Feeds

Facebook debunks Princeton's STUDY OF DOOM in epic comeback

'You're toast, too, in 2021 by the same bad science'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Facebook's data scientists have schooled two Princeton students who published a paper predicting that the social network would lose 80 per cent of its users by 2017 and go extinct shortly afterwards.

In a mock study Mike Develin, Lada Adamic, and Sean Taylor, of Facebook's data team, used the same methods as the original paper to show that Princeton was facing a decline in undergraduates of 50 per cent in the next four years and would have none at all by 2021. They also used the same logic to show the world will run out of air by 2060.

"We don’t really think Princeton or the world’s air supply is going anywhere soon. We love Princeton (and air). As data scientists, we wanted to give a fun reminder that not all research is created equal – and some methods of analysis lead to pretty crazy conclusions," the Facebook trio said.

The team gently points out that the two PhD students from Princeton's department of mechanical and aerospace engineering had fallen into one of the oldest traps in the book, the assumption that "correlation equals causation."

The duo were using [PDF] historical Google search query data as a metric for users, then sought to fit a data curve to the model, working on the assumption that social network membership was spread by friends and would follow a decline as people dropped out, in the same way that flu outbreaks grow and spread. To back this up they used data from MySpace's birth, explosive growth, and then decline to "prove" their point.

By applying the same logic, Facebook's own study now shows Princeton is in a similar pickle, with declining interest among Google users, indicating the institution - established in 1746 – will be student-free by 2021 as fewer people are searching Google for information on the place.

To confirm this finding, the Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook looked at the mentions of Princeton academic papers that cropped up on Google and found that it has declined sharply since 2009, and is still falling. This correlates the Google Search data and makes Facebook's case that Princeton is doomed.

The Facebook scientists are too polite to say it, but this is either very poor science or just another attempt to gain 15 minutes of fame rather than be any serious attempt at knowledge gathering. Neither outcome reflects well on Princeton academics. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
NSA mass spying reform KILLED by US Senators
Democrats needed just TWO more votes to keep alive bill reining in some surveillance
'Internet Freedom Panel' to keep web overlord ICANN out of Russian hands – new proposal
Come back with our internet! cries Republican drawing up bill
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.