Discovering your personal analytical profile
July 8, 2013
by Mark Ollig

Steven Wolfram calls it “personal analytics.”

Wolfram, as you may recall from a previous column, is the physicist who created the WolframAlpha Computational Knowledge Engine.

In the May 18, 2009 Bits & Bytes, I wrote how the WolframAlpha website “is a bit different from a normal search engine, because it computes answers and provides pictorial visualizations “on-the-fly” from a knowledge base of collected and structured data.”

It is located at http://www.wolframalpha.com.

While writing today’s column, I re-visited the WolframAlpha website.

Of course, I needed to ask what the current distance Earth is from the planet Mars. As of last Monday morning, Earth was 2.453 au (astronomical units), or 228 million miles away from Mars.

WolframAlpha also informed me the distance from Earth of the Voyager 1 spacecraft launched in 1977, was 11.5 billion miles.

As I continued to query my other challenging questions into WolframAlpha, I rediscovered how occupied one could become with this analytical knowledge engine.

Speaking of being occupied with information, in a recent blog, Wolfram talked about his own fascination with his personal data usage. This interest caused him to archive all of the personal email he has accumulated since 1989.

He said this amounted to a million emails.

Wolfram immerses himself in accumulating data, and then logically deciphers it in an orderly manner, making the data understandable and useful, while explaining certain analytical rules about it.

So, why did he save all those emails?

In his blog, Wolfram said he always wanted to analyze this sizeable accumulation of email data, but discloses, “I’ve never actually gotten around to doing it.”

Finally, he did complete a personal analytical profile using his archived email.

On one graphic, Wolfram’s analytical program diagramed the hourly times of when a third of his million emails since 1989, were sent.

During 1990, I noted he was very consistent in sending out emails from 12 a.m to 6 a.m, with just a trace of activity from 7 a.m to 1 p.m.

The decade from 2002 until 2012, showed regularity of sending emails between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m. and then inactivity from 3 a.m to 10 a.m. I assumed he slept during these hours, and, according to his blog, this was the case.

Wolfram said he was “something of a night owl during this time.”

During this same 10-year period, he sometimes sent emails between 11 a.m and 6 p.m; a break in his email activity was noted from 7 p.m until 9 p.m.

Wolfram understood how this data lined up with identifiable events and trends in his personal life; such as during the 1990s, when he was writing his book, “A New Kind of Science;” and in 2009, while working on the WolframAlpha Computational Knowledge Engine.

Wolfram has now brought his personal analytical data collecting techniques to Facebook.

“Gain insight on yourself and your social network” WolframAlpha’s personal analytics for Facebook page declares.

Use of Wolfram’s software algorithms allows creation of our own personalized Facebook-user analytical profile.

And yes, this humble Facebook user took the plunge and used his program.

I will admit being impressed with the results of my personalized, analytical report.

The information was easy to understand, and its statistical and graphical data was well organized.

There are several ways of viewing one’s WolframAlpha Facebook analytics. One method is using the viewing options as presented alongside each section of information.

Graphs showed an hourly breakdown of the times when I am the most active using Facebook.

My personal WolframAlpha Facebook analytical report included the highest number of Facebook-liked photos I have uploaded, along with the photos with the most user comments.

My most-liked photo on Facebook received 42 “likes.”

A map of the US displayed red pin dots from the locations I had logged into Facebook from.

In addition to my Minnesota locations, WolframAlpha accurately disclosed my checking in from San Francisco, a few weeks ago.

A graphical map of the world shows where all my Facebook friends are from.

In addition, the data also revealed the reported ages of my Facebook friends.

While my youngest Facebook friend is a 19-year-old nephew, the oldest is said to be a 107-year-old.

The report disclosed my 107-year-old Facebook friend is the Winsted Summerfest, which listed its birthday to Facebook as occurring Aug. 11, 1905.

The Web-harvested data gleamed from Facebook I found particularly interesting, was my personalized Facebook “word cloud.”

The word cloud shows an image of a cloud containing the unique words I have repeated the most in my 931 Facebook Wall text postings.

The larger the word appears inside the cloud, the more I have used it.

My word cloud shows about 150 of my most-used words: Internet, bits, bytes, online, Mars, space, NASA, and computer, are most weighted, or the ones I use a lot when on Facebook.

You can see my Facebook word cloud at http://tinyurl.com/markswordcloud.

In summary, I found it very informative reviewing my personalized Facebook analytics using WolframAlpha.

To learn more, and to run your own personalized, analytical Wolframalpha Facebook usage report, go to http://www.wolframalpha.com/facebook.

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