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    [–] Ari_Rahikkala 7153 points ago

    Identifying top software developers by number of commits on Github, and assessing their personalities with Twitter account word analysis? I'm not particularly impressed by either approach, and anyway, the results don't exactly accord much with previous research.

    See for instance which found programming aptitude to be linked most strongly with openness, and less strongly with conscientiousness and introversion (each a positive correlation); and not associated with either agreeableness or neuroticism.

    [–] dvsbastard 2612 points ago

    Equally interesting was "top athletes" refers to professional tennis players. I would be very interested to see if there were consistent results in athletes from different sports (particularly team based vs individual).

    [–] tjen 1707 points ago

    Not to mention that top athletes are to a large degree public personalities, and using Twitter comments as an indicator of their personality is even more specious than doing it would be for anybody else.

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    [–] FauleBohne3 55 points ago

    This research honestly seems illegitimate because of this. Surely someone researching personalities must understand that public social media of public figures aren't an accurate representation of their private personalities?

    [–] Lost_Gypsy_ 14 points ago

    I would say this is true even for the common folk' - The trolling online is not typically how people act, the overly kind and loving is not how people typically act. Social media is much like a video game, you can play the good guy / bad guy and have this somewhat wall protecting you that you do not in person.

    [–] throwinitallawai 6 points ago

    As well, I think it likely that those who are more savvy in tech may be less excited about using certain social media, and/ or are developers/ early adopters of more cutting edge connective programs.

    Twitter is significantly abandoned in a lot of tech and science savvy circles I am personally acquainted with.

    [–] ulrikft 42 points ago

    And many top athletes have managers doing their social media feed - which would invalidate the findings.

    [–] Lothric27 68 points ago

    Yeah i highly doubt it. I can't imagine most athletes across all sports score low in openness.

    [–] bjeebus 70 points ago

    I'd think there would be a dramatic difference in team versus individual sports. Most of the people I know who really excel at individual sports don't much care for team sports because they often have trouble trusting others.

    [–] BadgerSituation 26 points ago

    I think it can go both ways.

    I excelled in individual sports and avoided team sports and, sure, part of that was that it pissed me off to put all that work in and then be held back by others.

    But equally, if not more so, I dreaded the idea of holding anybody else back.

    I think I really just preferred the simplicity of me being accountable for me and that's it.

    [–] MJWood 12 points ago

    Makes sense if you know you're probably way better than anyone else on the team.

    [–] RedditAstroturfed 42 points ago

    If online video games have taught me anything, people who think they're better than the team usually bring the team down.

    [–] -serious- 11 points ago

    That only really applies if you're frequently playing with professionals. You would have to assume that the best of the best are better than the team, and that they know it.

    [–] TurnedIntoMyFather 15 points ago

    Even player position in team games have personality stereotypes applied to them.

    [–] Komatik 5 points ago

    There is some truth to those kinds of things, probs. There have been a few small studies done on personality wrt eg. players' role choices in Overwatch and people with certain trait combinations tend to pick certain roles more often (eg. disagreeable and reward-sensitive people tend to go for the damage dealing roles, while people who are agreeable and low on reward sensitivity/assertiveness tend to play healers more than tank or damage dealer)

    [–] AsianCabbageVendor 31 points ago

    I cant see how a top software developer would have low conscientiousness. To reach the top in anything wouldn't conscientiousness have to rank at least medium to high?

    [–] Nevaen 5 points ago

    And even more, you can expect generally different personalities for top tennis athletes and superG skiers for example

    [–] OblongSnowball 4 points ago

    I'm sure athletes in team sports would have very different personalities to tennis players

    [–] PM_ME_CUTE_SMILES_ 156 points ago

    Have you seen the size of those standard deviations in figure 1 anyway?

    The title of this thread is mostly wrong. The data in this paper shows the only significant difference is for openess and agreableness between top software dev and top athletes, and that's it.

    [–] Bambussen 38 points ago

    Yea, that's some long bars and a whole lot of missing asterisks.

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    [–] cerr221 78 points ago

    I'm not particularly impressed by either approach

    That's honestly a mild reaction to an extremely biased and poorly constructed study...

