You know that old aphorisms: “If you aren’t paying for a product, you are the product”? Well Facebook is “free” but what exactly does that mean to you? What information do they really have about you? Well you’d be surprised and Wolfram|Alpha just made find out some of that information about you all the more easy.
Curious what they know, and how you can learn some interesting things about yourself? Read on.WolframAlpha?
So First what exactly is Wolfram|Alpha? Well for a grossly over simplified answer – data wrapped in awesome. For a slightly less cliché, still useful but still simple explanation, Wolfram|Alpha is a bit like a google search. However, instead of giving you web page results, it instead gives you the data itself in grouped categories. You know how if you type a conversion into google (like “10 pounds equal how many grams?”) you get this:
WolframAlpha does that too… but with everything. Curious about the day you were born? Just type your birthday and the city/town you were born in. Depending on your city you’ll get sunrise, sunset, moon cycle, weather, temperature patterns, cloud cover…. yea you get the idea. Want to compare movies? Just type in Move #1 vs Movie #2 and you’ll get box office gross, production costs, movie facts, and cast lists. Basically anything that can have data… can be sorted organized and show to you in charts, graphs, and compared to anything else. If you want to play around they even have tons of examples at http://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/, as well as a great intro video over at http://www.wolframalpha.com/screencast/introducingwolframalpha.html.
Errrr… ok, so what?
Well that’s all great and good, (did I mention awesome?) but what do you do with it? Or more inline with the post, “So what does this have to do with you and Facebook?”
Well a little while back the creator of Wolfram|Alpha share his own person data collection results with the world. He’s quite a nerd (in a good way) and had been collecting data forever. When he was online, when he posted stuff, websites he went to , etc. (You can read all about it here). When he did this he was bombarded with request to have the users be able to do that themselves. But he hit a snag. How do you get that complete a set of data if people haven’t been tracking it themselves for years? The answer? Facebook.
People use Facebook for almost everything these days. Pictures, movies, talking to friends, posting stories, adding links. In addition, to that it has all the interactions, relationships, connections and tons of other information that people find terrible useful, even if they don’t realize the underlining data. He wanted to bring all that data to life in the same easily sort-able, chart-able, graph-able (that’s a word right?) setup. Hence the personal analytics integrating with Facebook.
Oh what indeed? Wolfram|Alpha can analyze everything you’ve ever done on Facebook, and then give you information back in charts, graphs, and statistics. This ranges to simple age, gender, and relationship figures, as well as even more detailed information such as comment posts, top conversations, and average post length. But the real interesting data starts happening when they show you what day/time a week you are most likely to be interacting with Facebook (where reading/posting, uploading videos/pictures, check-ins), when people comment on your data, what you talk about the most, and even a giant social graph showing all your friends and the relationship groupings between them…
Ok…. let me back up a bit and take this a little slower.
Let’s start of simple. Every curious when you have used Facebook the most in the past? How many posts, pictures, comments throughout the year? Wolfram|Alpha can show all that in a nice graph for you.
Every time you type a status update, Wolfram|Alpha can measure how much you type. Curious when you type a lot, or what your longest post was? Average post? Average characters? Average words?Wolfram|Alpha can tell you that too.
K that can be a little boring. How about how you use Facebook? Do you mostly post pictures? Movies? Status updates? How about a nice little pie chart showing the breakdown for you?
Pie charts aren’t just for you. Ever wonder what type of social circles you run in? Are you hanging out on Facebook with a bunch of single people or married? In a relationship or engaged? Got pie charts for that too.
How about where does everyone live? Wolfram|Alpha will show you a breakdown of all your friends on Facebook and where they call their hometown. You’ll also get age ranges, gender breakdowns, etc. There’s a lot of information to sort through. Luckily it’s all in nice chart and table format.
Learning about others is nice and all, but what about “me”? Curious what you most commented picture was? Wolfram|Alpha got you covered. How about most liked image? Yup that’s there too.Where you checked in? Wolfram|Alpha creates a nice little map and places all your check ins so you know where you have been.
How about when you use Facebook the most? Yup… It breaks it down by day of week and time. Curious just when you upload the most images? Choose from the drop down, pictures, likes, etc and see when specifically you tend to do certain things.
use apps to interact with Facebook instead of doing it yourself? There’s a chart for that too. Same setup, with a breakdown list of which apps do what, and when. And again you can choose a breakdown to see when just one app is doing all your work for you.
And now for my favorite bit of chart candy – The friend network chart. Everyone’s chart is quite different. It groups all the people on Facebook you know into groups based on hometown, current location, schools, networks, and groups. It then makes bubbles bigger for people who you share friends with. Then it spreads them about and color coordinates them. it’ll even include that rand person you friended while traveling the world, or met online…. It’ll just place them way off the chart if there are no connections with everyone else.
Wow…. That’s a lot of Data!
And that’s just part of what it can show you…. egads right? It may take some time to do this yourself. People who have been on Facebook a long time (or just have done a lot of stuff) will find they have tons of data to import and correlate.
Makes you wonder if this is the information that Facebook gives out to applications, what sort of data (and data-mining) is Facebook itself capable of?