I was killing some time on Facebook today and came across a feature that was able to capture and hold my attention enough to warrant a post. It is called Lexicon and it allows you to query words from posts made to people’s walls. The results are plotted along a time line and you can perform searches on multiple words to compare trends.

With Lexicon we, the users of these mass social networking (read preference collection) sites, have the ability to mine some of the data we provide. Facebook, even give the data a first-cut cleaning to correct for common mispellings (sp.) and problems with apostrophes. Notwithstanding the absence of a scale on the y-axis, the conclusions we draw from the data are not always incredibly interesting. Take, for example, the graph below showing the appearance of each candidate’s name on Facebook walls. You can add the word ‘delegates’ to your search and watch the peaks line up. You can pick out Super Tuesday (Feb 5) easily. More than that, you can see that Obama is getting a lot more free press out there in the Facebook-a-sphere.

I think this could be useful to get a rough idea about some associations we suspect to exist. Unfortunately the wall is not the best place to collect data as only certain topics are discussed and the makeup of the users is likely to screw up any generalizablity, and sometimes the scale of the two things you are comparing makes it difficult to find what you might be looking for (see ‘cold’ vs. ‘bike’). Nonetheless it is fun to see you suspicions confirmed (no one mentions ‘smog’ in Dec or Jan)and to think a bit about what people are talking about. Remember that you will not be able to infer causation from anything you find here so be humble with what you discover. Here are a few more of my favorites.

5 thoughts on “Lexicon

  1. this is incredibly . . . incredible. sort of. yet again, it is sometimes amazing to me personally when the lines are blurred between “free”, “marketing”, “research” and the up and coming rulers of the world. yes, that’s right, the up and coming rulers of the world. the facebook generation will produce a president or two, elected leaders, billionaires, etc. and to think how many drunk pictures of them there have been uploaded where their friends post comments like “dude, we were soooo drunk”. This is fascinating. truly. i’m with you V. i’m gonna think more on this.


  2. Indeed it is fun to think about the future leaders with ALL those drunk pictures up there. Speaking of which, check out the Lexicon analysis of ‘party tonight’ and ‘hangover’ it’s perfect.


  3. This is fascinating, and I’m sure the pollsters and pundits are already using this type of thing to cull more than just facebook. In many ways, a broader search, say one that includes hotmail and gmail servers, could provide a first time quantitative approach to discovering the zeitgeist.


  4. thanks go out to vargo for thrashing through the abyss that facebook has become to find something “useful” (or at least pretty darn cool). i’ll let ya know if anything interesting comes up next time i have an assignment due.


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