Image Source: http://bigkingken.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/total-county.gif
The new york times released a fun dialect quiz map that attempts to pin point where you live based on how you talk. The basic idea is that a combination of things you say and how you say them can uniquely identify where you grew up. Most questions are coming from a Harvard Dialect Survey started in 2002.
Working in the NLP space I had high hopes that the quiz would work quite well. Having grown up in Seattle, which does not have a significant amount of dialectic uniqueness, I also had some doubts on its accuracy. It turns out that I was right.
Although it was not totally accurate it does not mean that it isn’t a useful tool. The accuracy is highly dependent on the individual and their geo-dialectic past. My wife, for example grew up in an around New York City. When she took the survey it was able to pin point the exact town that she grew up in.
With this type of dataset there are some really interesting applications that could be used. For example, marketers could comb social media and simply through the language used in the posts determine demographic information to target adds. Another interesting idea would be to attempt to uniquely identify a person by the works and phrases that they write. This could be used as a form of authentication similar to that of examining the canvas of a famous lost work of art.
In order to make this more useful the accuracy has to be better. I’m especially interested to see if it could be improved by incorporating more mainstream idioms or cultural norms. For example, if I talk about coffee am I talking about latte’s at Starbucks or a cup of joe at Dunkin.
Take the quiz
Take the quiz and let me know how it went. Here is the link: