In the two weeks I have been using Wisdom, an iPad and iPhone app that gives you detailed demographic data about your Facebook friends, the number of users has gone from just over 4 million to just under 6 million. Part of that rapid growth is most likely attributable to an extensive advertising campaign on the iPad version of the New York Times (which is where I first heard about it).
Well, maybe. Depending on your definition of "smarter."
For example, does it make me smarter to know that New England Patriots fans on the Wisdom network like Narragansett Beer and New York Giants fans prefer Hennessy? Or that fans of both teams prefer Dunkin Donuts? And why is Wisdom still teasing its analysis of Super Bowl fans nearly a full-week after the game?
The U.S. Election breakdown is slightly more telling. Based on "likes" of candidates on Facebook in the last 12 months, it shows a handsome U.S. map showing which states favor which candidates, then shows the demographic makeup of each candidate's followers (in other words, the same information found in almost any decent political poll).
You can also drill down and look at your friends. You can see who has posted on Facebook the most in the past 30 days, the average number of words they used in each post and other trivia.I now know that in the past 30 days Maya Angelou and David Sedaris were the most popular authors among my friends, and U2 and Johnny Cash were the most popular musicians. Nine of my friends have made a combined 27 trips to Fenway Park, and one of my friends has been to the same hospital six times (whoever it is, I hope everything is okay).
I can also look at whom I interact with most. There are loads of other data, but not as much as you'd think: I can generally check every chart and figure on Wisdom within five or 10 minutes. And even as the network increases in size, not much changes on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.
Among other things, Wisdom lets you check where your Facebook friends have been checking in to find places you may want to go to.
Wisdom gives you a chance to do some very limited number crunching of your own, but not much. The design is beautiful, and it seems somewhat addictive the first time you play around with it, but then you realize there's not much you can do with the data aside from look at it.
And that's the problem: Every time I finish scanning through Wisdom, I'm left with that "Now what?" feeling we get when we don't really know what else to do with an app. The data is interesting, but there's not much I can do with it: I can't download it, I can't even access it from my desktop, making it harder to crunch.
Wisdom has some recommendations on how to use the app, including finding places to go when traveling and finding out what's popular. I have loads of other apps that do all of the things Wisdom claims to be able to do, and, since they're focused (finding the best place to eat, keeping me up-to-date on news and trends), the information in those apps comes off as being far more manageable than the artfully-presented glut I get in Wisdom.