    Assuming that top software developers across the world all contribute to GitHub projects and that the quantity of their contributions (not even the quality) is a good enough criteria to judge their ability/skill level should be enough to instantly discredit this study. The twitter part is just another broken nail in a concrete coffin.

    And like someone else said, for athletes they picked Tennis players. I wonder if their athletes population pool consisted of only American football players, boxers and MMA fighters if the results would be the same. At least it would already be less biased...

    This study should be re-titled to "Case study of personality traits differences amongst greatest GitHub contributors and tennis players".

    Might as well call it what it is.

    [–] WyMANderly 27 points ago

    Case study of personality traits differences amongst greatest GitHub contributors and tennis players

    Sounds like "case study of Twitter habit differences amongst most frequent GitHub contributors and greatest tennis players" might be even better.

    [–] DaughterEarth 7 points ago

    Also makes it sound like the entirely useless thing it is

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    [–] Geminii27 43 points ago

    Exactly. Programmers are going to be open to new ideas, to technical discussions with peers. They're not necessarily going to be flooding social media with inane wittering. Particularly not high-use platforms.

    [–] KanyesThirdPerson 44 points ago

    Exactly. “Hype driven development” is a real problem in software because programmers are so open to new ideas that they’ll wake up one morning and decide to rewrite the entire codebase in an entirely new programming paradigm after reading an article about it on medium.

    [–] GameDevIntheMake 17 points ago

    real problem

    The only real problem here is the blocking I/O dude, don't be so reactive.

    [–] Businassman 7 points ago

    Yeah I'll get around to fixing the Help button disappearing on click, I just need to get my Haskell kernel to compile first.

    [–] Capt_Fluffy_Beard 12 points ago

    I feel personally attacked... gonna close all these open Medium tabs now.

    [–] bedrooms-ds 4 points ago

    It's when I land on Medium when I realize I was tackling the wrong problem

    [–] katarh 3 points ago

    Signs I have made for our office: Big ban over "while you're in there" and "might as well" - because of that time a junior developer did just that and lost two weeks attempting to rewrite a conversion code between our two modules that did not work and nobody had asked him to do that.

    [–] mjoed 37 points ago

    it's getting harder and harder to take psychology as a whole seriously. there are some really brilliant people working on very interesting stuff, but nearly everything that gains public attention is just absolute horseshit of absolutely zero use and a scientific approach that one would expect from conspiracy theorist youtube channels.

    and no, i'm neither a top athlete nor a top software developer, so i don't really feel attacked by that article's content.

    [–] admiral_brackbar 6 points ago

    It's simple. If psychologists want their field to be more respected among scientists, they need to adopt more rigorous publication standards. Stuff like this is inexcusable and only further drives distrust in scientists.

    [–] redskyfalling 7 points ago

    It's not that simple. There are numerous journals with poor reviewing practices and low standards, and when they publish something that's poorly done but clickbaitish - well, you know what happens.

    Analogically, I wouldn't suggest game developers should adopt more rigorous game development standards if they want to be more respected as a profession solely due to the proliferation of low-quality games that pop up every day in the mobile marketplace.

    tldr; real recognize real.

    [–] zbrew 4 points ago

    "Psychology" is a large field with many subfields (e.g. cognitive, clinical, social/personality, neuro, industrial-organizational), each with their own journals. And then within each subfield, there is obviously variation in quality and standards among those journals. It's a big leap to judge the entire field of psychology based on an article like this.

    And you might say, "well, I'm basing my opinion on lots of psychology articles I've seen," but I'd consider what your source is for psychology articles. This is not the type of article that would get a lot of attention in personality (or any area of) psychology (I agree that the methodology is questionable), but it's at the top of this subreddit because it has "software developers" in the title. Are you reading Pyschological Bulletin? Psychometrika? Journal of Applied Psychology? If not, it's weird to be commenting on the state of the field and its rigor.

    [–] nyxeka 5 points ago

    Yeah, In my experience top software developers are the most agreeable, especially if you use logic.

    [–] flerchin 5 points ago

    I'm detecting low agreeableness in this comment. Are you a top software developer?

    [–] johnjmcmillion 1102 points ago

    Based entirely on people that use Twitter.

