What your blog tells about you

One of the attractions of studying in a big university is that you get seminars and talks from people all around the world, from all sorts of interesting disciplines like psychology, linguistics, astronomy, etc. About a couple of weeks back, we had a very interesting talk by Dr. Scott Nowson from the Centre for Lanugage Technologies at Macquaire University in Australia. The topic of the talk was, "The Secret Language of Blogs: It's not WHAT you did, it's HOW you blogged it". Among other things, his research focuses on "linguistic analysis to explore personality and gender difference in the language of weblogs" [quoted from his homepage]. Needless to say, I didn't need a second invitation to go for the talk!

The results and the conclusions he presented were based on the analysis of 71 blogs, recorded over a single month. All of them had answered and passed around some meme which was a 41 point psychology questionnaire to determine the profiles of the people participating. So be careful about the next set of tags you answer: you might be taking a quick psycho test in disguise ;) Also, I must add here that he had gathered the consent of all the participants before their personal information was used for building the statistical models.

So lets talk about the gender biases found: the women wrote 6800 words in 30 posts in a month as opposed to 3700 words in 19 posts by the men [ha-ha! I always knew that!! :D] Also, it seems that the blog is more a personal diary for women than men, although both sexes write equally --- the males seem to concentrate more on current affairs and such topics. Women are more immediate and are significantly more contextual in their writing, they use more pronouns, verbs and social and emotional words; articles are really less used by them. It was observed that men on the other hand use more articles, make judgements, talk of money with quantity and functional phrases and also swear more :)

But the more interesting facts that came to light were related to the personality stamps that stood out from the blog posts. Neurotics seemed to express more anxiety on their blogs, describing physical states, their jobs/work etc. They talked less of other humans, and more about themselves (using phrases like 'if I', 'I have to', etc.). Extraversion on the other hand was found to be more closely associated with high references to other people and low references to self. The extroverts use social words like 'cool', and less often talk about their achievements and occupation. Openness stood out in personalities through the use of long and frequent words, and the more open a person is, it was found that he/she would express more positive feelings and communicate better through the blog. Closely related to this personality trait is agreeable-ness, and again long words and articles really stood out in the writings of people who scored high on this count. Agreeable people also tend to use less contractions like "I'm, haven't", etc. and use the full forms to write out "I am" or "is not", etc. Finally, conscientiousness --- the high scorers meticulously end their posts with punctuation, where as the low scorers fiddle about from topic to topic using words like 'anyway', 'actually', etc. Interestingly, these people also talk less about their personal friends, etc. For the uninitiated, the five factors above are a standard way of mapping personalities.

Before you start jumping back to read your own blog to see what category you fit into, take a look at the good news here as well:Bloggers seem to score really high on the extraversion and openness scales in general. So if you are a blogger, the chances are that you are an open and agreeably extravert person! :)[both images from the slides of his talk]
And the fun part of this research (which aligns well with my own research interests) is that future natural language processing programs will probably be able to tie together multiple blogs and online personalities by the same person, perhaps even generate a blog post that looks sufficiently like your own! And of course there might be programs that chart out your personality profile from the blog, even recommend potential people whose blogs/personalities you might like, taking social networks and online dating to the next level. So the question you gotta ask yourself now is, "What category do I belong to?". Tell me, blogger, do you feel lucky? :D

Comments

  1. Very informative and extremely interesting. Thanks Sudipta. Yeah, I notice that I myself don't blog "personal."

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  2. Really really interesting. We have been having smoe discussions like this in our delhi bloggers group as well!

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  3. wow! people get to research just about anything!! but made for an interesting read.. :) I guess i come into the female writer who uses the blog like a diary, and generally runs a spell check...hmmm....

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  4. good stuff. It is very rarely that I come across such original work.

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  5. I agree that blog is almost everytime a personality revealer and it cannot be done with merely analyzing one post and most definitely differs a lot of times for guys n gals..:). good one.

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  6. nice read :)..guess shud be startin my blog now to know myself better-Ms NMA

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  7. Interesting post Sudipta..but the differences pointed out hold generically for any medium of communication right?

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  8. I doubt if future Language Processing can go that far.

