This summer, Microsoft Researcher Desney Tan led a team that created a Facebook app called Collabio to investigate a new way of applying meta-tags to people – by using the power of crowdsourcing. In the game, friends label each other with descriptive tags that can include anything from physical or personality descriptions (curly-haired, organized, smart) to geographic locations to professional titles and more. When playing the game, you see a blanked-out tag cloud for a friend. By guessing which tags have been applied, you get points. Two or more people have to agree on a tag in order for you to receive those points.
While it’s fun for friends to play Collabio and see how they perceive each other, the researchers are more interested in how the knowledge contained in social networks can be tapped into and utilized for applications like personalization, expert matching, and so on. They plan to analyze the patterns revealed by this data to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of using games like Collabio to harness that knowledge. Using games to gather data can make social networks more of a useful and productive tool while still appearing to be a just be a place for simple, fun activities.