Data-Mine Your Own Facebook Data with Wolfram Alpha

Now you can scan your own Facebook data for all sorts of insights (and nifty graphs).

Ever wanted to mine your own Facebook data? Wolfram Alpha is offering you the chance.

Wolfram Alpha bills itself as a “computational knowledge engine.” In contrast to other search engines such as Google and Bing, which return pages of blue hyperlinks in response to queries, Wolfram Alpha offers up objective data: type in the name of a person, for example, and you might receive their dates of birth and death, a timeline, and a graph of Wikipedia page hits.

That’s a pretty far cry from more conventional search engines, which might take the same keyword and deliver tons of photos, video, blog pages, and news references; but for those hunting after numbers-based knowledge, Wolfram Alpha can prove a useful tool. Indeed, typing in math problems or formulas (“plot table (2^k mod 12) for k = 1 to 100”) will spit back an answer.

The platform has continually evolved since its launch in mid-2009. The newest iteration is Facebook data-mining: type “Facebook report” into the search bar, click “Allow” on the subsequent permissions, and the engine will spit back years of personal data sliced, visualized, and analyzed in a multitude of ways.

“Wolfram Alpha knows about all kinds of knowledge domains; now it can know about you, and apply its powers of analysis to give you all sorts of personal analytics,” Wolfram Alpha founder Stephen Wolfram wrote in an August 30 blog posting. “And this is just the beginning; over the months to come, particularly as we see about how people use this, we’ll be adding more and more capabilities.”

Data on view includes weekly distribution of Facebook posts, types of posts (photos, links, status updates), weekly app activity, frequency of particular words in posts, friends’ hometowns and marital status, and most common friend names. The amount of data is determined by how much you’ve used Facebook; those with only a passing relationship to the social network won’t have very much data to mine.

Over the past few years, Facebook has managed to amass a staggering amount of information on hundreds of millions of people. In turn, the social network has used the implicit value of this data to sell itself as the ideal advertising platform for businesses. Whether that business model actually results in a turnaround of Facebook’s cratering stock price remains to be seen; but in the meantime, experiments like Wolfram Alpha’s provides an interesting glimpse the data Facebook’s trying to monetize.

 

Image: Wolfram Alpha

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