On Spock.com you can be a President and a PM (also an idiot and a d*ckhead)
A few days ago I was talking via e-mail to an editor for an Italian technology website I contribute to.
I proposed a few themes for new articles; I thought all of my four proposals would have been of some interest; instead, I was asked to do something else.
I was commissioned to do a short piece about Spock.com.
Spock is a search engine, but not one like Google. Spock is an "aggregator" of personal data taken from different public sources such as Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster and many more.
You might be probably already be on it, together with another million different people. I've found myself listed in it, since they took some info about it from LinkedIn. And since my LinkedIn profile mentions that I have certain experiences both in music production and in other music-related business (I also run a small record label) I was tagged as "business owner" and "music industry".
While it is a really unique and useful tool in its genre, it is still in "public beta" and surely might need some improvement.
While some bloggers complained about its quasi-spam invitation system, or about the fact that apparently Spock takes all of your LinkedIn contact and by default sets them as your "favourite" in your Spock profile (why?), I noticed another nice feature: tags.
George W. Bush is for example tagged with many words: he is "President of the United States", "Republican", "Christian", "married", "Governor of Texas"... but he is also listed as "miserable failure", "idiot", "stupid?" and "arrested for drunk driving".
Now, apart from the inevitable laughs generated by this discovery, you should also notice not only that these tags might sound slightly offensive, but they are hyperlinks, so they will bring you to longer lists of idiots (Vladimir Putin is included... and look at what someone uploaded as his personal pic...!), drunk drivers (Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson...) and more.
Spock also lists "related people": friends, fellow politicians and so on. For example, Putin's page shows a few pics listed as "enemy", with portraits of people such as Kasparov, a dying Alexander Litvinkenko and late journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Scary, maybe with a touch of bad taste.
Also, mixing stuff from frivolous sources such as MySpace and more "professional" places such as LinkedIn might not produce always such a nice result. As an example, my MySpace music page with silly dj pic might not be something I liked to show to someone who came looking for my "serious" work as an intellectual property consultant or journalist while looking at my LinkedIn profile.
I had a huge laugh when I saw Italy's former PM and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi's listing: he was "Italian", "Politician", "Forza Italia" (the name of the party he founded), "VIP" and "Pirla". The last one being not a nice word, something related to the male sexual organ and used in Northern Italy mostly, to describe someone you'd call a dickhead in English language. ;)
I wrote my article and sent it. Incidentally, the site I work with is owned by a publishing company led by Berlusconi's daughter. I wondered if my article would have been accepted like that, since I mentioned the tag included in Berlusconi's page.
It was accepted.
Only, a few hours later, the "pirla" tag had disappeared, replaced by another one: "The Best". Luckily, if you take a look to Berlusconi's Spock profile, this one has been removed too. Bush was also listed as "terrorist" when I checked his profile. This tag has been removed, too.
I suspect some public personalities from the world of politics or show business might at some point soon be in a legal fight against Spock.com for "nice" tags. Who knows.
Meanwhile, those accusing Wikipedia of "relativism" (while not noticing that certain wiki contents have been edited by entities such as intelligence services, large corporations or major record labels...) should take a look at Spock for some real fun. :)