David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Go Ahead And Pigeonhole Me, Just Hold Me

March 9, 2011:  Go Ahead And Pigeonhole Me, Just Hold Me

In Stephen Baker's 2008 book, The Numerati , he writes about the work Umbria Communications is doing in data mining thousands of blogs daily trying to identify the identity and habits of bloggers.  (For an interesting example of Umbria's work, see this report on the characteristics of Gen X bloggers.)

In short, they want to determine the gender, age, interests, opinions, and potential buying habits of segmented bloggers.  And this has gotten me to thinking about what the heck they may have determined about me.  And since I now know they are likely to look at word choice, references, punctuation, sentence structure and what else, I think I'll just sprinkle some non sequiturs through here.

Winker me!!??
Wankle Rotary Engines
Gnarly, isn't it?

Actually, all kidding aside, I hope I'm giving their machines a good challenge (and, no, I don't think I'm still harboring resentments toward Watson). On the one hand, these blogs have reeked of all the pretensions one might associate with an academic, references to The New York Times, The U.S. News and World Report, Smart Money, Pygmalion, Oedipus, the Brodsky Quartet, Elvis Costello (the thinking man's rock and roller, which is a scary thought), and Tom Waits (the drinking man's rock and roller).  I even used the word "speaketh" recently, which probably sent the machine into spasms when it compared that to "what bugs me" in the same post.

Navy Beans
Tweet me later, dude!!!!

On the other hand, because I am a junkie of all things popular culture, along side these erudite references (often, literally right next to them) are references to Fox News, Edgar Winter, Ed Wood, Dr. Phil, MTV, Duran Duran, Stephen King, and YouTube.  

I'm not sure I've betrayed my gender through here (although I'm sure some friends could name some times I have done that in reality).  I suppose my age is fairly easy to determine through this.  A show of hands:  All of you under 30--do you know who the heck Edgar Winter is? All of you over 70--do you know who the heck Edgar Winter is?

Is it possible for Umbria to take umbrage with my, um, approach?

Maybe this will work out well for me.  Maybe I'll get offers for reduced subscription charges to The New York Times.  My luck, though, I'll get an offer to see Dr. Phil live.

I'm actually not as bothered by this kind of data mining as others might be.  In fact, I would propose that universities should engage in some kind of similar data mining to identify more information about their students (this was referenced by Robert Zemsky, I believe) that would allow the university to better meet their needs (especially in terms of learning styles and habits).  Of course, as with all other cool tools like this, the capacity for it to be misused is very frightening.  

That's why I'll keep doing my best to throw Umbria a few curveballs.

Tonya Harding 
What me worry?

Oh, and,