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A New York Times Bestseller An audacious, irreverent investigation of human behavior—and a first look at a revolution in the making   Our personal data has been used to spy on us, hire and fire us, and sell us stuff we don’t need. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder uses it to show us who we truly are.   For centuries, we’ve relied on polling or small-scale lab experiments to study hu A New York Times Bestseller An audacious, irreverent investigation of human behavior—and a first look at a revolution in the making   Our personal data has been used to spy on us, hire and fire us, and sell us stuff we don’t need. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder uses it to show us who we truly are.   For centuries, we’ve relied on polling or small-scale lab experiments to study human behavior. Today, a new approach is possible. As we live more of our lives online, researchers can finally observe us directly, in vast numbers, and without filters. Data scientists have become the new demographers.   In this daring and original book, Rudder explains how Facebook "likes" can predict, with surprising accuracy, a person’s sexual orientation and even intelligence; how attractive women receive exponentially more interview requests; and why you must have haters to be hot. He charts the rise and fall of America’s most reviled word through Google Search and examines the new dynamics of collaborative rage on Twitter. He shows how people express themselves, both privately and publicly. What is the least Asian thing you can say? Do people bathe more in Vermont or New Jersey? What do black women think about Simon & Garfunkel? (Hint: they don’t think about Simon & Garfunkel.) Rudder also traces human migration over time, showing how groups of people move from certain small towns to the same big cities across the globe. And he grapples with the challenge of maintaining privacy in a world where these explorations are possible.   Visually arresting and full of wit and insight, Dataclysm is a new way of seeing ourselves—a brilliant alchemy, in which math is made human and numbers become the narrative of our time.


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A New York Times Bestseller An audacious, irreverent investigation of human behavior—and a first look at a revolution in the making   Our personal data has been used to spy on us, hire and fire us, and sell us stuff we don’t need. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder uses it to show us who we truly are.   For centuries, we’ve relied on polling or small-scale lab experiments to study hu A New York Times Bestseller An audacious, irreverent investigation of human behavior—and a first look at a revolution in the making   Our personal data has been used to spy on us, hire and fire us, and sell us stuff we don’t need. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder uses it to show us who we truly are.   For centuries, we’ve relied on polling or small-scale lab experiments to study human behavior. Today, a new approach is possible. As we live more of our lives online, researchers can finally observe us directly, in vast numbers, and without filters. Data scientists have become the new demographers.   In this daring and original book, Rudder explains how Facebook "likes" can predict, with surprising accuracy, a person’s sexual orientation and even intelligence; how attractive women receive exponentially more interview requests; and why you must have haters to be hot. He charts the rise and fall of America’s most reviled word through Google Search and examines the new dynamics of collaborative rage on Twitter. He shows how people express themselves, both privately and publicly. What is the least Asian thing you can say? Do people bathe more in Vermont or New Jersey? What do black women think about Simon & Garfunkel? (Hint: they don’t think about Simon & Garfunkel.) Rudder also traces human migration over time, showing how groups of people move from certain small towns to the same big cities across the globe. And he grapples with the challenge of maintaining privacy in a world where these explorations are possible.   Visually arresting and full of wit and insight, Dataclysm is a new way of seeing ourselves—a brilliant alchemy, in which math is made human and numbers become the narrative of our time.

30 review for Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Historians like Braudel can only dream of the kind of history that can be written now. Now that we have minute and granular data on billions of individuals, on how they are living, of what they like, what they search for, who they prefer to be with, what they enjoy reading and watching, where they spend their time, how they react to political events, what their fears are, etc. -- a veritable flood of data -- a dataclysm. This book is an early, tentative, and often highly constrained a Historians like Braudel can only dream of the kind of history that can be written now. Now that we have minute and granular data on billions of individuals, on how they are living, of what they like, what they search for, who they prefer to be with, what they enjoy reading and watching, where they spend their time, how they react to political events, what their fears are, etc. -- a veritable flood of data -- a dataclysm. This book is an early, tentative, and often highly constrained attempt at creating the sort of narrative that this flood of data allows. It is restricted to the data collected from a dating site and hence comes with all the constrains and conditions that would imply (the sample would tend to be young, unmarried, middle-class and mostly male, for instance). Event though the book does not have any revelations about who we are (when no one is looking -- or at least, when we think so!), it does attempt to corroborate some of the social research that usually reaches us as anecdotes with hard data, and that is its real value -- as a trend-setter. If you read a lot of popular nonfiction, there are a couple things in Dataclysm that you might find unusual. The first is the color red. The second is that the book deals in aggregates and big numbers, and that makes for a curious absence in a story supposedly about people: there are very few individuals here. Graphs and charts and tables appear in abundance, but there are almost no names. It’s become a cliché of pop science to use something small and quirky as a lens for big events—to tell the history of the world via a turnip, to trace a war back to a fish, to shine a penlight through a prism just so and cast the whole pretty rainbow on your bedroom wall. I’m going in the opposite direction. I’m taking something big—an enormous set of what people are doing and thinking and saying, terabytes of data—and filtering from it many small things: what your network of friends says about the stability of your marriage, how Asians (and whites and blacks and Latinos) are least likely to describe themselves, where and why gay people stay in the closet, how writing has changed in the last ten years, and how anger hasn’t. The idea is to move our understanding of ourselves away from narratives and toward numbers, or, rather, to think in such a way that numbers are the narrative. That is why the author says that he likes to think of his book a sort of Anti-Outliers. The exciting stories are not limited to what a few exceptional individuals are doing, but also in the aggregated activities of millions of Joes. No anecdotes for you, but here are some fun graphs.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Meta Brown

