Never provoke a data scientist with time on his hands.
A study from a pair of Princeton University researchers made the rounds this week because of a particularly bold claim — that Facebook would lose 80 percent of its user base in the next three years.
The paper compared Facebook’s rise to that of a disease, and as such suggested that the social network would follow similar patterns of dying out as existing disease models.
Not one to take a scientific potshot lying down, Facebook’s Data Science team posted its own “study” on Thursday evening, making the tongue-in-cheek claim that Princeton, too, was in trouble.
“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!” Facebook data scientist Mike Develin wrote.
“In keeping with the scientific principle ‘correlation equals causation,’ our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely.”
Develin then proceeded to point to a decline of published Princeton research papers over the span of the past decade, a flippant jab at the two scholars’ apparent methods.
It’s pretty funny and, as Develin makes sure to note at the bottom of his post, all in good fun — though a multibillion dollar company debunking a paper from two relative unknowns seems like a pretty sharp poke back.
The harshest part of Facebook’s spurious science? While Princeton is on the decline, Harvard and Yale are doing better than ever.