The ever insightful Stephen Wolfram has another graph-heavy post, this time compiling data on Facebook analytics:
More than a million people have now used our Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook. And as part of our latest update, in addition to collecting some anonymized statistics, we launched a Data Donor program that allows people to contribute detailed data to us for research purposes.
A few weeks ago we decided to start analyzing all this data. And I have to say that if nothing else it’s been a terrific example of the power of Mathematica and the Wolfram Language for doing data science. (It’ll also be good fodder for the Data Science course I’m starting to create.)
We’d always planned to use the data we collect to enhance our Personal Analyticssystem. But I couldn’t resist also trying to do some basic science with it.
I’ve always been interested in people and the trajectories of their lives. But I’ve never been able to combine that with my interest in science. Until now. And it’s been quite a thrill over the past few weeks to see the results we’ve been able to get. Sometimes confirming impressions I’ve had; sometimes showing things I never would have guessed. And all along reminding me of phenomena I’ve studied scientifically in A New Kind of Science.
So what does the data look like? Here are the social networks of a few Data Donors—with clusters of friends given different colors. (Anyone can find their own network usingWolfram|Alpha—or the
SocialMediaData function in Mathematica.)
It’s a pretty fascinating read.
My favorite graph was this one of the distribution of your Facebook friends’ age versus your age:
The age of your Facebook friends versus your age.
It’s also quite interesting how the marriage statistics from Facebook line up with the official Census data:
Facebook marriage age vs. Census data.
For a lot more analysis, read Stephen Wolfram’s entire post.
Andrew Leonard pens a very good rant on the annoying, intrusive ads Facebook is delivering to users of the mobile version of the app:
And now she’s in my phone. And guess what? In Facebook’s mobile app, there is no option to hide all sponsored ads from a particular advertiser. Your only choice is the basic option you have with any kind of post — you can mark it as spam. Supposedly, reporting posts as spam will decrease the likelihood that you see them, but I’m afraid I’ve seen zero positive change in the frequency or content of Facebook’s sponsored story ads, despite what Facebook claims. Instead I am getting more of the ads I don’t want on my phone, after years of telling Facebook I don’t like exactly those types of ads. This is not an encouraging trend line.
By the time the first trickle of caffeine had woken up my synapses, I realized that I was done. I had reached my tipping point. I no longer want to check Facebook on my phone.
Does Facebook really think so little of me? Am I not man enough to seek my own romantic path without Facebook’s help?
And the money quote:
I’m sorry, Mark Zuckerberg, but my iPhone screen is just not big enough for those breasts.
As a user of the app on my iPhone, I’ve noticed these annoying ads as well. I haven’t quite reached the tipping point of quitting the service, but I am irked enough to highlight others’ reactions to it and am not surprised with Mr. Leonard’s decision.
Writing in the London Review of Books, Rebecca Solnit expresses her discontent at the unstable housing market in San Francisco, driven by new money from the tech boom (Google, Facebook, etc.):
At the actual open houses, dozens of people who looked like students would show up with chequebooks and sheaves of resumés and other documents and pack the house, literally: it was like a cross between being at a rock concert without a band and the Hotel Rwanda. There were rumours that these young people were starting bidding wars, offering a year’s rent in advance, offering far more than was being asked. These rumours were confirmed. Evictions went back up the way they did during the dot-com bubble. Most renters have considerable protection from both rent hikes and evictions in San Francisco, but there are ways around the latter, ways that often lead to pitched legal battles, and sometimes illegal ones. Owners have the right to evict a tenant to occupy the apartment itself (a right often abused; an evicted friend of mine found a new home next door to his former landlord and is watching with an eagle eye to see if the guy really dwells there for the requisite three years). Statewide, the Ellis Act allows landlords to evict all tenants and remove the property from the rental market, a manoeuvre often deployed to convert a property to flats for sale. As for rent control, it makes many landlords restless with stable tenants, since you can charge anything you like on a vacant apartment – and they do.