    What a disappointment. Christin Rudder's OK Trends blog featured lots of analytics news you can use, or at least imagine using. He explained, with data, why men should consider dating older women (http://bit.ly/bestprospects) and what polite question to ask on a first date to get the odds on the impolite question you really want to ask (http://bit.ly/bestquest). He shared specific, actionable information. And he gave us all inspiratio What a disappointment. Christin Rudder's OK Trends blog featured lots of analytics news you can use, or at least imagine using. He explained, with data, why men should consider dating older women (http://bit.ly/bestprospects) and what polite question to ask on a first date to get the odds on the impolite question you really want to ask (http://bit.ly/bestquest). He shared specific, actionable information. And he gave us all inspiration to use our own data in practical ways. His work wasn't exactly scientific grade, but neither is most business data analysis. So I was hoping for more, juicier and deeper goodies in Dataclysm. I wanted to read this book so much that I bought an advance copy from a used book dealer before the book's release. Big Data isn't valuable just because there is a lot of it. The reward for plowing through masses of data is in getting detail, new and focused information that conventional data sources can't reveal. So, for example, it only takes a small sample of data to know what book is most popular with people who read Steven King's last book, but it takes a whole heckuva lot of data to predict which few products each and every Amazon customer is most likely to buy this week. That kind of detail makes the difference between one-size-fits-all marketing and effective personalized marketing. But does this book show us how to reach that level of detailed use for data? Or even that it is possible, and useful, and why? It does not. The book gives many examples of how Big Data tells us things that we already know from small data and often, plain old personal experience. For example, many pages are devoted to showing evidence that people of some races are less desired as dating partners than people of other races. This is not a discovery that required Big Data. The book also tells us that attractive people get more job interviews, and that since people of some races are viewed as less attractive than others, that means they are at a disadvantage in the job market due to their race. All of this is significant information, but it's not something we need Big Data to know, and none of it is news. In fact, Rudder cites many research papers which draw the same conclusions with a whole lot less data. He's really just telling us that he sees the same patterns in his data, and that of some other online sources, that published research has already identified. In pushing to show the broad reaching implications of Big Data, Rudder has actually ended up giving us less news than he did in his blog posts. The examples in the book lack the rich detail and value for personal use that made his posts so much fun.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John Cooper

    A few weeks ago there was a mild furor after Facebook admitted that they’d run an experiment on some users, adjusting their news feeds to include more positive or more negative items than the norm, and recording how the emotional tone of the users’ own posts changed in result. After a week or so of media discussion, Christian Rudder, a founder of the online dating site OkCupid, volunteered that his site had done something similar. He’d deliberately matched OkCupid customers with people rated as A few weeks ago there was a mild furor after Facebook admitted that they’d run an experiment on some users, adjusting their news feeds to include more positive or more negative items than the norm, and recording how the emotional tone of the users’ own posts changed in result. After a week or so of media discussion, Christian Rudder, a founder of the online dating site OkCupid, volunteered that his site had done something similar. He’d deliberately matched OkCupid customers with people rated as being poorly compatible and monitored reports about the resulting in-person dates. He accepted interviews to explain himself, and in them he was absolutely unapologetic. Not only does he not see an ethical problem in defying user’s expectations about the site’s behavior, he says that an online company that does not engage in this kind of experimentation is irresponsible, because it is foregoing opportunities to learn how to improve its customer-aiding algorithms. He is convinced that every online company engages in similar tests, and asserts that they do as a fact. This is the context into which Rudder’s new book, Dataclysm, is released. In it, Rudder reveals himself as an enthusiast for both data and people—at least when considered in the abstract. His thesis is that the Internet has made it possible, for the first time in history, to obtain (almost as a side effect) massive amounts of data about what people are really like—how they behave and what they think in secret. The fourteen chapters are based around broad themes and contain many interesting maps, graphs, and charts, startlingly illustrating what the data tells us. The charts are like salted peanuts. It’s hard to find the will to stop consuming them. Rudder presents the data in an engagingly enthusiastic, casual way. At times he achieves a little poetry, such as when discussing a map showing the density of reactions on Twitter to an earthquake, overlaying a map showing the epicenter: “Here we see contours of surprise laid over the shifting earth.” At other times he seems clueless, even crude. This is nowhere more true than in the first chapter, which is devoted to the hoary truth that young women remain equally attractive to men throughout men’s lives. Rudder treats the depressing data with a glib tone, and troublingly, doesn’t pause to consider that when older men date older women, an explanation may be that older men have learned that sexual attraction is only one ingredient in a healthy relationship. He seems to prefer the explanation than men are simply hypocrites, pretending to desire that which they do not. It’s a shame that he leads with this chapter, because the rest are better. Did you know that you’ll tend to date more frequently and successfully if people either love you or hate you than if everybody just thinks you’re kind of cute? That people in Mississippi bathe more often than people in any other state? And what does it mean that women are more “race-loyal” than men, preferring more strongly than men do to date people of the same race? In addition to presenting interesting data, Rudder discusses what kinds of data about your life is being collected by various types of sites and agencies, and demonstrates the surprising ways they can use the information. Facebook and the NSA, of course, are part of the discussion. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you have any interest at all in the data that is being collected and shared about you, you’ll want to read Chapter 14. Rudder isn’t completely deaf to the implications of data mining, including the ethical implications. He just thinks he falls on the right side of the line. Others disagree.

