Friday, May 23, 2008

Playing with my face: the influence of profile pictures

We have profile pictures everywhere: Flickr, Facebook, Google, Amazon, name it... also in my tutor profile for the classes I'm tutoring as part of the UBC Award of Achievement in web analytics.

I thought it would be fun to show how pictures can influence behavior. Thanks to my friend Joseph Carrabis who opened up my eyes to those details and to Gail Lipschitz, an instructor for another class I'm tutoring at UBC: Introduction to Business Process Analysis. Gail is amazingly good at "reading between the lines" of students posts and finding out about their personality just from a profile picture!

Let's play with my face

... and tell me what you think (honestly!)

Those snapshots were taken from the forum interface in the Web Analytics for Site Optimization class.

Profile #1: formal/younger

Other than the fact I was younger (and thinner), I'm looking straight at you. The formal background might make me look a bit more professional but also could represent a top-down hierarchy: "I'm the tutor/you're the student".

Profile #2: formal/older (more weight)

This picture was taken more recently (older - notice the gray hair... and more weight!). Still very formal, still looking straight at you and zoomed closer. Might be even more intimidating because I look older (I must have more experience then you!) but at least I'm smiling...

Profile #3: casual, looking away

The third picture comes from a conference I did recently (btw, notice the title of my presentation...). No tie, more "in situ" picture (in fact, it's a cropped section of the larger picture at the top of this post). Do I look more "accessible" and friendly then the previous pictures? But why am I looking away from you (or from the content)?

Profile #4: casual, looking at

The last one, which I will keep at least for this profile, is reverted so I look "at" the content, effectively bringing your attention to it.

Cool isn't it? Do you think this simple change might have a positive influence on this forum participation and even the overall class perception? (me think so!)