A Latino who has been an important cultural figure for forty years is being evicted while his wife undergoes chemotherapy. One of San Francisco’s most distinguished poets, a recent candidate for the city’s poet laureate, is being evicted after 35 years in his apartment and his whole adult life here: whether he will claw his way onto a much humbler perch or be exiled to another town remains to be seen, as does the fate of a city that poets can’t afford. His building, full of renters for most or all of the past century, including a notable documentary filmmaker, will be turned into flats for sale. A few miles away, friends of friends were evicted after twenty years in their home by two Google attorneys, a gay couple who moved into two separate units in order to maximise their owner-move-in rights. Rental prices rose between 10 and 135 per cent over the past year in San Francisco’s various neighbourhoods, though thanks to rent control a lot of San Franciscans were paying far below market rates even before the boom – which makes adjusting to the new market rate even harder. Two much-loved used bookstores are also being evicted by landlords looking for more money; 16 restaurants opened last year in their vicinity. On the waterfront, Larry Ellison, the owner of Oracle and the world’s sixth richest man, has been allowed to take control of three city piers for 75 years in return for fixing them up in time for the 2013 America’s Cup; he will evict dozens of small waterfront businesses as part of the deal.
Evictions, foreclosures, and legal loopholes. This doesn’t sound like a city I’d want to inhabit. A must-read for perspective.
The Wall Street Journal has a bizarre story of four grown men who’ve been playing a game of tag for 23 years:
It started in high school when they spent their morning break darting around the campus of Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Wash. Then they moved on—to college, careers, families and new cities. But because of a reunion, a contract and someone’s unusual idea to stay in touch, tag keeps pulling them closer. Much closer.
The game they play is fundamentally the same as the schoolyard version: One player is “It” until he tags someone else. But men in their 40s can’t easily chase each other around the playground, at least not without making people nervous, so this tag has a twist. There are no geographic restrictions and the game is live for the entire month of February. The last guy tagged stays “It” for the year.
I guess this game beats Facebook pokes, but:
The participants say tag has helped preserve friendships that otherwise may have fizzled. Usually, though, the prospect of 11 months of ridicule overrides brotherhood.
Tim Maly, in a thoughtful essay titled “Mark Zuckerberg’s Hoodie,” ponders the role of privacy and social behavior as the hoodie has gone mainstream:
People who know they’re being watched change their behaviour. In a world awash in surveillance devices, hoodies are an element of fashion driven by an architectural condition. They are a response to the constant presence of cameras overhead. People who don’t want to be watched wear them. People who want to be the kind of people who don’t want to be watched wear them. People who want to look like the kind of people who don’t want to be watched wear them.
Through a series of vignettes, Maly brings us from 2005 to present day:
It is January 13, 2013 and Mark Zuckerberg is promising a revolution. He’s on stage, wearing his hoodie. He seems comfortable. His colleague Tom Stocky is trying to help a hypothetical girl find a date. He runs a query and gets a list of men who are friends of friends and single. It’s a veritable cornucopia of potential men. He narrows them down to people in San Francisco. Then down to people in San Francisco who are from India. His hypothetical woman is sure to be pleased.
Just don’t wear that hoodie to a first date, you know?
The New York Times details Mark Zuckerberg’s recent trip to Russia, where he met Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. The big story here is that Zuckerberg didn’t wear his hoodie and instead looked professional in a suit and tie…
But on a more interesting note, this paragraph intrigued me:
More Russians are online today than Germans, making Russia the largest Internet market in Europe. Russians also, strangely, have spent more freely relative to their income than Americans on virtual products, like special powers for online games, making their country a useful market for testing revenue streams other than advertising.
I don’t have a guess as to why virtual products are so popular in Russia.
On another note, check out the bottom of the article for a hilarious correction:
An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of Mark Zuckerberg as Zuckerman at one point.
From this excellent New York Times piece detailing the woes of the Facebook stock, I wanted to highlight these two paragraph:
The next test for the stock could come soon. Over 1.6 billion shares will be eligible to come on the market in several waves, starting on Thursday, when a number of shareholders are allowed to sell. Investors may fear that an influx of shares could cause prices to fall even more.
One former Facebook employee, who did not want to be named because he did not want to damage his relationship with onetime co-workers, said he expected other employees to cash in their stock options as soon as they could, and predicted that the stock’s woes could make it difficult to retain and hire talent. He no longer owns Facebook stock.
My prediction? A lot of insiders are going to unwind Facebook stock, and the effect will be a further decrease in the stock price. I am staying far away. I wouldn’t be surprised if the stock price is trading below $10/share by the beginning of 2013.