  4. 5 out of 5

    J

    I received this book through the First Reads program. Goodreads probably was not aware that they sent this book about big data to someone with a professional background in data analytics and an academic background in the social sciences. As such, I could not wait to write my review. The information being provided is from Christian Rudder, president and co founder of OKCupid. He analyzes data from his site as well as other social media websites. The premise is that Dataclysm is "An unprecedented I received this book through the First Reads program. Goodreads probably was not aware that they sent this book about big data to someone with a professional background in data analytics and an academic background in the social sciences. As such, I could not wait to write my review. The information being provided is from Christian Rudder, president and co founder of OKCupid. He analyzes data from his site as well as other social media websites. The premise is that Dataclysm is "An unprecedented deluge of digital information reshaping our view of the world." In my professional experience I saw enormous strategic decisions based on available data. The actions of our customers online indicated that their interests lay beyond the scope of what we had been providing. Knowing their attitude toward certain content was indeed positive, made it possible for programming strategy to move in a different direction. This book contains a lot of interesting data: disparities between what people say that want in a relationship and what they actually do. He uses the OKCupid to examine the gaps between what races say about one another, and also how his users feel about sex, filtered by Geolocation. These types of analyses are just part of the internet landscape now. We have more data than we know what to do with, and as vendors continue to integrate online analytics with real life purchasing data, or actual behavioral data our conclusions will become more robust. It took a while to get through the book despite the material. The chapters seemed disjointed to me and I was expecting every chapter to support a central narrative. However, I found myself staring at graphs that were interesting but not hugely significant. That’s the problem with big data…narrowing it all to what is really essential.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Belle and Sebastian is the least black band in existence. "6'4" and "Truck Driver" are the words least likely to be used by Asians in dating profiles. Do these factoids illustrate some kind of fundamental truths regarding human nature? Not really. Are they fascinating (albeit perhaps a little obvious in the case of our melanin-repellent Glaswegian twee pop friends) enough to sustain an entire book? I certainly think so. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder leverages vast reserves of data of over 185 m Belle and Sebastian is the least black band in existence. "6'4" and "Truck Driver" are the words least likely to be used by Asians in dating profiles. Do these factoids illustrate some kind of fundamental truths regarding human nature? Not really. Are they fascinating (albeit perhaps a little obvious in the case of our melanin-repellent Glaswegian twee pop friends) enough to sustain an entire book? I certainly think so. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder leverages vast reserves of data of over 185 million people from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and OkCupid to pose some illuminating and entertaining theories and findings regarding social behavior. Some discoveries, such as the ones I mentioned at the start of this review, are merely compelling factoids. Others offer a bit more practical application and understanding of our society. All make for a very worthwhile read. While "big data" has been hijacked by businesspeople to basically cover any data set that would cause a performance slowdown in Excel (i.e. anything with more than 10 rows), there really is quite a bit of data that businesses, governments, and pop social science authors can utilize. According to Facebook Power Editor's reach estimator tool, advertisers targeting 24 year-old Spanish-speaking women in the market for new economy cars have approximately 1,380 lucky users to serve their ads to. Sabermetricians can determine Dante Bichette's OBPS in the seventh inning of games on Tuesdays on cut fastballs on the inside of the plate in 1998. However, these massive reams of highly-specific data are pretty useless unless you are able to pose interesting questions about their contents and possess the statistical acumen to properly answer them. Author Christian Rudder thankfully possesses both qualities, and is an acerbic and skilled writer to boot. He is a co-founder of the popular dating site OkCupid.com and SparkNotes and also maintained the blog OkTrends which included posts debunking dating profile photo myths and what white people truly like (evidently a lot of Tom Clancy and Phish). Rudder is a capable and engaging guide through the data and peppers his analysis with pop-culture references, amusing asides, and even some insightful comments. If you found either of those blog posts intriguing I suggest you pick up this book immediately, because Dataclysm is basically a longer collection of such material. The book seems to have grown out from Rudder's blog and the book reads like a series of extended blog posts on human behavior. While Rudder came from an online dating site and there is plenty of (e)ink devoted to the topic of romance, he examines much more than just what big data tells us about relationships. Dataclysm is structured into three major divisions: what data tells us about sex and relationships, what data tells us about our broader culture, and finally what data tells us about how individuals identify themselves. This allows him to investigate phenomena such as how word lengths in tweets show that Twitter might be improving society's writing ability and how Facebook likes can accurately predict users' demographics. Readers do not need any real knowledge of statistics to fully enjoy the book. While the analysis certainly seems well thought out and thorough, Rudder spares his audience any mentioning of p-values or Spearman correlation tests and instead just focuses on the social learnings that result from his number crunching. He presents all of his findings clearly and cogently and is generous with the charts and infographics. Rudder strikes a nice balance between keeping the book moving at a fast pace and fully exploring his topics and Dataclysm held my interest the entire time. I finished the book in two days and my only real complaint is that I wish it was longer and that he explored more topics. I really enjoyed the book and think that Dataclysm narrowly edges out Gabriel Sherman's The Loudest Voice in the Room as my favorite book of 2014 thus far. In Sum Any users interested in the usual pop social science suspects (Levitt, Gladwell, the Heath Brothers, etc.), Nate Silver's data analysis, or Chuck Klosterman's cultural musings should really pick this up. Dataclysm isn't going to provide you with the one secret insight that will guarantee financial and romantic success (which is good because that magic bullet doesn't actually exist), but it does offer some truly fascinating discoveries about our society and online behavior in a quick and easy read. Highly recommended. 