Facebook isn’t quite as popular with teenagers as it once was. There’s some truth to it. Even President Obama knows it. But I like how Facebook handled the latest attack on their user retention problem.
They used a tactic we all use in our personal lives from time to time. Have you ever felt like your back’s against the wall because you made a mistake or are on the losing end of an argument? It’s being pointed out from all angles, then along comes your savior: a babbling idiot whose illogical, exaggerated argument finally presents you with an opportunity to escape. You respond to that argument, shifting the focus to them.
That’s exactly how Facebook’s data scientists, led by Mike Develin, handled the recent Princeton study suggesting that the social network will lose 80% of its users in the next two or three years. The methodology used by the Princeton researchers was so off that they might as well have gift-wrapped the study and sent it to Facebook as a belated Christmas present.
The Facebook team put together their own study, using the Princeton researchers’ “correlation equals causation” methodology, and concluded that Princeton might have an enrollment of zero by 2021, and that Earth may run out of air by 2060.
Here’s the response:
Like many of you, we were intrigued by a recent article by Princeton researchers predicting the imminent demise of Facebook. Of particular interest was the innovative use of Google search data to predict engagement trends, instead of studying the actual engagement trends. Using the same robust methodology featured in the paper, we attempted to find out more about this “Princeton University” – and you won’t believe what we found! In keeping with the scientific principle “correlation equals causation,” our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely. Looking at page likes on Facebook, we find the following alarming trend:
Now, Facebook isn’t the only repository of human knowledge out there. A search of Google Scholar revealing a plethora of scholarly articles of great scholarliness turned up the following results, showing the percentage of articles matching the query “Princeton” by year:
The trend is similarly alarming: since 2009, the percentage of “Princeton” papers in journals has dropped dramatically.
Of course, Princeton University is primarily an institution of higher learning – so as long as it has students, it’ll be fine. Unfortunately, in investigating this, we found a strong correlation between the undergraduate enrollment of an institution and its Google Trends index:
This trend suggests that Princeton will have only half its current enrollment by 2018, and by 2021 it will have no students at all, agreeing with the previous graph of scholarly scholarliness. Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth.
While we are concerned for Princeton University, we are even more concerned about the fate of the planet — Google Trends for “air” have also been declining steadily, and our projections show that by the year 2060 there will be no air left:
Although this research has not yet been peer-reviewed, every Like for this post counts as a peer review. Start reviewing!
P.S. 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.
Research by Mike Develin, Lada Adamic, and Sean Taylor.