The Personality Graph and the Psycho-Social Web

Adam DuVander, March 27th, 2012

Whit.liThe friend graph lets developers explore connections between people. That’s not enough, according to a new service that debuted at SXSW. It uses the status updates, interests and other data–currently just from Facebook–to determine a personality type. Whit.li calls the resulting information the “psycho-social profile.” From that, developers can compare users for different types of compatibility using the Whit.li API. The service could potentially fuel a entire breed of “AirBNB for {blank}” type of apps, among other use cases.

Whit.li only has a handful of API calls, but that’s all it really needs. Give the API a Facebook access token or pass along a user’s forum posts or other content. Once you have two users in the system, you can begin comparing their psycho-social profiles. Currently, Whit.li can compare people for compatibility at work, as friends, as roommates or as travel or shopping companions.

To get an idea of how the service works, check out the Whit.li 1 to 1 app built as a demo at SXSW. Feel free to compare yourself to any of the users already in the system, such as myself or ProgrammableWeb writer and API evangelist Garrett Wilkin. For example, I learned Garrett and I are incredibly compatible shopping buddies, so I look forward to hitting the outlet mall together next time we’re in the same city.

It can be used for more than just fun. Whit.li’s Murray McKerlie told me it’s been used as a way to gauge team compatibility when hiring someone new. Another potential use case is assigning the most compatible sales person to a new lead.

Sites are leaning on social networks for more information, especially when connecting two strangers. For example, we’ve seen real estate agent search built on top of a number of networks, looking for mutual friends, interests or even alma maters. AirBNB uses Facebook friends to vouch, as well as ensure a real person. Whit.li would be a way for AirBNB, CouchSurfing or that AirBNB competitor with an API to add a new dimension to their social data, especially on listings without reviews.

If not house sharing sites, there are a number of other potential use cases that involve looking for compatibility, from pet sitting to tool loaning. Whit.li has hit upon a great idea, delivered a solid initial version and by all signs are cranking on what’s next. By supporting Facebook, as well as generic user content, then making the analysis available via API, the company could build a platform used across many different industries.

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Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.