Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How to Find your Web Persona

I discovered an interesting and provocative tool from MIT researcher Aaron Zinman, which was shared by fellow ed. tech blogger Lisa Thumann. The tool is called "Personas" and is designed to "show how the internet sees you," mistakes, inaccuracies, and all.

It couldn't be much simpler. Type your full name in the box and Personas will scour the web for references to you and attempt to place the results into broad categories such as books, education, family, art, etc. 

The results are displayed in a colored bar graph (click to enlarge):

The purpose of the Persona project is to reveal data mining practices which we take for granted. Very few services reveal the process they use to present information to consumers. Inaccuracies and flaws in algorithms are par for the course.

When you visit the Persona project, make sure you read the FAQ section. The answers are refreshingly brief and blunt. Consider the following (click to enlarge):

Try Persona out. Were you surprised by the results? How will you incorporate this tool into your classroom?


  1. Would you be nervous to use this with your students? There could be another person by the same name out there with a Rated R past. I'd feel more comfortable previewing their names before I shared the tool in the classroom unless they were perhaps graduating seniors.

    I'm sure not everyone would agree with me on this one though. There is another Lisa Thumann out there and she used to come up when I would Google my name when she was still in college. She must have graduated though, as I don't seem to see any information on her.

    Just something to think about. Thanks for sharing John.

  2. I can understand your concern, Lisa. The nice thing about Persona's is that it doesn't show the user the content on which the graphic based. Even if there was inappropriate content from someone with the same name, you wouldn't see it.

    All that being said, I would probably pre-screen a couple of student to use as examples before showing an entire class.


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