Facebook has been working on a number of side projects over the past couple years which involve measuring the sentiment of users on the site. The company’s latest project, first announced yesterday afternoon, is the United States Gross National Happiness index. The newly launched tool polls users’ status updates within the United States and then measures their sentiment to determine the collective happiness. While I’m still a little bit cynical of sentiment analysis, there are some definite correlations between holidays and positive updates on Facebook.
One interesting statistic which the data revealed is that the happiest day of the year for domestic Facebook users is Thanksgiving. Also, exposed is some of the least happy days in the U.S. Adam Kramer of Facebook writes:
It’s not all rosy, though: The index also shows two remarkably unhappy days. The lowest was Jan. 22, 2008, which was the day the Asian stock market crashed and coincidentally the same day as the tragic death of actor Heath Ledger. The recent death of cultural icon Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009, came in as the second least happy day in the past two years.
This product is one example of the type of information that Facebook has access to. It’s also just enough information to tease data junkies. Facebook has rolled out a number of data tools in the past including Facebook Lexicon, which only begins to expose the treasure trove of data available within Facebook. While Facebook has an entire team dedicated to revealing interesting information on the site, Facebook has yet to launch truly robust quantitative data products.
While the Gross National Happiness index reveals some interesting information, I’m expecting to see more robust data tools over the coming months and years. The greatest challenge for Facebook and external research tools will be to extract useful information from an endless ocean of user data.