Mining Facebook Data: Most "Liked" Status and Friendship Network

January 18, 2012

(This article was first published on Apply R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Professional R Enthusiast published a quick manual how to use Facebook Graph API. I particularly like a trick to obtain an access-token using Graph API Explorer.
Now, you can easily employ R to get your most “Liked” Facebook status ever. For me it was this photo followed by a lot of posts about my kids. The same code can be applied to Facebook Group or Page. For example the most popular videos, that appeared on TED Page last year, were the following:

See the code, it is not so long.

Now let us try something more sophisticated. Before Xmas a lot of my friends tested MyFnetwork app to visualize their friendship networks (see my network below). Surely, this is not the first app doing this. However, this might be the first one really useful. I can see groups of my friends separated (colleagues vs. friends of my wife vs. high school classmates vs. university classmates). Highlighting tries to emphasize the key persons in each group but unfortunately it misses an adjustment for total number of friends (Facebook enthusiasts like PetrC or LenkaZ seem to be more special than they really are). 
Original myFnetwork graph
So how difficult would it be to produce a similar graph with R? Actually, as you can see it is just a few lines of code. First I scraped the list of friends, then for each of them I got the list of mutual friends and finally Rgraphviz package does the plotting stuff. 
R/Graphviz plot with initials

As you can see the graphs are pretty similar (most likely, MyFnetwork also uses some port of Graphviz code). Of course, there exists endless list of modifications. For example, you can first download friends’ profile pictures and then use custom node plotting function to produce something like the following:
R/Graphviz plot with profile pictures

Now you can guess who is my wife and who is the problematic friend from the previous post :-) Anyway, myFnetwork claims to get over 1.3 million users in 6 weeks. How difficult could it be make R Facebook/app?

Romain Francois: Crawling facebook with R

Update: I am getting comments about your installation problems with RCurl and Rgraphviz packages. Honestly, I am not administrator of my Ubuntu Linux Server and I have only a limited knowledge about possible issues. RCurl seems to be ok even on my Win32 machine – read the FAQ. Rgraphviz is a bit more tricky: see How to install it under Windows but I would recommend you a decent linux distribution for this work.

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