Wolfram Alpha’s personal analytics service is cool—when it's not overloaded

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Our Facebook accounts can tell a lot about our daily lives, and now computational search engine Wolfram Alpha allows us to analyze the data found within.

The new feature debuted Thursday and is accessed by typing “facebook report” into the search box. Visitors need a Wolfram Alpha account and need to give the service’s Facebook app permission to access their data.

Under normal conditions, the report should appear in a matter of seconds. It is always current: the site says data is only cached for one hour, which means that the data on your Facebook friends will always be current.

Note that I said under normal conditions. The feature appeared so popular Thursday that it was difficult to use. Most of my attempts to access the analytics service were unsuccessful and resulted in time outs.

That said, when it does work, the reports are quite interesting. Graphs of activity show not only how much you’re on Facebook and when, but also what types of information you’re posting at those times—a link, photo, video, or status.

Usage patterns are displayed.
A friends graph on Wolfram Alpha

Another portion of the report looks at the post content. It will list your most-liked post, and arranges common words found on your wall post into a word cloud for a visual representation of what you talk about most.

A majority of the report focuses on you, but Wolfram Alpha takes a look at your friends too. Graphs show the sex and relationship status of your buddies and the most common names.

One interesting feature is a graphic representation of your friends list and their connections. As you’d imagine, there’s several ways that might look. Perhaps your friends display as all connected together, or perhaps you have several different but distinct clusters of friends. Or maybe it shows as just a big unconnected mess.

“It’s quite fascinating—and sometimes revealing—looking at the personal analytics reports for oneself and one’s friends,” founder Stephen Wolfram says of the feature. “I think I could spend ages doing it. And coming back at different times to see what’s changed.”

Once you get a chance to use it, tell us what you find out about yourself through your Facebook report. Did you even get the service to load in the first place?

This story, "Wolfram Alpha’s personal analytics service is cool—when it's not overloaded" was originally published by TechHive.

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