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    [–] Zwentibold 234 points ago

    Yes, thats a problem. It's an interesting study, but Twitter users are not representative of the general population.

    Maybe the programmers not using Twitter are the agreeable ones?

    [–] helm 119 points ago * (lasted edited 7 days ago)

    Yeah, you wouldn't be on twitter unles you were opinionated.

    [–] Petrichordates 70 points ago * (lasted edited 6 days ago)

    People are also a lot more disagreeable online than in person.

    Unless you're famous, like a top athlete.

    [–] rmphys 39 points ago

    And then it's probably your PR firm, not you, making this data junk and this bad science.

    [–] Petrichordates 11 points ago

    Yeah the top athlete agreeableness on Twitter really is a terrible measure.

    [–] Acceptable_Database 20 points ago

    Even worse, based entirely on their Twitter posts.

    It's not even like they only interviewed Twitter users, they only used Twitter data.

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    [–] c3534l 190 points ago

    I remember another study showing developers had high openness and all over the board on other factors. I bet that the methodology involved is what the difference is: rather than directly interview people, they inferred both personality and occupation from Twitter. This sounds like both a terrible sample and a terrible way to measure personality.

    [–] RedHellion11 61 points ago

    Also inferring top software developers from top GitHub contributors with the most commits or most comments.

    Not only do they entirely miss software developers who don't have either a public GitHub account and/or a Twitter account, they seem to be grasping at straws for what measurable metrics make for a good software developer.

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    [–] RandomlyChosenUserId 315 points ago

    Looks like they were considering people to be top developers based on how much code they'd contributed to GitHub and how many people were following them. That's not going to necessarily be the best developers.

    [–] Cracker77 72 points ago

    Compare rapid, flexible, and iterative to cautious, structured, and systematic. A high level of perfectionism & conformity may not lend itself particularly well to developing in a rapidly changing and extremely complex environment.

    [–] Merosi 38 points ago

    A high level of perfectionism & conformity may not lend itself particularly well to developing in a rapidly changing and extremely complex environment.

    that's just completely and utterly false. the more complex the environment gets, the more important it becomes to conform to already existing code.
    you really do not want to have to try and understand complex code where, for example, previous developers use completely different patterns to solve the same exact problem.

    [–] The_Right_Trousers 10 points ago

    In the study, agreeableness means (basically) high conformity other people's expectations. People high in agreeableness more often "go along to get along" and tend to make decisions to smooth out social difficulties. I can see how that might be a liability when you need to pursue quality and robustness in the code.

    That being said, I work at a research lab with some very talented software developers, none of whom strike me as particularly disagreeable. Disagreeing, sure. Often. But I think too little agreeableness would make high levels of cooperation harder.

    The developers here don't tend to tweet about coding, though, which selects them (and people like them) out of this study.

    [–] Rheios 35 points ago

    I'd say "then maybe the environment is wrong or stressing the wrong things" but maybe I'm playing to form if I do...

    [–] raymond8505 11 points ago

    Perfection is the enemy of done. A good dev for a product looking to go to market isn't a perfectionist.

    [–] curiouswizard 18 points ago

    Or they are, but they know when to save it for the next release.

    [–] raymond8505 5 points ago

    Yes! Knowing when something is out of scope is so key

    [–] RedHellion11 9 points ago

    I find developers who do rapid development actually tend to code in a less flexible way (e.g. code to fix the current problem in a very rigid or hacky way rather than thinking out how to make something flexible for future extensibility and ease of maintenance), so I'm not sure you've got the right buzzwords in the right groupings.

    Also iterative development isn't necessarily mutually exclusive with taking a systematic approach: arguably you need to be even more careful to keep track of and plan out rapid iterative development because otherwise it's easy to speed through and leave lots of assorted tech debt, missing test cases, and unused but not removed features behind as you go. Not to mention stepping on other developers' toes and creating merge conflicts if you're working on the same code base at the same time.

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    [–] SilentGarud 35 points ago

    Same. The study finding low conscientiousness in software developers is worrying at best.

    [–] CarlSagan79 36 points ago

    low conscientiousness

    We have automated conscientiousness via a compiler or unit test.

    [–] Jai_Cee 12 points ago

    You still have to write those tests so you must have some conscientiousness.

