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Friend Sense

- May 25, 2009

Via “Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media”:http://datamining.typepad.com/data_mining/2009/05/influence-not-as-simple-as-gladwell-would-have-you-believe.html, “this”:http://research.yahoo.com/project/1994 sounds like a pretty interesting project.

bq. Friend Sense, built by Yahoo! Researchers Duncan Watts, Sharad Goel and Winter Mason, addresses two empirical paradoxes that have puzzled political scientists for years. The first paradox is the widespread perception among Americans that the US is a politically polarized country, when in fact numerous surveys indicate that Americans are surprisingly difficult to classify into simple categories. Many people, for example, see the country as divided into “red” states and “blue” states, but research shows that most Americans are neither consistently “liberal” nor “conservative.” In fact, among self-declared Republicans, 85% take a non-conservative stance on abortion, affirmative action, or government support for health insurance. Similar counter-intuitive results can be found among self-declared Democrats.

bq. The second paradox is that people also tend to think that their friends’ beliefs are more similar to their own than they actually are—suggesting that people don’t know their friends as well as they think they do. Unlike the first paradox, however, this has yet to be tested directly, mostly because surveys that compare the responses of friends are extremely difficult to conduct in practice. Friend Sense solves this problem by running on top of a very large social network—Facebook. The application, which can be quickly downloaded for free, asks users to answer a series of yes or no questions about their beliefs and attitudes, and also asks them how their Facebook friends would answer the same questions.