ancestors" or "ancestry" as "ancestories."

Entering my own name, blog names, relatives and geneablogging colleagues produced some interesting results. Additionally, I know one individual who tries to stay off the "grid" as much as possible, and that grid showed minimal results, confirming those attempts:

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For the geneabloggers, I was interested to see if the graphs showed similar results, as we share many similar traits and an Internet presence. I have queried the site as to the term "illegal," but have not yet received an answer, so have no idea to what it might refer.

Here are a few online persona graphs in no particular order:

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Why not enter your name or blog and see what Personas says about you? Let me know what you've discovered. I'm interested in reading your comments.

Search for your ancestors:

Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. A large flaw with Personas is that there are multiple people out there with the same name. I ran my name through it, and out of some 100 hits, only two of them actually pertained to THIS Karen Rhodes. That's why I am now Karen Packard Rhodes! I got tired of being confused with all those other ones!

    The picture that Personas drew of me was almost totally inaccurate, so I fail to see that there is any use at all to this tool.
  2. Hi, Karen

    I'm really happy you commented.

    Yes, it is a major flaw for those with less than very unusual names! That's why I said to take it with not only a grain of salt, but the whole salt shaker!

    However, it is still a fun thing and it can compare genealogy blogs as they will generally be unique (a blog has only one name). I was interested to see if our common interest (as blogs and people) showed similar characteristics.
  3. How do you sign up for your blog? Cannot see your blog feed sign in the sidebar.
  4. Hi, Kimberlie
    Look at the right-hand column at the top. It says "Subscribe to our feeds" and has the orange RSS logo. If you click there, you'll have numerous options, from using news aggregators to subscribing via email.

    Let me know if this works for you.
    Schelly
  5. I enjoyed watching it do it's work, but then saw it gathering data for another Carole Riley.

    Thanks for the entertainment Schelly!
  6. Hi, Carole - I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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