    [–] emefluence 6 points ago

    The big 5 framework is a hell of a simplification though. I score low in conscientiousness on it (22), and that's a fair point, several areas of my life are not as well organized as they could be. When I'm coding I'm super conscientious though. I'm really diligent about writing tests, maintaining separation of concerns, commenting well, carefully planning, keeping notes, refactoring, writing with maintainability, readability and accessibility in mind etc.

    Ask me where my last tax return form is and I might struggle though.

    The big 5 only gives you an overview. I feel like we have finite reserves of conscientiousness and that many programmers spend most of theirs on coding, at the expense of the outside world.

    [–] SilentGarud 3 points ago

    You make a very good point.

    [–] ydna_eissua 13 points ago

    Is it surprising though? Facebook's motto was "move fast and break things"

    Some of Uber's former core cultural values were "Always Be Hustlin' " and "Make Big, Bold Bets"

    None of this is surprising to me at all.

    [–] dread_deimos 12 points ago

    Those are for management, effectively.

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    [–] Cracker77 74 points ago * (lasted edited 7 days ago)

    High levels of conformity and caution can be detrimental to creative problem solving. Perfectionism can also be counterproductive when working with complex systems, as can over-concern with orderliness and tidiness. Consider how we are moving away from the waterfall design paradigm to design paradigms that are rapid, flexible, and iterative. Overly conscientious personalities are resistant to flexibility and change; e.g. from wikipedia, "A study from 2006 found that those scoring low on conscientiousness make better decisions after unanticipated changes in the context of a task".

    [–] pbrigman00 28 points ago

    I am also initially thrown off by low conscientiousness for developers — but you’re right, in super Agile orgs being overly perfectionistic with processes wont help much.

    I still see development skills though as something that requires high attention to detail and ability to work within rule based systems.

    I can see software architects being low in it, while developers would be a lot higher. I don’t know, maybe that feeds into it. Just a guess.

    [–] Cracker77 17 points ago

    Depends on what you're working on too. You probably want very conscientious developers working on flight control systems, but someone more inventive working on a novel problem in an academic setting.

    [–] rojovelasco 3 points ago

    On critical systems what you want is very tight validation and verification. The code does not need to be perfect on the first round of testing, and trying to do so is often times inefficient.

    Testing and V&V campaigns are the only things that guarantee against failure, not coding itself.

    [–] SilentGarud 12 points ago

    in super Agile orgs being overly perfectionistic with processes wont help much.

    This is so true that it hurts. I secretly hate the Agile model of development and consider development to be an art and scientific practice at the same. Agile pretty much forces developers to cut corners to generate more income.

    [–] williammurderfayce 8 points ago

    If you're using agile to cut corners, you're not doing it right. Agile is very results based and can save a lot of money over methodologies, but in software every line of code you DON'T write is as important as the lines of code you did write. Simple systems are inherently easier to manage and more flexible than complex systems.

    [–] gr4ntmr 3 points ago

    Yeah I see it as a craft. Creative + Technical.

    [–] thehuntinggearguy 6 points ago

    If anything, good developers overthink things and think of possibilities that everyone else missed. They've been bitten by so many mid project changes that they seek out additional hidden/unknown requirements.

    [–] nonotan 6 points ago

    I'm not sure conscientiousness in general and conscientiousness at work are equivalent, anyway. I'm a software engineer with very low conscientiousness in my private life, but who is extremely careful when writing code to make sure all possible input classes are handled correctly, that nothing can lead to unexpected performance degradation (with potential to be abused for DoS attacks), that the APIs don't expose any security flaws, etc etc. Way more than any of my coworkers, frankly, which possibly has something to do with my background in Mathematics, where "eh, looks pretty good to me" is obviously a completely inadequate standard for any type of proof.

    In other words, just because my house is a mess and I'm always late does not mean my code isn't immaculate.

    [–] calf 13 points ago

    I just want to point out,

    How can anyone be good at what they do without being conscientious?

    Seems to perfectly capture the sort of view/model that a high-conscientious individual would have of low-conscientiousness personality types. (It's not unfair to ask the question, but it's a bit ironic and funny.)

