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WolframAlpha Updates Its Personal Analytics for Facebook

By   /  February 4, 2013  /  No Comments

Back in September WolframAlpha unveiled its Personal Analytics for Facebook. With Personal Analytics, which The Semantic Web Blog covered here, you could visualize your networks, friends and social activities – and late last month it was updated to give even more insight into you and your Facebook linkages.

Not in the same way that Facebook does with its recently-launched Graph Search (see our story here). It’s not, for example, going to tell you who else out there likes running and lives in Nassau County, NY, or your favorite books that your friends also have read. In its initial debut, Personal Analytics for Facebook would show you things like gender distribution among your friends, or their common names, or who you share the most friends with.

Now, the first upgrade to the Personal Analytics service, covered in the WolframAlpha blog here, boasts features like the following:

  • A new visualization that highlights friends based on the way they fit into your network – as social insiders or outsiders (that is, those you have lots of common friends with and those with whom you share few), social neighbors and gateways (those with few friends outside your network and those with many), and social connectors (those who connect two otherwise separate groups of friends).
  • Now you’ll have color-coded insight into friends’ relationship status, age, and so on, and be able to filter them be that criteria too. Writes blog author John Burnham, “This unlocks a huge variety of interactive visualizations, allowing you to find patterns and ask questions like: Are all your married friends clustered in one part of your network?”
  • Last time around, WolframAlpha’s computational knowledge smarts meant you could pare things like your birth date with where it fell in the Chinese Lunar calendar. This time, the data it knows about the real world and what it knows about your connections’ geographies can combine to tell you information like which of your friends is nearest to the equator or date line, or which is northernmost or southernmost.

WolframAlpha also is giving users the option of letting it track changes to their networks over time, so that users can view how their Facebook world has evolved – marriages begun or ended, babies born, new permanent locations established. And, it’s also asking users to opt in to be a Data Donor, which means their Facebook reports will be securely stored and used by its researchers to find patterns across thousands of people – which WolframAlpha says can be used to improve the Personal Analytics feature or “even make some new scientific discoveries!”

Its privacy and data security policy for Personal Analytics lets you know that if you enable Historical Analytics and/or become a Data Donor, some personally identifiable information will be retained according to the descriptions of those features and in accordance with its privacy policy. For more about that, read this..

WolframAlpha doesn’t appear to be in the same danger that Yandex was in using its data for its social search app Wonder, which Facebook blocked from accessing its data (see story here). Speaking of that incident, a couple of days after WolframAlpha updated Personal Analytics, Facebook posted over at its Developer Blog that it’s clarifying its platform policies around how data on its network can be used by third parties (see here).

To wit, “For the vast majority of developers building social apps and games, keep doing what you’re doing….. For a much smaller number of apps that are using Facebook to either replicate our functionality or bootstrap their growth in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook, such as not providing users an easy way to share back to Facebook, we’ve had policies against this that we are further clarifying today.”


About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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