Thousands of Reddit Users Donate Their Data for Research

Thousands of Reddit Users Donate Their Data for Research

October 24, 2010 12:32 pm 0 comments

Originally posted on in full by Marshall Kirkpatrick.

Last month, Condé Nast social news site Reddit asked users if they would donate their data for research purposes. This week the site made available a data dumpfrom more than 40,000 people who opted-in to sharing what they do on the site. It’s a remarkable move than every social network could learn from.

Reddit’s goal for this data is to see it used to create a recommendation engine – in particular a system that would highlight some of the niche communities on Reddit that are a great place to find good topical content, but that too few people on the site have discovered. Now that the data is out in the wild, however, any number of analyses can be performed on it – and no one knows what kinds of observations about the relationship between people, web content, voting and news will be discovered. One little account preference opens up a world of opportunities: “allow my data to be used for research purposes.”

Nowhere in the world is there more opportunity to develop such insights based on user data than on Facebook. Facebook used to hand over data dumps of its users activities to big companies doing research without communicating that to the users. Now, a much larger company, Facebook is maddeningly unwilling to offer bulk data export for research and analysis. Perhaps in part because people are so upset whenever the release of data is perceived as a violation of online privacy.

That’s an easy problem to solve, though, if Reddit is any indication. Just ask users if they want to check one box: “allow my data to be used for research purposes.”

Please, Facebook?

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