Bing to Encrypt Search Data by Default










I’ve read a few blogs recently that challenge the importance of keyword strategy, some even arguing that this sort of strategy is now obsolete in the world of search engine marketing.


Whilst practices such as keyword stuffing are inarguably out of date, black hat and generally a big no-no, keyword data is still of huge value to online strategy. Knowing what attracts your customers to you site, however you have built that strategy, be it through links or content, is crucial information when developing a search strategy.


That’s what makes the latest announcement from Bing even more frustrating. The search engine has announced that it is to encrypt its search data, meaning web traffic reports will no longer show all keyword data entered by users. They’ve been allowing users to encrypt their data for the last 18 months or so, but in the summer this is set to become default.


As a search marketer, one of the aspects of Google’s analytics I find most frustrating is the (not provided) row that appears every time I access a traffic report. How am I expected to know what’s making my customers tick if you hide the data? Yes there are other ways of getting to the bottom of this by exploring other reports in analytics, and we need plenty of additional data to determine what our users are doing once they’re onsite, but nevertheless it’s all making the process longer.


Bing has already got an uphill struggle competing against the behemoth that is Google, but this was one of the features that set them apart.


Much the same as Google, the official line from Bing’s Senior Project Manager, Duane Forrester is that this latest move will serve to protect user privacy. There is always going to be a question mark around whether this is actually the case, or whether search engines are now trying to push brands towards paid search instead. Sure enough, the first suggestion from Bing on accessing user data after the roll out is to access the Search Terms Query Report. This is found in the Bing Ads UI which will show keywords that, yep you guessed it, triggered your paid for ads.


Some might ask we care about this? After all Bing drives little web traffic in comparison to Google, even to sites who rank well there. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, in the announcement blog it is apparent that Bing cares more about its users than webmasters, but I do find it strange they have gotten rid of one of their plus points.


It will be interesting to see if this works in Bing’s favour in any way, or whether it pushes them further behind Google.

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Google Buy – A New Marketplace Player

Google’s new ‘Buy’ button feature will appear on mobile devices in a matter of weeks. First reported in the Wall Street Journal, the button will allow the online giant to compete with the likes of Amazon and eBay through their Google Shopping advertisers.


The new button essentially turns Google into a marketplace, as users will not have to click through the site to complete purchase. Quite the side step, for a business based on driving clicks to other website.


Google’s chief business officer, Omid Kordestani, who announced the new feature, said the goal is to reduce “friction” making it simpler to complete online purchases.


In terms of user experience we can see the clear benefits of a reduced conversion path, and some retailers will see this as a great chance to increase mobile conversions, which can be a fiddly process. It can’t be ignored however that Google is creating an ecommerce middle-man and essentially downgrading retailers to logistics companies. This will reduce traffic to websites, decrease opportunities to up-sell and diminish chances to create brand advocates. There’s also the notion that competing with Amazon and eBay will be so price driven, smaller retailers won’t survive the game.


Stepping in the right direction for users or impeding retailer/customer relationships? Either way, the announcement has ruffled some feathers.


The same question arises with Google displaying answers to particular question queries in the results pages. Great for the user, who gets the information they are after quickly, not so great for the site Google scraped this answer from, who now isn’t getting the associated web traffic.












It is likely Google will continue to gain revenue from the clicks, rather than taking a commission from the transaction. This could appeal to larger retailers who have resisted the likes of Amazon and eBay so far due to potential hefty fees.


Kevin Dallas, chief product officer at Worldpay eCommerce, said “With Google Buy set to only be available on mobile devices and the search giant recently changing its algorithm to favour mobile optimised sites, it’s clear Google believes that smartphones and tablets are the way forward for ecommerce.”


I’m not entirely convinced that Google it doing this because it sees it as ‘the way forward’. Rather conversions on mobile are simply not corresponding with traffic volumes. While we know mobile searches over took desktop recently in certain sectors, ecommerce rates are still frequently higher on desktop – it’s Google trying to close that gap and make it the ‘way forward’.


Motivations aside, it’s a fair point that if Search behaviour evolves, we (us and Google!) ought to be evolving our approaches and campaigns to fit the new demand. It’s just easier for Google to keep up with.


It will be interesting if Google Buy eventually rolls out to desktop – watch this space!


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Russell Brand: The PM misquoted and that’s not all he got wrong!


