Last week, the team behind recommendation engine Hunch introduced the Twitter Predictor Game, a program that uses your Twitter username to predict your answers to multiple choice questions on a wide range of topics.
Hunch doesn’t say exactly how the predictor works, but here’s the basic idea:
- Hunch users are encouraged to link their Twitter (and Facebook) accounts to the service. And Hunch asks its users these same questions.
- So the program has a lot of data on how people who follow — or are followed by — prominent Twitter accounts answer certain questions on average.
- For each question asked you, the Twitter Predictor looks at how the average follower of each person you follow answered. (We obviously don’t know the algorithm by which it combines those expectations to make its guess about you — this is the heart of what Hunch does in general, so if we did know, the company would have to kill us.)
- That’s it. The game doesn’t “cheat” by looking at your Hunch account (if you have one), reading your Tweets, simply going with the most popular answer every time, etc.
Basically, it’s just one narrow application of how Hunch works in general. And it works pretty well: the game correctly predicts your answers about 85% of the time.
Twitter Predictor generated a fair bit of buzz, but the reception has been pretty mixed. The main complaint is that many of the questions are such that most people would answer the question the same way. There’s nothing too mind blowing about an algorithm correctly predicting that you don’t think the world will end in 2012.
This is too bad, because after spending some time with it, we think there really is something neat here. If the game excluded questions like these, its accuracy rate would no doubt be much lower, but we think it would definitely still be much better than chance. If you think about what it has to go on, that is actually very impressive.
So, what do the people you follow tell Hunch about you? As a roundabout way of demonstrating how the Twitter Predictor works, Hunch recently put up another “game”, which simply lets you look up big time Twitterers and see how their followers’ answers compare to the norm.
A lot of it is very intuitive: Barack Obama’s followers are a lot more left wing than Sarah Palin’s. If Hunch is really on to something, though, the more important cases are the less obvious ones. For instance:
What does following Jimmy Fallon on Twitter say about your driving record?