9/10 Review originally posted on: http://www.batsarenotbugs.com/2014/06...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    Ron Swanson would be horrified by this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    On its face this book sounds good: data guru uses the information people share online, particularly on the dating website OkCupid, to reveal demographic trends. There is some interesting information here, along with fun graphs and charts. But while Rudder may be a good statistician, he’s a poor sociologist, and the book is riddled with eyebrow-raising assumptions and conclusions. It also hangs together poorly, jumping from one disconnected subject to another, with chapters that share a fairly si On its face this book sounds good: data guru uses the information people share online, particularly on the dating website OkCupid, to reveal demographic trends. There is some interesting information here, along with fun graphs and charts. But while Rudder may be a good statistician, he’s a poor sociologist, and the book is riddled with eyebrow-raising assumptions and conclusions. It also hangs together poorly, jumping from one disconnected subject to another, with chapters that share a fairly simple finding padded by repetitive discussions of the author’s methods and rhapsodizing about the scope of his data. For a better book on what Big Data says about us, I recommend the more recent Everybody Lies. Unfortunately, Rudder begins the book with random, skewed guessing. In describing OkCupid, he confidently asserts that “[t]onight, some thirty thousand couples will have their first date because of OkCupid. Roughly three thousand of them will end up together long-term. Two hundred of those will get married[.]” This caught my attention immediately: 10% of online first dates leading to long-term relationships is a fantastic success rate, but less than 7% of long-term relationships ending in marriage seems awfully low for the 20’s-and-up crowd. Curious what definition of “long-term” Rudder was using, I flipped to the notes at the back, only to find that he made it all up based on the fact that the site has 4 million active users and 300 couples per day reporting that they are leaving OkCupid because they found someone on the site. Plus his intuition that fewer than 1 in 10 long-term couples get married: “How many serious relationships did you have before you found the person you settled down with? I imagine the average number is roughly 10.” My own experience of the world is very different (I don’t think I know anyone who’s had 10+ long-term, serious relationships). And since the average American woman marries at 27 and man at 29, and according to the CDC, the average adult woman reports 4 lifetime sexual partners while the average man reports 6-7, Rudder’s impression seems the more likely to be skewed. The author’s conclusions are equally questionable. He observes that men seem to find 20-year-old women the most attractive (at least on a site evidently without teenagers) throughout their lives, while women’s view of male attractiveness changes to accommodate their own age, and concludes that middle-aged men don’t contact young women for fear of rejection and social judgment. This overlooks the fact that there’s much more to a relationship than physical attractiveness; how many 50-year-old men want to live in a world of exam stress and frat parties, with a partner who has comparatively little life experience? Another chapter seems to confuse correlation and causation. In “You’ve Gotta be the Glue,” Rudder explains that couples who each have multiple clusters of Facebook connections from different areas of their lives, and are the only person connected to each other’s various tribes, last longer than couples who are connected to all the same people, who all know each other. This makes sense: if you belong to several social groups (co-workers, college friends, book club, etc.) and your partner has gotten to know all of them, your relationship is well-established and likely serious. But if you belong to a tight-knit community and start dating someone within your group, your Facebook connections provide no indication of how serious you are. Rudder, however, interprets the data as proving causation, concluding that the “specialness” of the couple in being the “glue” between different social groups somehow boosts the relationship. He fails to explain how “connecting” his gaming buddies to his wife’s extended family strengthens their marriage – presumably if these social groups cared to mingle much, they’d befriend each other on Facebook and then what happens to the couple’s “specialness”? When the book moves away from dating-related data, it becomes a series of disconnected one-off chapters. There’s a discourse about group rage on the Internet that involves little data analysis and seems to be included because the author is interested in group rage on the Internet. There’s a chapter about the language used in Twitter posts, concluding that Twitter definitely isn’t killing sophisticated thought because “a,” “and,” and “the” are among the top 10 words used in English both on Twitter and off of it. There’s an equation meant to demonstrate that multiplying a word’s frequency rank in a text by its number of uses will result in a constant, but the chart meant to illustrate this point with Ulysses displays a “constant” ranging from 20,000 to 29,055. All that said, there is some interesting material here, particularly the data on race. The chapter on racist Google searches is less relevant now that the author of that study has written his own book (the aforementioned Everybody Lies); and Dataclysm, published in 2014, has a rosier view of this than the 2017, Trump-era version. But the study showing massive racial differences in how people rate one another’s attractiveness is still quite relevant: key findings include the fact that people tend to view members of their own race as more attractive than others, but black Americans take a major hit in the ratings from everybody (including other black people, though to a lesser degree). My first reaction on reading this was that it’s hard to judge people for preferring cultural commonalities in their most intimate relationships. But the data isn’t so simple: it’s based on how people rate a photo, not whom they choose to contact, and attractiveness doesn’t only affect one’s dating prospects, but employment too (there’s a chart on that). And in-group biases in American society are hardly limited to dating; while our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, churches, and friend groups are still largely separate, I’m inclined to believe that Rudder’s data does show hidden bias. Overall, while there are interesting nuggets in here, I wouldn’t recommend the book. A few interesting data points are padded into book-length by ill-conceived interpretations and rambling. By the end I was simply tired of it – the writing didn’t engage me when unaccompanied by charts, the book lacks cohesion and the author had lost far too much credibility. Try Everybody Lies instead.