Wi-Fi Names Reveal Political Beliefs, Map Shows
Obama sentiments around the Great Lakes region of the U.S., as revealed by wireless router names. Offensive words have been blacked out.
CREDIT: Screenshot from OpenSignalMaps
Search for a Wi-Fi connection anywhere and you'll probably find a range of names, including everything from the obvious ("linksys," "BluesCoffeehouse WiFi") to the revealing ("Marys Apt"). Some Wi-Fi router names are more politically pointed, however: "Obamasux," for example, or "ILoVeObAma!!" Developers at one mobile app company decided they would map the political allegiance of people who declare those opinions using their Wi-Fi names. The resulting maps don't represent the world's opinion on U.S. President Barack Obama, as the sampling is too biased, but they're a funny, human glimpse into people's thoughts.
OpenSignalMaps has a database of the locations of 75 million routers around the world, according to the developers' blog post. The developers searched those routers' names for "Obama" in any combination of upper- and lowercase letters and found 1,140 different router names.
They then marked each "Obama" router as positive, negative or not sure. Simply naming a router "Obama" counted as positive, while odd-sounding names such as "AIR_FORCE_ONE_OBAMA_EDITION" rated as not sure. The negative names were pretty clear ("I dont like Obama"), as were some positive names ("I LOVE OBAMA!").
The developers rated each router by hand. A computer program would find it too difficult to read and understand names such as "ObamaPrezNaaaaw" or "ObamaDaClown," they wrote in a blog post about the project.
Lastly, the developers put each router name on a map. The names are printed on small rectangles that are outlined in blue for positive, red for negative, or yellow for not sure. The final project has the feel of a crowd of people holding up homemade signs.
Router names are a surprisingly effective way of getting a message out, the developers wrote. They only give you 32 characters to work with, but their messages last much longer than a 140-character tweet's top lifespan of a few hours. They also are able to reach anyone looking at a list of available Wi-Fi networks within about 100 feet of the router. Could this small act of ownership be more effective than social media? "Your SSID – the name of your Wi-Fi router – may have more reach than your Twitter account," the developers wrote.