Reading a book is a significant investment of time. That's why it's common to ask friends for recommendations when looking for interesting literature. If you haven't said it yourself, you've probably heard someone say the common refrain: "Read any good books lately?"
That method has worked fairly well thus far, but an innovative new web app sources recommendations from the person who knows you best — you.
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Simply insert your Twitter handle into BookRx, and seconds later the app produces a list of categories and specific books you might enjoy. The app, which was launched yesterday, is a product of Northwestern University's Knight Lab. Shawn O'Banion, a third-year PhD student, worked with his professor, Larry Birnbaum, to create BookRx.
“Twitter is really unique because it’s a stream of consciousness for the user," O'Banion tells Mashable. "Typically you’re projecting an image of yourself on Twitter with the things that you say; while that might not be your true self, it’s actually who you want to represent on social media.”
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It works by comparing the words, hashtags and mentions in your tweets to those of a sample user with pre-determined reading preferences. The app's creators used a secret data gathering technique to assess the sample and a machine learning algorithm to link tweeted words to specific book recommendations.
O'Banion recently used a similar method to create an app called TweetCast, which aimed to use tweets to predict votes in the U.S. presidential election.
For some, there is something innately unsettling about AI predictions. It is even more disturbing when the computer is accurate. Unlike sites like Amazon and Google, however, BookRx shows you the exact words you tweeted that led to its various recommendations.
“Typically when you see recommendations online, you’re not given any explanation or reason for the recommendation," O'Banion says. "It’s sort of like a black box, and I think that’s why people get kind of creeped out by it, actually — because it’s not transparent.”
BookRx is a fun tool to try, whether or not you're in the market for a new book to read. It's interesting to see how accurately your tweets correlate to your reading preferences. Give it a try here, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
On Travel Channel's No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain is brash, opinionated, foul-mouthed and memorable. On Twitter, as @Bourdain, his personality is prominent — much like in his memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which is being reissued in October. Bourdain's frequent tweets shed insight into his daily life and adventures with his wife, Ottavia. After all, we know you're itching for more pictures of edible sheep testicles.
Composite image courtesy of Flickr, shutterhacks
This story originally published on Mashable here.