Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Facebook: The Oracle

Posted: December 1, 2010 by jeredfiasco in Social Media
Tags: , , , ,

Consider these facts about Facebook.com straight from their Statistics page:

People on Facebook

  • More than 500 million active users
  • 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook

Activity on Facebook

  • There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
  • Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
  • Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.

Global Reach

  • More than 70 translations available on the site
  • About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States
  • Over 300,000 users helped translate the site through the translations application

Platform

  • More than one million developers and entrepreneurs from more than 180 countries
  • Every month, more than 70% of Facebook users engage with Platform applications
  • More than 550,000 active applications currently on Facebook Platform
  • More than one million websites have integrated with Facebook Platform
  • More than 150 million people engage with Facebook on external websites every month
  • Two-thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites have integrated with Facebook

Mobile

  • There are more than 200 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
  • People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
  • There are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products

With this many global users spending this much time on the site, we are writing our own autobiographies via Facebook’s Daily News Feed.  We mention books we are reading, our favorite songs, the newest viral video, life events such as relationship beginnings and endings, engagements, deaths, who we ran into at the store, a random reference from a movie we saw years ago, and and the list continues on endlessly.  We share things with strangers and friends alike.  It didn’t take long for many to realize this information could be mined to learn oodles of information, both useful and pointless.

Over at The Slate, Michael Agger wonders What would happen if Facebook made it’s data available for research:

I was curious who was looking at this data and what larger trends they discovered.

Our first stop is Openbook. The site lets you search public Facebook updates and was created to demonstrate how FB’s privacy settings are confusing: People don’t realize how widely they are sharing personal information. And, indeed, when you do a search like “cheated on my wife,” you discover updates that would’ve been better left in the privacy of one’s own mind. Same with “my boss sucks.”

As you move beyond obvious “gotcha” searches, the vastness, weirdness, and potential usefulness of Facebook becomes even more apparent. A search like “brushing my teeth” reveals the amazing variety of pop music that launches people into their day. It would satisfy a small curiosity to map the status updates about UFO sightings, and I could imagine tech-happy CNN showing where love for President Obama is currently cresting. I also like doing lunchtime marketing research about how people feel about organic food or comparing the patrons of Pizza Hut vs. Taco Bell.

But there is a more serious type of analysis to accomplish. It would be helpful for transportation planners to know the places where people complain the most about traffic. Educators could see the data and sentiment analysis around how a community feels about its local schools. The writer Marshall Kirkpatrick at readwriteweb.com has called for Facebook to open up its data for research. He points to the fact that the discriminatory practice of redlining was discovered “when both U.S. Census information and real estate mortgage loan information were made available for bulk analysis.” And he rightly speculates that “patterns of comparable importance” could be found in Facebook’s enormous social graph.

Nerve’s James Brady Ryan recently wrote about how Facebook’s fan number can accurate predict election results:

It’s news that should be kind of obvious but still somehow feels surprising: according to Facebook’s “political team,” candidates who had more fans on the social networking site than their opponents won their actual elections overall. (So not only did they lose, but they also are super unpopular and probably won’t even be asked to the spring formal.) Here are the numbers:

The Facebook political team’s initial snapshot of 98 House races shows that 74% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests. In the Senate, our initial snapshot of 19 races shows that 81% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests.

As I said, this really shouldn’t be shocking — candidates who have more people who like them get more people to vote for them?! — but I think we often consider becoming a fan of someone on Facebook to be something of an empty, half-hearted political gesture. Not to mention that it’s notoriously difficult to get younger people to vote and Facebook has a whole lot of them.

But now that Facebook has become so prominent, and so much more than the easiest way to stalk a cute guy from your Biology class, I guess it’s time to reconsider.

The real interesting piece here is that Facebook does not openly allow users to peek and mine the data it contains.  They provide certain data to advertisers to market towards us and make money from the annoying ads on the right side of the page.  Back to the Slate article mentioned above,

Facebook’s challenge is to leverage that social graph in a way that doesn’t alienate us all. The site analyzes us for the benefit of its advertisers but offers only limited peaks at what its engineers are capable of. The Facebook Data Team, for example, tries to measure how happy people are on Facebook each day with the Gross National Happiness Index. The index tracks the numbers of positive and negative words in status updates. In America, we just hit a happiness peak on Thanksgiving Day—Mother’s Day is a distant second. (Fun fact: We are happier on the day of the Super Bowl than we are on Easter.) The data team also analyzed how diverse its U.S.-based users were and voter turnout trends in the recent election.

The larger trend here is that Facebook keeps very close tabs on its information. The poster boy for FB’s data hoarding is entrepreneur Pete Warden. He built his own database of 210 million publicly available Facebook profiles and created a whimsical map of the United States that divided the country into regions like the “Nomadic West” and “Socalistan,” based on where people’s friends were likely to be located. His widely circulated Fan Page Analytics showed, say, what things people who liked NPR also liked, or the top states for Megan Fox lust. Warden’s plan was to make his data available to researchers, but he was threatened with a lawsuit by Facebook, and that was that. (Be sure to look at Warden’s new project, OpenHeatMap.)

A basic hurdle with self-tracking or a volunteer data collection project like Track Your Happiness is simply getting in the habit of collecting the numbers. Facebook is a natural platform for these efforts, and I know that many “quantified self” tools are integrated with the site.

By analyzing status updates,  Mathias Mikkelsen created this graphic to visualize when break-ups are most likely to happen.

Peak Break Up Times a la Facebook

Keep in mind that the information mentioned above has been from data made public only.  What would the information look like if Facebook opened up the data vault they have on over a half billion people? s this something we should be concerned about or should we embrace it?  Will we see the vanishing of exit polls in favor of Facebook?  Will Homeland Security change the threat level based on Facebook posts?  What will happen to human interaction? Facebook has the power to better society, but at what price will that come?