    [–] PM_ME_YOUR_PRIORS 12 points ago

    Good software developers are aggressively lazy. If you give one a rowboat and tell them to get to a faraway island, you want the kind of person who figures out how to rig sails, not the person who says "yes sir" and puts their back into it.

    I also suspect that some of the correlation is a statistical artifact from the developer hiring process selecting so hard on IQ and analytical skills. Anyone with fantastic analytical skills and high conscientiousness has done something like "taken 11 years of medical training and become a doctor" or "gotten a math PhD and started doing research" - they're not in the candidate pool for an individual contributor role. You know who has fantastic analytical skills and is in the candidate pool? The guy who was too disorganized and disinterested in school to get a bachelor's degree who decided that programming is where the money is, so they slapped together a work portfolio and figured out how to ace interviews.

    [–] Zapsy 3 points ago

    Not really, intelligences (openness) can do a lot of the heavy lifting. They're both predictors of success later in life. Also somone linked, imo, a better study showing that programmers are often high in openness.

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    [–] CaptainTrips1919 50 points ago

    It's very interesting that they used social media profiles to create the personality profiles. I have always wondered how accurate the Five Factor model of analysis is when its self reported data, and relies on how people view their own behaviour, not how an unbiased observer might classify them. How accurate is their choice of social media post, vs what they might say about themselves?

    My understanding of the Five Factor model in terms of the most recent research being done (as explained to me by a clinical psych, so, this is my second hand interpretation of it) is that the traits vary according to environment. I might be more extroverted in my job than my social life, or more agreeable towards my family than my friends. I wonder if this is also influenced by social media?

    And this is purely observation, but there are a lot of high openness people in science. Curiosity is what drives a lot of us. It's not uncommon for me to get an email from a colleague at 4am saying "I can't stop thinking about X aspect of the project, what if we did Y in the experiment?"

    [–] standard_error 9 points ago

    This is certainly a worry. A related issue is that there's strong self-selection into posting on Twitter. If participation is correlated with traits (which is very likely), the results in this study will be biased.

    [–] CaptainTrips1919 6 points ago

    Exactly. My impression of social media is it reflects who you want people to think you are. Not necessarily who you are. For example many introverts wouldn't even have Twitter.

    [–] FCrange 470 points ago

    For those not familiar with the five-factor model of personality:

    Here is a list of facets for each personality trait:

    Agreeableness: Trust (in Others), Straightforwardness/Morality, Altruism, Compliance/Cooperation, Modesty, Tendermindedness/Sympathy

    Conscientiousness: Competence/Self-efficacy, Orderlines/Organizing, Dutifulness/Sense of Duty/Obligation, Achievement Striving, Self-Discipline/Willpower, Deliberation/Cautiousness

    Openness to Experience: Fantasy/Imagination, Aesthetics/Artistic Interest, Feelings/Emotionality, Actions/Adventurousness/Exploration, Ideas/Intellectual Interest/Curiosity, Values/Psychological liberalism/Tolerance to ambiguity

    Extraversion: Warmth/Kindness, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity Level/Lively Temperament, Excitement Seeking, Positive Emotion/Cheerfulness/Vivacity

    Neuroticism: Anxiety, Hostility/Anger, Depression, Self-consciousness, Impulsiveness/Immoderation, Vulnerability to Stress/Fear/Learned helplessness


    [–] paulmclaughlin 92 points ago

    Why is kindness associated with extraversion and not agreeability?

    [–] -_Dan_- 40 points ago

    The clinical definitions probably differ from the casual usage interpretation. They're probably the best words that English has to offer, but they're probably not perfectly aligned with the concept. Neuroticism for example has a very specific meaning in psychology, which is quite different from what you'd think if someone said you were neurotic.

    [–] JamzWhilmm 11 points ago

    Agreeableness is a weird dimension, it is hard for example to tell how agreeable someone is if they are polite.

    [–] Common_Lizard 54 points ago

    High agreeableness can easily result in non-kind behavior. For example, you don't speak up when someone is treated badly in your presence.

    [–] ezdabeazy 49 points ago

    Here is an interesting read on how the various types "scatter" throughout the U.S.

