One big scientific DERP


As denizens of the digital decade, we have grown to accept that our info and metrics are being tracked at all times, and in many cases being sold to companies that are paying the website we use for the info. You know what they say: “If you’re not paying, you’re the product.” Recently, we’ve seen a couple of dramatic reveals, with Facebook revealing that they’ve tampered with our newsfeeds to see how they could make us feel, and OkCupid revealing they purposefully tug at our heartstrings. Even if we don’t want to admit it, reading OkCupid’s blog post about the experiments and seeing their findings is certainly interesting. There are some insights about our dating habits that we may never have been able to see if it weren’t for the studies done by those who do have the info. Taking a page from this book, Reddit, Imgur, and Twitch are teaming up and making their data available to academics in a new endeavor deemed the Digital Ecologies Research Partnership. And yes, that spells “DERP”.

DERP will allow researchers and academics access to metrics and data about the day to day flow of information across these social media sites. The best part about it is that, where Facebook and OkCupid conducted their research in secret, and the data only benefitted themselves, the DERP data will be available to anyone, likely with APIs for public interfacing. The public and academic approach of DERP is what makes it much more palatable than other analyzation endeavors being undertaken by similar sites; this week we learned Tumblr is partnering with Ditto to scan every photo on the site for instances of famous brands. The powerful information is not intended for public consumption (though there is a space on Ditto’s website where you can get a taste of Ditto’s scanning ability), but rather to be sold to corporations so they can have a better idea of how social media users influence and are influenced by the brands on their blogs.

There is obviously a vast amount of information that can be mined from these sources, and if they are made available to the public and to academia then there are bright and interesting futures ahead. In the mean time, I’ll settle for blaming my lack of dates on the fact that OkCupid is experimenting with my profile.


This article originally appeared in Moving World Wednesday 20140820