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    The premise is interesting, but Rudder's presentation just wasn't working for me. The introduction was long enough that I felt a few additional facts would have made it a perfectly acceptable book. While I'm sure he knows his business (analytics for OKCupid, a company he & several others founded) he didn't present it well. Part of that was the media - there are too many lists & charts that are difficult & painful to listen to in an audio. He's simply introducing this concept & th The premise is interesting, but Rudder's presentation just wasn't working for me. The introduction was long enough that I felt a few additional facts would have made it a perfectly acceptable book. While I'm sure he knows his business (analytics for OKCupid, a company he & several others founded) he didn't present it well. Part of that was the media - there are too many lists & charts that are difficult & painful to listen to in an audio. He's simply introducing this concept & the data isn't really all there yet. The Internet & many of the data collection sites (Facebook, Google, et al) are young. FB's only really been a hit for less than a decade. What happens when a kid's history is documented from birth through death via the deathless statistics & posts? That's dataclysm, when it all comes together, so he is just sketching the foreword of what is to come. Still, it's a lot better than the tiny bits that history has left us (old diaries) or social experiments which are usually too small & not representative samples. They're WEIRD (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_...) I get that. Still, his premises & conclusions were often too fuzzy to be meaningful. For instance, an early example comparing the 'attractiveness' of ages by sex. He doesn't define 'attractiveness', though. Isn't it a moving target depending on the circumstances? Women tend to like men close to their own age. Men find women in their early 20's the most attractive, yet when actually looking for a date contact women closer to their own age. He says this might be due to social conventions & then hares off on to another subject. What did I learn from this? Nothing new, that's certain. Attractive how? Evolution & animal instinct vote for the younger ones, but I sure as hell wouldn't want - probably couldn't have - a romantic relationship with a girl younger than my baby girl. Sex is an important part of a relationship, but just one part. Societal mores aside, any relationship requires commonality of experience & Rudder completely skipped even mentioning this. I gave this a couple of hours, about 1/3 of the book, but it never really grabbed me with any points I haven't read about before & was just too fuzzy. Maybe he should have waited a decade or two.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Liza

    Full disclosure: I'm a graduate student in a doctoral Information Studies program. This means I've read a lot of different books about data and the internet. I've also done a little of my own research into social media and, specifically, OKCupid. Dataclysm's author, Christian Rudder, was one of the founders of OKCupid, and has turned data mined from the site's millions of interactions into an interesting view of the patterns of behavior of the online dater. The book is informative, intr/>'s Full disclosure: I'm a graduate student in a doctoral Information Studies program. This means I've read a lot of different books about data and the internet. I've also done a little of my own research into social media and, specifically, OKCupid. Dataclysm's author, Christian Rudder, was one of the founders of OKCupid, and has turned data mined from the site's millions of interactions into an interesting view of the patterns of behavior of the online dater. The book is informative, intriguing, and at times pretty funny. Rudder's writing style is accessible and conversational, bringing trends and statistics from the academic set to the casual reader. Much of the data is focused on heterosexual coupling, which was a bit disappointing, but Rudder indicates late in the book that there were few differences when you looked at data about gay or bisexual users. That in itself is interesting, because if, like straight men, gay men prefer younger partners, how does that translate? Obviously both halves of a couple cannot be younger. (My other disappointment is that the advance ebook didn't properly display most of the graphs, though Rudder's descriptions were clear enough that I was able to understand what they were showing.) In the middle of the book, Rudder discussed some rather interesting and controversial topics like race and body image. His coverage of the way online daters view race was pretty comprehensive and a little disturbing -- well, his coverage isn't what was disturbing, it was more that he found that people are more discriminating than they would ever admit to. The discussion of body image was brief, however, and mainly focused on Tumblr's #proana controversy. I wish he would have looked at some data relating to weight -- specifically fat -- and online dating. Overall, however, this book was fascinating and really pleasant to read. Beyond my own nerdy and intellectual interest in the subject of social media use and data, this is a must-read for anyone who wants a look at the habits of online dating site users and those with concerns for internet privacy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jason Gordon

