From the OOTDs we post on Instagram to the words we use in Facebook rants, the amount of information we generate online is tremendous. Collect this data from thousands of people, and you get an aerial view of how we interact with one another, whether in taking a selfie or chatting up someone on OkCupid. And if you’re trying to solve a social problem, all this “big data” can come in handy too. Here’s a look at seven websites that prove that data can be immensely intriguing and useful.
1. Find out how the world takes selfies on Selfiecity
Did you know that women are more likely than men to tilt their heads when taking a selfie? That’s just one finding from Selfiecity, a data art project led by Dr Lev Manovich, a professor of computer science from New York. The team studied over 600,000 selfies from five different cities — New York, Bangkok, Sao Paulo, Berlin and Moscow, and came up with some fascinating conclusions, including that Bangkok and Sao Paulo have the most smiles.
The website also features a “selfie exploratory” that allows visitors to experiment with the tons of selfie-related data. If Selfiecity gets you excited, you can also check out another Instagram-related project by Dr Manovich, Phototrails.
2. Up your online dating game exploring trends on OkCupid
So while you might have been relying on OkCupid to set you up with someone, the dating app’s been relying on you for information to run their data blog, OkTrends. Simply put, they experiment on human beings. And to their credit, they’ve uncovered some quirky and thought-provoking trends. For instance, OkTrends found that people who use Twitter every day seem to also have shorter relationships (ouch).
Strange correlations aside, the site also explores more serious trends, such as the interplay between race and perceived attractiveness. For instance, one of their studies uncovered that Asian users liked to describe themselves as “simple”, and seem to conform to a lot of other racial stereotypes. Checking out OkTrends might just confirm your suspicions about the superficiality of the online dating world.
3. Analyse yourself with Watson Personality Insights
If you enjoy personality tests, here’s a tool that can give you insights about yourself based on your writing style. Watson Personality Insights, built by tech giant IBM, just requires a chunk of text you’ve written to compute your different personality trait scores. I tried it out with a personal blog post, and got these results:
Watson also gives you a qualitative interpretation of the results, which is, of course, a whole lot more subjective. Then again, you can always take it with a grain of salt, as with most other personality tests.
4. Calculate how much that degree or diploma is worth
While money should never be the main driving force behind your choice of academic pursuit (at least from this humble writer’s perspective), it’s wise to be fully informed about the market value of your education, especially when many of us are taking out a loan to fund it. That’s where SGCharts: Rat Race can come in handy.
The site has compiled data on local university graduates’ starting salaries and employment rates, and allows for side-by-side comparisons. To complement your research, hit the sidebar to check out SGChart’s other visualisations, including wages by age and industry.
5. Get live updates on dengue hotspots
The site provides real-time updates on cases of dengue, and even specifies the exact neighbourhood in which each outbreak occurred. Run by local data design and web shop V/R, Visualising Singapore also features other useful charts and graphics, such as this analysis of Budget 2015.
6. Keep track of MRT faults and disruptions
The next time someone complains about Singapore’s public transportation system, you can hold their grievances up to scrutiny, by fact-checking against Failrail. This is the site that crunches the raw figures behind MRT breakdowns, so it becomes easier for us to spot trends.
7. Stay updated on how the government is using big data
Speaking of public transportation, the government itself has been trying to crack the code on increasing bus efficiency. The newly-launched blog section of data.gov.sg features some fascinating visualisations of “bus fingerprints”, where a thicker grey line is indicative of higher ridership.
Figuring out which points along the bus route face the greatest crowds may just be the key to designing better routes and bus timetables, potentially improving our daily commute. It looks like the government is keen on using data to improve public services, and this blog is definitely one all Singaporeans should keep an eye on.