When something is attacked it is a sure sign that the attacker is worried, I mean why attack if you’re not bothered? The news that Ed Miliband has been interviewed by Russell Brand for the comedian’s YouTube channel has been met with derision from the Tories and many media commentators.


With his sleeves rolled up and tie off (how very Blairite) the PM ridiculed Ed Miliband’s decision to be interviewed by declaring it a ‘joke’ and referencing Brand’s previous stance of non-voting. In fact, the PM was misquoting the title of one of my favourite books by right wing (yes right wing!) US political satirist PJ O’Rourke first published in 2010 called, “Don’t vote: it just encourages the bastards”. They don’t write titles like that anymore.


There is a wider point here. Like him or not, Brand is followed, liked and watched by a lot of the young electorate. At the last count there was 10 million Twitter followers and his YouTube interviews or rants, call them what you will, are regularly watched by hundreds of thousands. That is cut-through and engagement well beyond traditional media channels.


Much as I enjoyed Andrew Neil de-constructing David Gauke, Financial Secretary to the Treasury on the Daily Politics on Monday about the ‘letter’ from 5000 small businesses backing the Tories (if you haven’t seen it click here, sit back and enjoy) only 4000 people have viewed it so far on YouTube. Whenever this interview between Brand and Miliband surfaces, best guess is sometime in the next 48 hours, the numbers will blow this out of the water – that is a guarantee.


The PM’s stance is a mistake. When you ridicule one of the leaders of the YouTube generation you ridicule his fans, followers and even his occasional viewers. What’s more, fair play to Ed Miliband for doing it, presumably without prior sight of the questions. He was willing to go toe to toe with a very bright and witty comedian. It could easily blow up in his face but I suspect it will achieve levels of engagement that dozens of interviews on Andrew Marr’s sofa will never achieve.


All views expressed in this text are my own and not necessarily the views of the agency. 

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Milifans – the chasm between mainstream and social media grows ever wider


What is going on? Ed Miliband has a fan club on Twitter. He has teenage girls, only just getting over Zayn Malik leaving One Direction, all flustered.


Apparently, ‘Milifans’ as they are now known, have been describing him as ‘cool’ and changing the photos on their Twitter feeds.


And it’s not only teenage girls. After Michael Fallon’s intervention ten days ago describing Ed as a backstabber for knifing his brother, closely followed by Daily Mail revelations about his ‘tangled’ love life, their mothers are joining in too. I noticed one of them on Twitter describing him as sounding ‘rather dashing’ like some sort of latter day Mr Darcy.


Will the madness never end? I know we all love an underdog, but this is ridiculous! Haven’t these people seen the weird hand movements?


There is another point here, namely an ever-widening gap between mainstream and social media that is being magnified by this election. The more the mainstream attacks, the more sceptical the public gets. The old levers no longer work.


Ed Miliband is described as a backstabber and bed-hopper and his ratings go up.


Nicola Sturgeon is described as “The most dangerous woman in Britain” and her ratings go up.


Leanne Wood is described as naïve and ‘leftie’ and her ratings go up.


The truth of the matter is that the mainstream media is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at this, but the electorate is not responding – at least not in the way that is wanted. The response the mainstream media is getting is, at best, being ignored or, at worst, treated with contempt and/or ridicule.


Has the public cottoned onto media ownership/bias in the UK? Has Leveson had an effect? Or is it just that the attacks are so ridiculous, and there are so many other avenues for collecting and disseminating information, we are freer to make up our own minds?


I don’t know, just like I don’t know who is going to win this election, but one thing is becoming clearer. Unlike in 1992 we won’t be saying, “It’s the Sun wot won it.”


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Mobilegeddon: What should we expect?


On April 21, Google is set to roll out its latest, and potentially most impactful, algorithm update. With a somewhat less friendly name than the Panda and Penguin updates of the past, ‘Mobilegeddon’, as it’s been dubbed by SEO experts, could see rankings plummet for brands who do not have mobile friendly websites.


Historically Google has been fairly secretive when it comes to roll out dates. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to pick up on a hint dropped at a conference; sometimes they don’t confirm an update until after it’s happened. This latest update is a little different in the sense that Google has been warning us for a little while now that a change is imminent. They first made this announcement in February, which should have been plenty of time for Webmasters to start taking action. However, I anticipate it will come as a shock to many businesses, especially those in the SME sector who perhaps do not have the resources to a) be made aware of what’s to come, and b) to tackle it when it does happen.