    The good 1). The book actually uses metadata in the aggregate to test sociological/cultural narratives. It's good to know that internet data can be used to show that we live in a incredibly racist culture and that the ideology of white supremacy actually informs much of our behaviour. 2). The book also demonstrates how metadata can be used to discover who exactly an individual is (i.e. their narrative). This is important as it puts to rest the denials of the government when they state The good 1). The book actually uses metadata in the aggregate to test sociological/cultural narratives. It's good to know that internet data can be used to show that we live in a incredibly racist culture and that the ideology of white supremacy actually informs much of our behaviour. 2). The book also demonstrates how metadata can be used to discover who exactly an individual is (i.e. their narrative). This is important as it puts to rest the denials of the government when they state that they can't determine anything about you from metadata. The bad 1). Rudder really overstates his case. He writes that the large numbers of internet users don't prove that he has a complete picture of anything, but it suggests that such a picture is coming. It's hard to see that this is the case when the internet is galloping toward a panopticon and industrial civilization, the civilization that provides the large numbers he's talking about, is plummeting towards decline. There's also the fact that industrial civilization and the globalized economy is increasingly homogenizing whole cultures and peoples, in effect rendering some of the cultural narratives discovered by this data rather cheap and trivial. 2). The last chapter is probably the most painful thing I've read in a while, more painful than the philosopher John Gray's solution to hand the oceans over to private energy companies to resolve the climate crisis and more painful than Ellul's racist rants against Muslims. It's like the poor boy came down with schizophrenia. Axciom is a terrible company, but Google is leading the way in turning data towards the public good. Absurd doesn't even begin to describe it, as these comments and others reflect an almost serious mental illness. Very irritating, very tiring and marginally insightful.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Christian Rudder is one of the founders of the dating site OKCupid. His degree from Harvard is in mathematics. He combines a conversational and humorously worded style with an extensive knowledge of data manipulation and presentation to deliver this treatise, which is both informative and enjoyable to read. His witty turns of phrase and common vernacular suck in the lay reader as he presents fascinating tidbits about how we utilize online services to seek a mate or communicate with friends. In a Christian Rudder is one of the founders of the dating site OKCupid. His degree from Harvard is in mathematics. He combines a conversational and humorously worded style with an extensive knowledge of data manipulation and presentation to deliver this treatise, which is both informative and enjoyable to read. His witty turns of phrase and common vernacular suck in the lay reader as he presents fascinating tidbits about how we utilize online services to seek a mate or communicate with friends. In addition to data from his vast OKCupid store, he also draws from Facebook, Google, Twitter and others to present a nuanced picture of what we can glean from the aggregate words and numbers. The chapters on race and location are particularly engaging. Rudder's use of charts and graphs are also particularly effective. He is comparing and contrasting several sets of information and doing so in a way that is understandable and illuminating. A person with a particular interest in race, gender and women's studies might find his conclusions particularly disturbing, as it seems that men only find young women attractive, no matter how old they are, and no one wants to date black women at all. Also, there's not really any such thing as bisexuality, as almost everyone who declares him or herself bisexual on OKCupid interacts almost exclusively with just one gender. Rudder's place here is not necessarily to moralize about or psychoanalyze his subjects, but his delivery of some of these facts seems rather glib. Whereas throughout most of the text, his humor and wit are welcome, taking the dryness out of the subject, here he seems to not be concerned about the implications of his findings. He also seems less concerned than most people about the uses that Big Data can be put to by governments and corporations in order to control and/or monetize the citizenry. In the final chapter he does discuss the danger of all of this information and the predictive and inferential tools utilized by these entities, but considers this a "trade-off" wherein users gain access to "free" tools like Google and Facebook, and the country is more secure from terrorists. Overall, this book is quite engaging and easy to read. The sections are well-organized and present topics of interest in a cohesive and relational way. I would recommend it to anyone interested in Big Data, but not well versed in it as of yet. One small complaint, and probably not valid as this is an ARC, is that he mentions a tool he set up on the book's website, dataclysm.org/relationshiptest. It is supposed to tell you how good your relationship is based on the intersection of your Facebook friends with that of your partner's. Unfortunately, the site is not yet present on the Internet. After emailing the author (on August 6th) he said it would be up "later in the month". I've checked frequently and as of today, August 23rd, it's still not there. I'm a bit disappointed, because I really want to check on my relationship! Although, I do have to say that Mr. Rudder did reply to my email rather quickly, which was encouraging. The book is due to be released September 9, so I will be checking again closer to that date.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christine Varga

    To start: The description posted for this book really does NOT explain what this book is about and it gave me little insight in terms of what to expect. It wasn’t until I actually opened the book, saw the data displayed in the blood-red-on-standard-black graphics that I even had an idea of what I was up against. Don’t let the cover fool you. There are no rainbow sprinkles here. This stuff is dark. I should disclose that I received the Advance Reader’s Edition of the book through the Goodreads Fi To start: The description posted for this book really does NOT explain what this book is about and it gave me little insight in terms of what to expect. It wasn’t until I actually opened the book, saw the data displayed in the blood-red-on-standard-black graphics that I even had an idea of what I was up against. Don’t let the cover fool you. There are no rainbow sprinkles here. This stuff is dark. I should disclose that I received the Advance Reader’s Edition of the book through the Goodreads First Reads program, so that is what I am reviewing here. I didn’t know who Christian Rudder was prior to now, and I’m not an OkCupid user or a fan of the site in any way. It was a bit of an unpleasant surprise to me to find out