If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably gotten a link to a new service called Sleeping Time that checks a user’s Twitter account and determines when they sleep. The application comes courtesy of Amit Agarwal, better known as the blogger behind the popular technology site Digital Inspiration. He says it analyzes the timestamp on the most recent 600 tweets from a particular user, and bases its analysis on the location and time zone information provided by that user in their Twitter profile. The result is a surprisingly accurate portrait (at least for those who are on Twitter a lot), as confirmed by some of the responses from users that Agarwal has collected on his blog. Agarwal has also put together a collection of reports from Sleeping Time on various people including Bollywood celebrities and tech-industry types, and indeed — the analysis of my sleep patterns is surprisingly accurate:
Is Sleeping Time creepy or interesting? A bit of both. The service joins a growing list of applications that create a picture of our behavior and habits from our social networking profiles and “lifestreaming” activity. One of the most celebrated (and criticized) ones to emerge recently was Please Rob Me, which called attention to the fact that many users of location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla — and even Twitter itself — regularly broadcast the fact that they are away from their homes, and even give their exact location at specific times (Foursquare’s new “celebrity mode” allows users such as Jersey Shore’s DJ Pauly D to only show check-ins to certain users). Another recent Twitter-based app is the Twitter Predictor Game from startup Hunch, which looks at who you follow and makes assumptions about how you would answer a number of questions — and is also surprisingly accurate (Hunch discusses the game here).
As a friend noted, Sleeping Time doesn’t really do anything that human beings aren’t already doing in a variety of ways — by noting when someone replies to their email, or when they answer the phone, etc. And if you know where someone lives, it’s relatively easy to get a pretty accurate picture of when they leave for work and when they return home, if you really wanted such information (according to legend, thieves used to comb through the obituary sections of newspapers looking for memorial services, and then stop by the homes of those who were attending).
All services like Please Rob Me and Sleeping Time do is make it easier to automate this kind of information-gathering process. At some point, however, making it easier achieves a certain scale that allows things to occur that would never have been possible — and that can have potential benefits and potential risks in equal measure. How long until someone puts all of these services together to produce the ultimate Stalker Report app?
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