Posts Tagged ‘Favorite Places’

A Slightly Spooky Facebook Feature: “Favorite Places”

24 June 2011

OK, so I am on Facebook too much, probably. I think it’s a pretty cool application. Sometimes I marvel at the ability of the app to correlate stuff, like the interests of people.

But a couple days ago, I noticed something that kind of freaked me out and fascinated me at the same time. On a page that displayed the status of one of my friends, and the comments to that status, I saw this on the top right part of the page:

Those are two restaurants. One, Lido, is a chinese american fusion restaurant in Oklahoma City. The other, Hunter Steakhouse, is in San Diego. I thought it an amusing thing that I had been to *both* restaurants. After a bit, I came back to another status page, and there were two more restaurants (in Omaha, and OKC), both of which I had been to. Later, another two restaurants (Alexandria, VA, and OKC); been to. Hmmm, I thought, I’m seeing a trend! I started clicking the “Next” link. There were probably 15 pairs of restaurants.

So the amazing thing here is that every one of the restaurants is in my blog.

It’s not surprising that Facebook knows about my blog; it’s in my profile as my website. The really amazing thing is that somehow, Facebook went to my blog, and found the restaurants, and identified them as restaurants, even though there are no tags that consistently define them as restaurants. A typical blog entry title is “Railhead Diner, Purcell, OK”. You would have to have some serious correlation software and a great database to see that my mention of Railhead Diner in Purcell is in fact a restaurant. The work “Diner” in the title would help, but what about an entry like “Lo Sole Mio, Omaha, NE”?

So this is, to me, a slightly spooky Facebook feature. I don’t find it an invasion of privacy or anything like that; after all, the blog is 100% in the public domain. It does make me think about the vast resources Facebook *has* to have to be performing correlation like this; it’s very intelligent.

There is a part of me that would like to work at Facebook or Google and work on some of these kinds of amazing software applications.