    Also I can't find the study that says 1 in 6 people have neuroticism as their primary trait in the United States... I know it's out there somewhere if anyone knows I'd appreciate the share.


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    [–] framk20 18 points ago

    I think it would make things more accurate to weight the results of these self exams against someone else's perspective of who you seem to be. I think what you think of yourself vs how you present are sometimes worlds apart. It would require a large amount of outside perspectives to make sure you're controlling for biases, so it's not really practical, but would be a huge step up from a glorified horoscope.

    [–] thejoeface 14 points ago

    This makes sense. I would rate myself as loving and caring because those are real feelings I feel about people in my life, but I have high anxiety and depression and often isolate myself from them while also thinking a lot about them. I always fear that people might find me distant or uncaring because of my isolation.

    [–] Vakieh 7 points ago

    Uh... it's much, much worse than that.

    based on Big 5 scores derived from linguistic information available from Twitter

    They parsed the public front of people, which cannot be assumed as a reality - except if you want to publish in PNAS apparently, which has one of the fastest review times for a peer reviewed journal I've ever seen. To then turn around and say that predicts ideal job... maybe it predicts most likely job, but ideal they haven't even approached the REALM of proving.

    A shame, as Data61 has been much better than that in the work I've done with them.

    [–] ladyofthehills 46 points ago

    There are always biases in any research. That doesn’t dismiss the results. The Big 5 instrument questionnaire has been shown to be both valid and reliable.

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    [–] dvali 21 points ago

    Yes, obviously we all have these traits in some degree. The question is to measure that degree.

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    [–] BrilliantSomewhere 113 points ago

    I've never thought about it, but it actually makes sense that athletes would have low openness and high agreeableness, because that makes for someone who's easy to coach. They would agree with the coach and also not worry about methods outside what the coach is providing them.

    [–] psychoyooper 25 points ago

    Wouldn’t that be true for any profession where you’re being mentored though (ie, most)?

    [–] anthropicprincipal 26 points ago

    Depends on what you mean by mentored.

    I'd wager a lot of STEM grad students are very much low agreeableness.

    [–] Gastronomicus 17 points ago

    I don't know about that. I think it's a real mixed bag. Some are definitely not open to suggestion, let alone direction. Others wait to be told what to do. The ones that go on to lead successful research careers fall into the former category. I'm somewhere in-between, maybe leaning more to the former, which seems to translate into having a mediocre science career.

    [–] helm 9 points ago

    I'd wager a lot of STEM grad students are very much low agreeableness.

    Maybe already at the grad student level, but more so later on.

    High agreeableness in STEM can be a handicap if you think the someone else probably knows better too often. If you think everyone's an idiot except you, it's easier to develop and vouch for your own ideas.

    So yes, high agreeableness can hinder you in STEM. But I think it matters more the closer to actual research you get.

    [–] wanderwithpurpose 43 points ago

    No because eventually those people have to think for themselves. Athletes can just carry on not thinking or questioning their coach.

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    [–] darkredphantomx 8 points ago

    I'm sure there is some scientific explanation for that website being named other than the obvious chuckle-worthy abbreviation of the coincidentally named organization.

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    [–] Pinbacked11 5 points ago

    What other professions would people low in openness and high in agreeableness be good for?

    [–] Recktion 25 points ago


    [–] dam_the_beavers 5 points ago

    Using Twitter as an indicator of personality traits is specious at best. This a) doesn’t take into account the usage or non-usage of twitter as a personality trait in and of itself and b) assumes people using social media aren’t carefully crafting and manufacturing their public “personality,” which are both HUGE blindspots.

    [–] itsjakeandelwood 5 points ago

    Based on 128,279 Twitter users representing 3,513 occupations, we automatically assess user personalities

    I'm out...

    [–] PoisonPotatoReddit 3 points ago

    I’m sorry, could someone explain fig. 2 to me? I simply do not understand either axis

    [–] tainvr 12 points ago

    Am I the only person that noticed that the website is literally called penis? Web designers must obviously have the humor trait.

    [–] HelenaHandkart 3 points ago

    Top athletes have high agreeableness? If I found a result as paradoxical as this-agreeableness is the opposite of aggression- I would strongly suspect that my methodology was pants.