What does ‘mobile friendly’ mean?


Mobile friendly simply means the site renders to fit within any mobile or tablet device. However, if your website contains lots of text or links too close together, this could still prove to be a poor user experience. What businesses should ultimately be aiming for is a mobile optimised or responsive site, where the site reformats itself to provide a better experience.

You can find out if your site is mobile friendly (and what you can do to improve it) by inputting your website’s URL in the Google Developer Mobile Friendly Test.


What will happen if my site isn’t mobile friendly?


First of all, try not to panic. You will not be removed from Google entirely for not having a mobile friendly site. However, sites that do adhere to the update will be ranked higher, meaning your site will slip down the rankings resulting in less traffic. Fortunately taking steps to making your site mobile friendly is fairly straight forward and should be actioned as and when your business is ready.


When will I see the effects?


Experts are predicting that the roll out will take anywhere from a couple of days to a week, so if you don’t see an immediate impact, you should still keep an eye on your rankings for a few more days to check for a slip in rankings.


What if I survive Mobilegeddon?


In the event your website stays mobile un-friendly and you manage to retain your search rankings, don’t be tempted to sit on your laurels. Search engine aside, websites that are not mobile friendly provide a far inferior user experience, and with so many saturated markets out there, can you really afford to deter your customers with something that you have the power to fix?

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The British electorate is not ‘engaged’!



Did anybody else see the photo of the little girl sitting next to David Cameron with her head on the desk and think, “I know how you feel.”


Like the little girl, I suspect most of the electorate are sick of being talked at. You see there is a huge difference between talking at people and talking to them.


Since the start of the election campaign the leaders of all parties have talked at people via a series of soundbites or bribes depending on your level of cynicism.


The first week of the campaign will be remembered for a soundbite, namely “long term economic plan”. Now, I’m all for applying key messages, but there is a difference between focused messaging and repeating the exact same statement over and over again. One offers definition and clarity, the other is just irritating.


This was followed by a series of promises. “Guaranteed one-to-one care from a midwife”; the “Right to buy housing association properties at discounted prices”; “Guaranteed thirty hours of free nursery care for families”. To me these just sounded like bribes flung out to grab a headline, not thought-through policies designed to be questioned or substantiated.


And that is what is wrong with this campaign so far, there is no questioning as the electorate is not engaged, because it is being talked at, not encouraged to take part.


It should go like this:


Politician: “We will guarantee thirty hours of free nursery care for working families.”


Voter: “Really? How will that work exactly? Will it be for all families or will it be means-tested?”


Which, of course, is the crux of the matter, because despite what The Sun ran on its front page yesterday, I personally don’t believe for a moment that all working families are going to get thirty hours of free childcare. The problem is that this election has become so sanitised that we aren’t able to ask the clarifying questions.


Communication is two-way, but our politicians seem to have forgotten this. We spend a lot of time at WPR telling clients not to just issue releases, post Tweets, put content on Facebook or LinkedIn, without trying to engage your audience. Because if you do just chuck out content, there is every chance that nobody will be listening, which is where I suspect most of the British electorate is currently at.


Only another three weeks to go though!

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What this election needs is a good old-fashioned husting!


Yesterday, the Prime Minister met a voter, a proper voter not one with a press badge.


He went for a walkabout (my god the daring!) in Alnwick. Now, admittedly, it was 3pm on a Monday afternoon in a small Northumbrian market town, hardly Oxford Street on a Saturday morning, but it’s a start.


Will it catch on? I doubt it. The biggest problem with what is turning out to be one of the most boring campaigns in modern history is that our politicians and their advisers are so fearful of a Gillian Duffy or Sharon Storer moment that all life has been sucked out of the campaign.


Instead we get a succession of set-piece speeches and hi-vis photoshoots with no engagement from the public. When a politician does go onto a building site, workers and tradesmen (the great unwashed) are kept at arms-length. How I long for an electrician to interrupt all this nonsense and say, loud enough for the microphones to pick up, “Excuse me Prime Minister, could you just move a little to your left I need to put some cable trunking there.”


Quelle surprise, there is no movement in the polls. But why would there be when everything we see on our TVs is so insipid.


However, there is hope. Despairing of any political engagement in my own safe Tory constituency (the election effort so far stands at one small poster on the A38 and a leaflet) I went to the marginal Worcester seat (2010 result: Conservative majority 3,000) for a terrific evening of political debate in the Cap ‘n’ Gown pub.


