Wolfram Alpha and Facebook Personal Analytics

Wolfram|Alpha, the world’s first and only computational knowledge engine, uses its expert-level knowledge and algorithms to answer questions, generate reports, and do analysis across thousands of domains.

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There’s also an offer for K-12 educators and students to try out a WolframAlpha Pro account.  With Wolfram|Alpha Pro, you can compute with your own data. Just input numeric or tabular data right in your browser, and Pro will automatically analyze it—effortlessly handling not just pure numbers, but also dates, places, strings, and more.

But wait – now there’s Facebook!

According to TechCrunch

a new feature today that allows you to quickly get an overview of all your data on Facebook. The new report, says Wolfram CEO Stephen Wolfram, expands Wolfram Alpha’s “powers of analysis to give you all sorts of personal analytics.” The company plans to expand these reports with new features over time, but they already give you a pretty deep look at your Facebook habits.

LifeHacker explains

all you need to do is head to Wolfram Alpha’s home page and type in “Facebook Report”. After connecting it to your Facebook and granting it a rather large number of permissions, Wolfram Alpha will break down everything about your Facebook activity into 60 different sections of charts, graphs, and other analyses—like a cluster map of your friends and relationships, everywhere you’ve checked in, what days you’re most active on the site, a cloud of your most-used words, and even the weather from the day you were born. It’s incredibly interesting, super geeky, and downright scary.

Scary indeed – but not so much. This is not new – it’s just a development.

ThinkUp has allowed analysis of any Facebook account. ThinkUp is a free, open source web application that captures all your activity on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. One of the best ways to learn about ThinkUp is to see it in action.

Your Facebook Report

Your Wolfram|Alpha report will include the more obvious things such as:

  • Which Facebook apps do you use the most?
  • Who comments the most on your posts?

What you first see is only the tip of the iceberg. Change parameters, expands results, and click the More buttons to drill down into deeper layers of computation and analysis.You can even click the name of a friend to run the full page analysis on that friend’s shared Facebook data.

OK. Thanks to the report I now know that Seymour Papert is my oldest ‘friend’, and that many more of my friends lie about their age! Jeff A is 79 and he mostly uploads pictures to his Facebook Account.

Not surprisingly the report also confirms what I knew to be my personal preferences for Facebook  – I use Facebook mainly for sharing!

If all this has convinced you never to touch Facebook – think again!

Whether you like it or not Helmond and Gerlitz (2012) suggest that  the Facebook Like economy is here as part of the reworked fabric of the web  – and the only way to avoid it is never to go online, and never to visit a page with a Facebook link.  That means no more reading the news online, shopping, or browsing websites.Even before we join Facebook, visits to any site with a Facebook icon are being tracked because of the The Open Graph Protocol  introduced in 2009 into Facebook’s infrastructure to code and govern social activities and relations outside the Facebook membership platform.

Meanwhile, through the act of liking Facebook users are validating and linking content on the web, an act previously exclusive to webmasters and establishing what may be considered an emerging Like economy.

To be honest, I am not concerned about this dataflow. It’s here to stay. Refusing to participate is the equivalent of refusing to drive a car to get somewhere -  because it’s mechanical and doesn’t have four legs!

The pervasive nature of the web simply reminds me of the importantance of considering what I do, share and discuss online.  It reminds me that as educators we need (more than ever) to understand this reworked fabric of the 90s web, and understand how best to capitalize on it, learn with it, share with it, and make it possible for our students (young and old) be high calibre participants in their online world.