Heading into the Labor Day weekend, Wolfram|Alpha released a new feature that lets users perform personal analytics with Facebook data, for free. Users can head here and type in “Facebook Report” for an analysis of their Facebook data.
Stephen Wolfram, the creator of the computational knowledge engine, alerted the world to the news in this blog post. “When you type “facebook report,” Wolfram|Alpha generates a pretty seriously long report—almost a small book about you, with more than a dozen major chapters, broken into more than 60 sections, with all sorts of drill-downs, alternate views, etc.,” he writes.
Like Wolfram, I’m not an excessive Facebook user. But even at that, the tool provides some intriguing insights into who and what you – and your Facebook connections – are about. The new service puts to work the Wolfram|Alpha technology that includes linguistic analysis algorithms for more than 1,000 domains, more than ten trillion pieces of curated data, 50,000+ types of algorithms and equations for dynamic computation, and thousands of types of visual and tabular output.
For instance, you can explore your birth-date to see where it actually fell in the Julian, Jewish, Islamic, Chinese lunar or Mayan long count calendar, when civil twilight began and ended that day, and even how many days ago that event occurred (if, depending on your age, you can stand to see that many thousands added up!). You can also view a word cloud of what most frequently comes up in your posts (semantic is prominent in mine); your average post length, total comments and likes; who and what posts or photos others in your circle liked the most; and where in the world your friends are located, and their genders, ages and relationships.
A strength of Wolfram|Alpha, of course, is connecting the dots among all this data. For example, in his post, Wolfram shows how users can dive a little deeper into their friends’ relationships:
You can also explore how friends connect to each other:
As Wolfram explains in the post, “the size of each dot is proportional to the number of friends from my network that that person has. The network is laid out automatically by Wolfram|Alpha, and the colors represent different clusters of friends. It’s interesting to see who my “big connectors” are. If you roll over each dot, you’ll see who it is.”
Users can clip and share some of their interesting finds in the personal analytics report to create a permanent web page of that data that can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Reddit, Digg or email. And, with their friends’ permission, they also can run similar reports on their own Facebook friends.
The information is cached for an hour and then deleted, and fresh results are run when users return to the service. The company clarified that following the launch in order to assuage some data privacy concerns that were raised. It explained that while on its servers, the data is stored securely, and is only accessible to the user, as are the results of those queries unless the user explicitly publishes them.
Wolfram noted in his blog that they plan to add more features and capabilities to the service, harkening back to a post he wrote in March, on the heels of the release of Wolfram|Alpha Pro, where he said that in the future, “everyone will routinely collect all sorts of data about themselves.” Wolfram|Alpha Pro, by the way, is a for-free service that lets users compute with their own data – numbers, dates, places, strings, and more, supporting some 60+ types of file uploads and letting users download its computations as data for use in desktop programs. (In fact, a number of times while trying out the Facebook service, expect to be greeted with an invitation to explore Wolfram|Alpha Pro.)
Among user requests for new features for the Facebook Analytics tool that have already started to come in include extending the service to Facebook groups, and gathering information from other social networks and integrating them all together.