Two Apps for Analyzing You and Your Friends on Facebook

This past week we saw a couple new Facebook applications gain millions of users — and they weren’t social games. Both offer interesting statistical analyses about your Facebook data (as well as alliteration). One is called Status Statistics and it looks at all of your status updates on Facebook, and figures out a surprising amount about you. The other app is called Friend Facts, and it looks at all of the profile data about your friends, and figures out things like which TV shows and books are most popular with your friends.

With Status Updates, you just load the app, give it a little while to make its calculations, then you can see a rather scary list of everything you’ve ever posted. Personally, I post from Twitter to Facebook — out of my 694 total updates, 499 have come from the service. My most frequent word is “[post]” because I use that designation to let my Twitter followers know that I’m tweeting one of my articles. And, because I’ve been covering Facebook heavily for the last few years, my most commonly-used word is, well, “facebook.” The service also tells me that I do most of my updating during business hours, and early in the week. That is certainly true, as I use Twitter and Facebook status updates more for work-related information than for sending the world a constant stream of my personal feelings. The app also lets you analyze your friends’ updates.

Friend Facts, meanwhile, tells me about who the people are on Facebook who see my status updates. They run on the nerdy side, shall we say. Radiohead is the top band, with 38 of my friends listing it on their profiles. The top TV Show is The Office, with 78 friends listing it. Out of all my friends, the most common name is “David.” A few more of my friends are men than women — a consequence of being friends with a lot of people in the guy-heavy tech world. In all, my Facebook friends live in 37 countries and 29 states.

In their own right, the apps are worth checking out purely for the sake of getting a new perspective on yourself and your Facebook friends. Bigger picture, this sort of data mining is surprisingly uncommon to see among third-party developers. Facebook makes a lot of user data available to developers, but not all of it (in a recent agreement with the privacy commissioner of Canada, Facebook said it would be adding more granular privacy controls over the coming months).

Still, some clever developers have put user data to quite practical uses. TV Guide’s integration of Facebook Connect, for example, does a good job of scouring the “Favorite TV Shows” section of your friends’ user profiles, and automatically showing you the most popular shows on the TV Guide site. Connect has done a good job integrating with media sites, so users can log in with their Facebook IDs and leave comments. But much of the service is still under development, and if it’s going to be the hit that Facebook hopes, the company and third parties will have to figure out how to balance data-sharing and user privacy.

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