that the main source of information used was Rudder’s own site. However, OkCupid does seem to have a fairly diverse, population-reflective group of (internet) users in most categories, so letting that slide allowed me to get some valuable insight into the online dating world. It might be helpful to point out here that only certain types of people tend to online date though. But of course, an online dating site such as OkCupid would do well to refute that idea. The real core of this book is honestly depressing. So if you were here for the rainbow sprinkles, this isn’t for you. All that stuff we always argue about that people say we can’t quantify –like how important appearance, race and gender still is or is not— is proven here in some terrifying graphics. These are numbers that will make you want to laugh and cry. I threw the book a couple of times, but that’s something that happens with me. I’d be concerned if I didn’t throw the book. I don’t want to spoil any of the conclusions that are made, but the numbers we look at here are scary. I wish I could have absorbed this more slowly, at a pace of a chapter per night. But free time now and busyness later meant that wasn’t the case. Reading Dataclysm is a bit like drinking medicine that tastes awful, except it’s the real world you’re drinking in. And finding out answers is curing your ignorance and uncertainty. Rudder’s writing is good. His voice is confident but generally doesn’t veer too far into sounding vain. The way the book is written makes it easy to understand what is going on in the graphics. We get them explained to us; we take a glance at them and then hear more about what the numbers really mean –and it works. Rudder’s conclusions for his data sets are solid overall. They made me angry, but they were right. There’s nothing controversial here, just sad stuff. This wouldn’t be the usual type of book I’d go for. It seems to be written to appeal to a niche market. I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5. However, for those people out there who love gathering information, who spend hours on Wikipedia jumping from article to article, who look up English word usage over time just for fun and who love analyzing the world from behind the comfort of a book or a computer screen, this is the one for you! For me, it just might have been a little too creepy . . .

  13. 5 out of 5

    Pubudu Wariyapola

    Interesting book (collection of blog posts) about data analysis. The sections about OkCupid are interesting (the author worked there and had access to all data). The rest of the analyses are his picks from other sources - somewhat interesting, but nothing new or eye-opening. He tries to combine the posts into a book, but not very successfully. If you read as a collection of interesting tidbits/analyses you will find value. Don't expect a cohesive whole.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    To be honest, this wasn't terribly interesting to me. It's full of interesting information, that's for sure, but not really interesting to me. I spaced out a lot while listening to this book at work. It's very repetitive with similar information given in each chapter. Stuff that wasn't very surprising. I'm sure that someone besides me would find it fascinating and full of relevant information, just not for me. It wasn't my kind of book. The thing I latched onto the most was how absolu To be honest, this wasn't terribly interesting to me. It's full of interesting information, that's for sure, but not really interesting to me. I spaced out a lot while listening to this book at work. It's very repetitive with similar information given in each chapter. Stuff that wasn't very surprising. I'm sure that someone besides me would find it fascinating and full of relevant information, just not for me. It wasn't my kind of book. The thing I latched onto the most was how absolutely terrifying it is to know that companies are using data to track interest on me. Like, GR, right now, is looking at the books I've read and rated highly to recommend me other books. Such as, when I read a book in a series and suddenly get recommended a book that's the third one in a series.... that I've never read. Or, how when I'm at work and am looking up things for Ebay (since I'm Ebay Coordinator and I know shit about the stuff we sell, so I have to educate myself on it) suddenly I get ads for skates. To me, that's terrifying. I don't like it. The book reminded me of The Circle (which I didn't like for various reasons) and not in a good way. It just confirmed that it's only so far until we get to a world like one in that book. If we aren't already in it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler

    Christian Rudder was one of the founders of the dating site OkCupid. Running a site like that involves making decisions based on observations of people's behaviour gathered from their computer data - what works or doesn't work when it comes to helping people hook up? The concept of studying the kind of data which can be gathered from social media and search engines in order to build a better picture of the society in which we live became an obsession for him and he began sharing what he discover Christian Rudder was one of the founders of the dating site OkCupid. Running a site like that involves making decisions based on observations of people's behaviour gathered from their computer data - what works or doesn't work when it comes to helping people hook up? The concept of studying the kind of data which can be gathered from social media and search engines in order to build a better picture of the society in which we live became an obsession for him and he began sharing what he discovered on his blog. This book provides an overview of this topic. It asks the question : "Who are we when we think no one is looking?" In the past we have been dependent on surveys for much of our sociological information and they are limited by the size of the sample and the possibility that those responding to them may not always tell the truth even in situations which guarantee anonymity. This is very much a book aimed at a popular audience and it does what such a book should do - it entertains, it informs and it encourages thought. Rudder doesn't take a rigorous scientific approach. He is content to let his personality and life philosophy shine through in his presentation and interpretation of the data. This is one reason why the book is so entertaining. Rudder comes across as a witty, likeable guy and there are times when his book is laugh-out-loud funny. But interpretations of data are only as good as the depth of reasoning the interpreter has put into them. It is easy to jump to conclusions. For instance, Rudder presents data which shows that the percentage of searches for gay porn to porn as a whole on Google is