infoTECH Feature

May 01, 2013

WolframAlpha Analyzes Facebook Activity as Data Points

To extend the reach of its computational knowledge engine, math genius WolframAlpha continues to expand its product portfolio. The latest addition is Personal Analytics for Facebook (News - Alert), a free service that analyzes users’ Facebook activity and reinterprets it as visual graphics and correlated data points. 

In a blog post, Stephen Wolfram indicated that more than a million people have now used Personal Analytics for Facebook. And as part of the update, in addition to collecting some anonymized statistics, the company also launched a Data Donor program that allows people to contribute detailed data to WolframAlpha (News - Alert) for research purposes.

To give the readers some idea of what this data looks like, the blogger crunches some social networks of a few Data Donors with clusters of friends. As a first logical step, the engine first looks at the number of friends in a typical user’s domain. As per the post, the median is 342. A histogram showing the distribution of number of friends for Data Donors is presented in this blog. Then it plots the distribution of number of friends for users and friends.

Then the engine plots how the typical number of Facebook friends varies with a person’s age. The number of friends versus age plot shows that after a rapid rise, the number of friends peaks for people in their late teenage years, and then declines thereafter. The blogger thinks that it is partly a reflection of people’s intrinsic behavior, and partly a reflection of the fact that Facebook has not yet been around very long.

Similarly, it has the ability to look at friends’ ages for people of different ages. The list goes on to show that the WolframAlpha has the capacity to help us understand our social connections and, thereby, ourselves and our society. “And that, by the way, provides great examples of what can be achieved with data science, and with the technology I’ve been working on developing for so long,” wrote Wolfram.

That's all just a taste of what Wolfram's Personal Analytics report can show, and for the individual, it's all a bit of interesting social media naval gazing. But beyond sating our inner narcissist, the Wolfram team has used its technology to gather anonymized Facebook data points from more than a million users, run it all through the mathematical wringer, and cull the results into a giant data ball of social activity. The in-depth blog post describing Wolfram's findings is interesting and well worth the read.

According to IT World, WolframAlpha findings show how people on Facebook can use the site to connect during different parts of their life. By crunching your social media activity in real-time, the computational engine turns your social life into raw data, concluded IT World.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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