Enterprising landlord Ted has invited all the candidates every Monday of the campaign to a good old-fashioned political husting, each time on a specific subject. Last night was the NHS.


Ably moderated by Ted himself (at one point I wanted to vote for Ted so detailed was his grasp of German GDP to health spending ratios) we hit all the big issues, both national and local, from euthanasia through to extortionate PFI contracts, the closure of a local walk-in medical centre and overcrowded A&E departments.


The night had it all, heckling from the public; a flash of anger from a nurse; despair from an overworked young doctor, with the debate ebbing back and forth as the candidates slugged it out and voters helped themselves to the Hook Norton beer.


This is politics as it was meant to be, real democracy in action for over two hours and pub was packed! The candidates in particular deserve great respect for taking part, putting themselves out there without the safety net of an invited audience or advance sight of the questions.


There is a lesson here. I suspect voters were swayed last night. Minds were changed or made up. It mattered, which is more than another insipid speech to a hand-picked audience will ever do.

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Jeremy Clarkson and the Cult of Celebrity


“There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank or commercial considerations.”


So said BBC Director General Tony Hall yesterday, in the only acceptable outcome of the inquiry into Jeremy Clarkson’s behaviour. The BBC investigation found that Oisin Tymon was “subject to an unprovoked physical and verbal attack by Jeremy Clarkson”. It said the attack lasted around 30 seconds and only stopped when a witness intervened. Some of the abuse was racial in content and the victim drove himself to hospital with a bloodied face.


A number of heavy weight influencers supported Clarkson – albeit when the details of the assault were still not fully clarified – but there’s a measure of irresponsibility from David Cameron, who supported the ‘huge talent’ and claimed My children will be heartbroken if Top Gear is taken off air’. Talented he may be, but his credentials as a TV presenter are irrelevant. Cameron also told the BBC that his 11 year old daughter “has threatened to go on hunger strike unless Jeremy Clarkson is restored.” Of course he is joking, but again the sentiment feels uncomfortable.


I was surprised that BBC Newsround entertained the idea that Clarkson’s removal from Top Gear should be questioned in an article this morning: ‘Should Jeremy Clarkson have been dropped from Top Gear?‘ As children’s news outlet they have a responsibility to deliver fair messages – yes they should be balanced and of course encourage people to question – but the only answer to the headline is a firm yes.


Where celebrities are concerned, people seem to forget the fundamental values of common humanity – which includes the freedom to feel safe, and to see justice upheld when this is abused – and instead enjoy the theatre of a great hero being ignominiously called to account, and then championed.


A huge backlash greeted the news that, God forbid, Clarkson should answer for his racial and physical assault of a colleague. A million people signed a petition called “Bring Back Jeremy Clarkson” which was delivered via a tank to the BBC with the Stig atop it and a #BringBackClarkson banner on the side. Did I mention a love of theatrics?


The cult of celebrity is not a new thing – fascination with those elevated above the ordinary person is as old as time, be it the rise of gladiators to athletic superstardom in ancient Rome, or the scandal of a king abdicating for an American lover in the 1930s. People love a good spectacle, and the fact that the verdict on Clarkson is headline news today above the air tragedy in the French Alps speaks volumes.


There seems to be little sympathy for the victim of the attack (if anything Clarkson is seen as the victim) and where celebrities have commented, such as Gary Lineker and Dara O Briain, it is to joke about the Top Gear replacement. It seems to be unpopular to reduce the situation to its bare essentials: a man has been sacked for punching a colleague in the face. The Huffington Post reported the story as such, and has received 36,000 Facebook likes to date – paltry in contrast to the hundreds of thousands of retweets for #BringBackClarkson.


If someone in the office hit someone else there would immediately be calls to fire said person: why should the violence and the gravity of the situation be diluted by the popularity of the perpetrator?


The BBC is allegedly set to lose as much as £67million a year following the removal of Clarkson from Top Gear – but they would have lost a whole lot more in integrity if they had not.

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Speak for England, Margaret!


Margaret Hodge has been accused of being rude. She was. Margaret Hodge has been accused of being bullying. Possibly. Margaret Hodge has been accused of losing her rag. Definitely, and I envy her.


In an age of carefully choreographed media appearances, this week’s grilling of HSBC bosses at the Public Accounts Committee translated into a tour-de-force performance by its chair, the Labour MP for Dagenham.


