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A crowd-sourced Facebook app wises up to the Oscar race

February 22, 2012 |  1:19 pm

In her famous 1985 Oscar acceptance speech, Sally Field chirped, "You like me, right now, you like me!" Alas, that was a simpler time, before Facebook commandeered the word "like" and gave it new meaning. Nowadays the ubiquity of Facebook’s tiny blue-and-white thumbs-up prompts us to ask what just what a like represents, aside from some vague sense of endorsement.

The new Facebook app Wisdom attempts to answer that question with detailed demographic information. Created by the business analytics company MicroStrategy and billed as a "collective intelligence application," Wisdom gathers data from Facebook users (who must grant the app access) such as their age, location, education level, income, favorite music and movies, etc. It then spits out statistics about what topics are popular among various populations.

"What you get with Wisdom is a snapshot of some of the goings-on inside of Facebook," said Warren Getler, vice president of corporate communications at MicroStrategy. "Basically, it's Facebook fan analytics."

Since its launch in November, Wisdom has demonstrated applications in political campaigning and advertising. This week, it turned its gaze on the Oscar race, analyzing the popularity of nominated films, actors and actresses among users. (For in-depth analysis of Oscar buzz among Twitter users, check out The Times’ own Senti-meter tool.)

The app’s number-crunching suggests, for example, that people who like the movie "Moneyball" are more likely to be male (66%), while fans of "The Help" are predominately female (87%). That insight might not seem particularly surprising, but others are intriguing, if quirky: According to Wisdom, fans of "Midnight in Paris" enjoy Bordeaux wines and read Nylon magazine, and "Tree of Life" fans listen to Philip Glass. What brand of clothing do "War Horse" fans prefer? SaddleUp, of course.

The app also says that Brad Pitt's and Demian Bichir's fan bases skew female (59% and 58%, respectively), whereas Jean Dujardin's skews male (57%). And as if there was ever any doubt, Wisdom reaffirms that Meryl Streep is very, very popular on the Internet: Her 829,864 fans beat out any other leading actor or actress by a huge margin.

It's worth bearing in mind that Wisdom’s data is not drawn from a random sample, but rather a self-selected group of Facebook users who have explicitly decided to install the app. Even among app users, not everyone has filled out every demographic field.

At the moment, Wisdom reports more than 7.1 million total users (and is adding about 1 million more each week, Getler says), with an average age of 33. That’s considerably younger, for example, than the average member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so you might not want to let it fill out your Oscar pool just yet.

On the other hand, if you're curious what brand of wine fans of "The Descendants" enjoy sipping, Wisdom is happy to tell you (spoiler: it's Yellow Tail).


Inside the Academy: Who's who in the AMPAS?

Heatmeter: Who's too hot to stop this awards season?

Oscar Senti-meter: A BAFTA bounce for Dujardin, Oldman, Streep

—Oliver Gettell

Image: A screenshot of Wisdom's Oscar breakdown. Credit: Wisdom / MicroStrategy