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  9. Hari, thanks. And thats good news too, I suppose :)

    Twilight fairy, yes, and statistical/ mathematical evidence is always good to have to support facts :)

    Biby cletus, thanks... and welcome!

    Di, yeah, you can research about anything you want --- thats what research is all about! Spell-check?? Wow... I don't really bother so much --- compose directly into blogger :)

    Shek, welcome onboard! Thanks, and yes the work is really quite original in the area.

    Pallavi, thank you! 49 posts were considered in making these stats, and a bigger analysis with ten times more data is currently underway.

    Miss NMA, oh yes of course! And going by the stats, do let me know where you write your personal diary! :)

    Curiouscat, thank you. Actually, differences exist in all communication media, but the patterns shift significantly in them. For example, women are a lot less contextual in emails as opposed to blogs.

    Anil P, well, I would like to remain optimistic :) BTW, welcome onboard!

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  10. Very interesting! Tho the idea of technology going that far seems tad scary to me *remembers all movies on technology gone evil*

    Sky :)

    P.S did he find out anything on how to map the personality of commentors? ;p

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  11. Sky, thank you! Remember the crazy mad genius you see in those movies? Now you know who to think of :D

    BTW, like I said, do you really want to know what to think about the commentors?

    Unmukt, thank you!

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  12. It's interesting to see people actually doing studies on blogger demographics!
    thanks for your post.

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  13. Interesting and informative. Nice post, Sudipta.

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  14. Very interesting. I have two blogs and one of them has been created specifically to reflect my experience and guide young people-

    Make your passion your profession

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  15. Rajarshi, thanks. The study is very interesting indeed.

    Maithily, thanks! :)

    Hiren, thanks. For a second I almost thought you were a bot that managed to get past the Captcha, but it seems you're not. Will see your blogs some time.

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  16. Wow, he seems handsome too, if one goes by the snap on his homepage. :-)I am really sad that female bloggers treat their blog as diary. But who am I to raise an objection! Its their personal space and they can write what they want. :-( But I think one can hide his/her true personality in the cyber world.Because nothing is spontaneous here. One has enough time to read, absorb and react.

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  17. Alka, yes he is indeed... unfortunately, he's married :)

    What was that about being sad over that fact? By a personal diary, I don't mean that they give out too much personal information linking to their offline persona --- just that they write about such stuff. And yes, it is definitely easy to hide stuff on the cyber world

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  18. That was an excellent topic to tackle! Who knew back then that people would be analyzing bloggers ;) And to think, it's just a venting system for most of us... and a tool to share what's in our heads. True, it shows a lot of personality... but is it really accurate enough to base a study on? Nonetheless, your stuff totally drew me in :)

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  19. 100 marks to you bheedu - likha bahut acha...ab yeh bateyein - yeh selective hearing tha - ya the guy who remembers too much...aai...kuch choda to nahin....!!

    Aur aapne yeh nahin bataya ki aap kaunsi category mein hain...!!Kya re - with each practical conclusion to dene ka na....lol...

    Tk cr ~
    R

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  20. Princess Banter, thank you! :) And welcome onboard, of course. I think it is a very good measure, if not THE tool to chalk out someone's personality. And as you say, we don't really care too much about what personality image we are portraying when we blog, do we?

    R, janaab, jo chhod diya wo mathematics aur statistics tha --- details chahiye to mail karo: dobara ye puchhne ki galti nahi karoge :D

    Practical conclusion, well, I know that I score well on many of these measures. Lekin honestly I'm not so concerned --- I know what my personality is and don't really care too much what a tool says about it! It is fun to know, nevertheless...

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  21. treating your blog as your personal diary? IMHO, I think I would rather keep my personal diary 'personal' ,that open it up to the whole wide world :) for me blogging is a refreshing experience that allows me to understand different perspectives and generally have my own little cozy place on www

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  22. Life lover, well, I think it is just that some people tend to find solace in the comments, the good words of others on their blogs and therefore open up a lot more in the cyber space. Whether you make it a personal diary or not is a completely personal decision --- I was merely citing statistics :)

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  23. Blogs are now research topic. Thats interesting.

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