If you haven’t seen Rona Fairhead, chair of the audit committee at HSBC, squirm when asked why she hadn’t quite grasped the fact that the bank’s Swiss business might, just might, possibly, potentially, be used for tax evasion, you can watch it here.


As Simon Jenkins comments in today’s Guardian, even a child knows that Switzerland is a tax haven. Apparently this little fact had escaped Rona.


Why do I envy Margaret Hodge? Because I recently closed down two HSBC accounts. I’d had enough of the money laundering, manipulation of LIBOR, playing around in the North American Mezzanine Credit Default Swap market, bonuses – I could go on but you get the point.


I marched into my local branch in Bromsgrove intent on giving the stuffed shirt who runs the place a piece of my mind when he, surely, would  ask me why I was deserting the sinking ship.


Only he didn’t ask. He directed me to a chair and then went off to check whether I had any money in either of the accounts or whether my salary was paid into them. I know this because I got out of my chair and looked over his shoulder.


When he found out that my salary was paid into another bank, he didn’t bother asking. He just turned on his heels leaving me with a colleague to cut up my cards.


So I never got my Margaret Hodge moment and to add insult to injury a week later I got an automatically generated postcard from Head Office which said “It’s sad to say goodbye”.


No it wasn’t and well done Margaret.

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Oborne makes a stand for journalistic integrity


What do you do if you are a journalist and your editor refuses to cover a story because it has commercial implications for the paper?


In Peter Oborne’s case you resign and you have to applaud him for it. If you’ve missed it, Oborne, Chief Political Commentator for the Daily Telegraph, resigned yesterday because of his paper’s lamentable coverage of the HSBC tax evasion story.


Launching a broadside against the editors of the Telegraph, Oborne claims that the Telegraph’s pitiful coverage, which amounted to a small column at the bottom of page 2, was due to the fact that HSBC is a major advertiser.


It’s difficult not to agree with him. I noticed last week that the Telegraph had hardly touched the story despite it being front page news for the Guardian, which broke the story, and blanket coverage across the BBC, Channel 4 News and Sky. Even The Times picked it up!


I originally thought that this was political partisanship, the Telegraph being right-leaning and the story being an embarrassment to David Cameron who appointed Stephen Green, former CEO of HSBC and an ordained minister with the Church of England, who once wrote a book about ethical banking (you can’t write comedy like this), as a Trade Minister in his government.


I was wrong. According to Oborne, advertising revenue was behind the decision and on Channel 4 News last night hinted that other stories involving HSBC, presumably the laundering of drug money, a story which broke in 2012 and the bank’s involvement in the manipulation of the London Interbank Borrowed Rate, or LIBOR, the benchmark global interest rate.


These are serious allegations for the Telegraph and the paper has hit back hard calling Oborne’s accusations “astonishing” and “sinister”.


But there are two wider issues here. Firstly, in an age of plummeting circulation rates, newspapers are increasing reliant on corporate advertising spend to keep going. Inevitably that leads to compromises and it takes a strong editor to stand up to newspaper owners when it comes to money.


Which brings me to the Barclay Brothers, owners of the Telegraph. One can’t help but wonder whether the fact that the brothers are wealthy tax exiles in the offshore tax haven of Guernsey played a role in this story effectively being spiked.


Certainly it would be in their interest to sweep this little issue under the carpet as quickly as possible, both from a personal and professional point of view. What was it that Leona Hemsley, one of the world’s great tax avoiders said, “Only the little people pay taxes”?

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The WPR Social Retention Report: how to prevent losing your hard-earned social media fans

The buzz around social networking has plateaued in the last 18 months. It’s not new anymore and even the latest networks coming to the fore aren’t offering much revolution. However, social media has firmly become part of our everyday lives. It is ingrained in our society and is not going away, although it is proving more of a challenge to make social successful for brands.


For the first time, WPR Agency has unearthed why many consumers are unfollowing and unliking in their droves and what brands and businesses can do to stop them. In order to find out how, we worked with OnePoll to survey 2,000 consumers about their social media habits, and were we shocked at the results. Our findings revealed that almost 70% of Brits have unliked or unfollowed at least one brand account in the past 12 months, 35% have dispatched of at least six!



Clearly consumers are becoming more selective, they are losing interest in dancing cat memes and cheer up on a Monday quotes. It’s white noise. Creative content is more crucial than ever and posts need to be clever, witty, informative and entertaining to resonate with your followers.


