Archives for Facebook



Is Twitter Making Kids Smarter?

In the Globe and Mail, Clive Thomas argues that all the time kids spend on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs may be making them better writers and thinkers.  Thomas cites the work of Andrea Lunsford, an English professor at Stanford, who recently compared freshman composition papers from 1917, 1930, 1986, and 2006 and found that, while the average rate of errors hasn’t changed much since 1917, students today write longer, more intellectually complex papers:

In 1917, a freshman paper was on average only 162 words long and the majority were simple “personal narratives.” By 1986, the length of papers more than doubled, averaging 422 words. By 2006, they were more than six times longer, clocking in at 1,038 words – and they were substantially more complex, with the majority consisting of a “researched argument or report,” with the student taking a point of view and marshalling evidence to support it.

“Student writers today are tackling the kinds of issues that require inquiry and investigation as well as reflection,” Prof. Lunsford concluded.

Read More »



Facebook-onomics

In a new blog post, Stephen Wolfram lays out some of the data from Wolfram/Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook project. He looks at average network size;  how network size varies with age, gender, and location (among other things);  and, our favorite, what people talk about on Facebook at different ages:

People talk less about video games as they get older, and more about politics and the weather. Men typically talk more about sports and technology than women — and, somewhat surprisingly to me, they also talk more about movies, television and music. Women talk more about pets+animals, family+friends, relationships — and, at least after they reach child-bearing years, health. The peak time for anyone to talk about school+university is (not surprisingly) around age 20. People get less interested in talking about “special occasions” (mostly birthdays) through their teens, but gradually gain interest later. And people get progressively more interested in talking about career+money in their 20s. And so on. And so on.

(HT: Justin Wolfers



A History of Facebook’s New Search Engine

Steven Levy of Wired provides the “inside story” of Facebook’s new search engine, Graph Search:

For years now, Facebook watchers have wondered when the company would unleash the potential of its underpowered search bar. (Nobody has feared this day more than Google, which suddenly faces a competitor able to index tons of data that Google’s own search engine can’t access.) They have also wondered how a Facebook search product might work. Now we know. Graph Search is fundamentally different from web search. Instead of a Google-like effort to help users find answers from a stitched-together corpus of all the world’s information, Facebook is helping them tap its vast, monolithic database to make better use of their “social graph,” the term Zuckerberg uses to describe the network of one’s relationships with friends, acquaintances, favorite celebrities, and preferred brands.

Read More »



FREAK-est Links

1. Who are the 1%? A Gallup poll.
2. Creative types are more likely to cheat.
3. Boost your test scores by chewing gum.
4. Facebook changes numbers on an old adage of separation.
5. Ten things everyone should know about time.
6. Like hopping the subway turnstile? You’d better buy insurance.
7. New study says rats are nice.



Another Chance to Win a Free Copy of SuperFreakonomics

Yesterday, we ran a contest to give away five copies of the new paperback edition of SuperFreakonomics (which can be bought on Amazon and elsewhere). There were more than 640 entries! Thanks for all the support, and for betraying your thirst for free stuff.

So let’s have another contest right now. Last week, when we asked the best way to give away books, your second preference was “really hard contests on blog.” Okay then. But instead of having a quiz here on the blog, we’ve put it on our new Facebook page. So go ahead and “like” our page (if indeed you like it), and try your hand at the quiz. We’ll send a free SuperFreakonomics paperback to the first five people who receive perfect scores. (The tricky part is that you’ll do much better on the quiz if you’ve read the book but hey, the world’s not perfect is it?) Good luck!



Finally, I’m on Facebook

My publisher created a Facebook page for my soon-to-be-published book Beauty Pays. For the page to be effective, the Press told me that I had to add things; and in order to add things, I needed to sign up for Facebook. What to do?? My wife’s response, “Join the 21st century, Daniel.”

Being an obedient husband, I did so and just became the 500,000,000 and 1st Facebook enrollee. I’ve been on Linked-in for a while, but I doubt I’ll ever use it—so many more people are on Facebook. There are tremendous network externalities in social network sites—you want to be on the site with the most links to people with whom you want to be in touch. That is clearly Facebook. I’m not sure, though, that I like this aspect of the 21st century.



The U.K.’s ‘Under-Aged’ Socially Networked Children

According to a new study by the London School of Economics, one in every three children in the U.K. between 9 and 12 has his/her own Facebook page, despite Facebook’s minimum age requirement of 13. Among 13-16 year-olds, that number shoots to 43 percent. Researchers noted that European children are taking undue risks online. Read More »



Correction: Facebook Does Not Make You Stupid

We blogged a while back about some research suggesting Facebook use was correlated with low grades. Well, one Facebook-using professor named Eszter Hargittai thought the data looked fishy. So did Josh Pasek, a graduate student who got in touch with Hargittai — through Facebook, of course — and asked if she’d like to work on […] Read More »