There seems to be two major causes of social brand fatigue. The first is blurting out too much content – nearly half of everyone surveyed said one of the main reasons they unlike or unfollow brands is because they post or tweet too much. What too much is, is a little subjective – but ultimately it’s an issue that must be considered for community managers.


According to our research, the average person likes and follows 8.7 brand on social media. Worryingly, they have also unfollowed or unliked an average of 6.2 brands in the last 12 months. This evidence shows us that consumers are becoming more discerning about which companies they let into their newsfeed. Despite all Facebook’s efforts to control and customise everyone’s social space to the best content for the individual, there is clearly a trend for people feeling they’re still getting too much commercial content sent to them, probably because they’re receiving more sponsored posts than ever before.


The second big problem is boredom – with so much repetitive content and ‘regular features’ used by brands to fill content plans, it’s no surprise that people get tired of seeing similar things month on month. Almost 46% of Facebook users and 49% of tweeters say they unlike or unfollow brands when they get bored of their content. To truly thrive on social, businesses and their supporting agencies need to innovate and pay attention to the latest trends to deliver content which strikes a chord with their community and keeps them entertained.


Social retention IS becoming much more of an issue. Next time you dip into Facebook insights or log on to who.unfollowed.me check out how many potential customers discarded your brand page or Twitter account from their newsfeed forever more and think, ‘what did we do to turn them off?’


In the WPR Social Retention Report we reveal what causes consumers to unlike or unfollow, and how brands can avoid being discarded like yesterday’s news. Download the full report from our website here and tell us what you think on Twitter @wpragency.

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Does Facebook really know you better than your friends?

Arthur C. Clarke, the virtuoso sci-fi writer, inventor and futurist, once wrote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.


That was in 1973.


Had a person from that era viewed today’s technological innovations – with no awareness of the events that had occurred in-between – then presumption of a magical source might be understandable or reasonable, logical even.


For a computer to be able to match, and even surpass, human judgment would have been considered as much a fantasy as Clarke’s writings. But for us, living in the now, this is the reality in which we dwell.


Earlier this week, new research showed that computers can be a better judge of psychological traits than work colleagues, family and even friends. In a joint study, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Cambridge found that a computer model built to analyse Facebook ‘likes’ was able to predict personality traits with more accuracy than one’s friends and colleagues, and just as accurately as one’s spouse.


The computer model was able to make more accurate predictions about the subject than a work colleague by analysing 10 likes; more than friends or roommates with 70 likes; it surpassed a family member with 150 likes; and a spouse with 300 likes.


The study analysed personality self-ratings from over 80,000 volunteers using a 100-item personality questionnaire. Human judges were asked to express their judgment of a subject’s personality using a 10-item questionnaire, whereas computer-based judgments were made based on data mining of the subjects’ Facebook likes. The computer model’s predictions were based on the articles, videos, artists and other items the subjects had ‘liked’ on Facebook.


Personality Judgments - Facebook computer versus humans

“Accuracy of Stafford/University of Cambridge computer model’s personality judgement compared with humans” (Credit:Wu Youyou/Michal Kosinski).


Wu Youyou, one of the co-authors of the research, expressed his belief that their findings suggest that “in the future, computers could be able to infer our psychological traits and react accordingly, leading to the emergence of emotionally-intelligent and socially-skilled machines.”


So why is it that through machine-learning, computers can make more accurate judgments about personality than you or I? Co-author of the study, Michal Kosinski, believes that computers have an advantage due to their ability to retain and access large amounts of information and execute complex algorithms to rapidly analyse vast data sets. In contrast, humans lag behind computers, mainly because they often fall foul of biases such as a tendency to extrapolate about behaviour based on too few examples.


But can a computer do everything? Before you succumb to media hyperbole about a real-life robotic uprising led by HAL 9000 or Skynet (the computers from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘The Terminator’ franchise, respectively, for those yet to embrace their inner geek), the authors concede that computer modelling has limitations when trying to understand personality traits of those without a digital presence or judgments based on “subtle cognition”.


So as yet, whilst this study is an impressive achievement that will no doubt pave the way for improved human-computer interactions, no machine can match the subtlety, spirit, capacity for compassion and understanding of the human brain.


I began with a quote and so I must end with one, if only to satisfy my own feelings of poetic conclusion: “Man is still the most extraordinary computer of them all” – John F. Kennedy. True then and true now, but it may not always be the case.

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