relatively even across the United States, and concludes that this "frustrates the argument that homosexuality is anything but genetic". While it is true that it argues against the paranoid view that people are "recruited" to homosexuality, I'm not sure he has thought through the full breadth of the debate about genetic vs. environmental factors in the generation of sexuality. Firstly, a genetic origin doesn't necessarily mean an even spread. Dark skin is definitely genetic, and there are some countries where the majority are dark skinned and others where light skinned people predominate. When we say that something is genetic we are essentially saying that it travels in bloodlines. This doesn't mean that it can't be an underlying tendency passed on by those in whom it is not active of course. But there are socially-arising phenomena which, because they go so deep into the nature of what it means to be human, are fairly evenly spread through different societies. My own belief is that we are all born with the potential to be "polymorphously perverse" bisexuals and that our "love map" (to use a term coined by psychologist John Money) - the filter of fixations and inhibitions which determines what turns us on and what turns us off - is formed by environmental factors, many of which are very subtle. As with chaotic systems, small events early in life can lead to major changes in the human psyche. Rudder implies that we should expect a variation in the prevalence of gayness in different states based on their relative tendency toward liberality vs. conservatism on the topic. It is true that growing up in a homophobic environment would tend to lead to inhibitions about male-male sex, but since we also have a tendency to fixate on those aspects of our nature we feel least able to simply accept (the tongue in the sore tooth effect), we might expect these two things to balance each other. Also, it has to be said that even those who support gay marriage may sometimes subtly express a sense that it is preferable to be straight, which could have an effect on the forming sexuality of a young person. One needn't live across from the Westboro Baptist Church to feel nervous about kissing your same sex partner in public. And, even if homosexuality were inborn, this needn't mean that it is genetic. Some have suggested that it may be related to the mix of hormones provided to the fetus, something which can be effected by stress. It would not be surprising to find that stress is fairly evenly spread across U.S. states. The book reads like a mystery story where the collective human psyche - or sometimes the collective psyche of a race, gender or sexual orientation - is the culprit being stalked. Around every corner is more descriptive evidence. Sometimes it can be funny when a study of the words most typical of a race or gender or sexual orientation backs up well-known stereotypes. It can also be a little depressing. We long to be surprised about some aspect of human nature, but statistical norms are probably not where we are likely to find such surprises. It is worth remembering that major change can begin with an individual, and individuals are invisible in this kind of mass data. If the internet had existed in 600 AD, and so this kind of data collection had been possible, the tweets and Google searches of a guy named Muhammed would have been an invisible drop in the bucket drowned out by the masses talking about that era's equivalent of Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. But today one of the big statistics we may be gathering is how many people follow the religion that he established. These tools are extremely useful in tracking changes in society, but the birth of those changes is the place where we may still be surprised. Another limitation, as Rudder acknowledges, is that this kind of information can tell us the "whats" but not the "whys". We can see what people are doing, but we can't see their motives or know whether the motives behind a shared behaviour are also shared or are diverse. The data is grist to the mill but not an end in itself. Sometimes the information raises as many questions as it answers. Rudder places a lot of emphasis on the discovery, from beauty rating statistics on OkCupid, that non-blacks tend to rate blacks as less attractive than whites, asians or hispanics. He presents this as evidence of, possibly unconscious, racism. For me this raises a number of interesting questions. If I tended to rate black women as less attractive than white women, for example, would this be because a racist low opinion of black women was causing me to see them as less attractive? Or is it possible that a tendency to find black women less attractive, which might be purely biological and have nothing to do with my opinion of their worth, cause me to subconsciously see them as less worthy? Rudder refers to studies which have shown that women who are viewed as attractive are more likely to be successful with job interviews regardless of whether the interviewer is a man or woman, thus how attractive we are judged to be can lead to social injustice, and if perceived attractiveness is distributed unequally to the various races this could have a similar effect to conceptual racism. I'm not sure where this leaves us, but part of me wants to know if it isn't enough that I view someone else as my equal. Do I really have to find them physically attractive as well? Do we even have any control over who we do or do not find attractive? The book doesn't only deal with aggregated statistics. It is often at it's most compelling when dealing with aspects of internet culture itself. There is an account of the origin and spread of the concept of "personal branding", some hilarious anecdotes about internet marketing campaigns gone wrong and some horror stories about the phenomenon of the Twitter mob. I'm sure most of us have seen examples of this. The two examples Rudder concentrates on are one in which a teenager made a joke about the age of the earth and was viciously attacked by a mob who apparently believed she was serious. The other was of a woman who made a racially insensitive joke, found that it spread very quickly, leading to a mob salivating over the prospect of her losing her job, which is what happened. Why does this kind of thing happen? The structure of the phenomenon is an ancient one - it was there behind the "witch" burnings and the Crusades, and is still with us wherever a woman is stoned for adultery, wherever someone is lynched, wherever anyone launches a "Holy War" against "evil"... There are multiple layers to our psyche. The most superficial layer is our ego, which compromises the public face we show the world as well as our private self-image. Below that is what Sigmund Freud dubbed "the Id", the dark and turbulent repository of feelings we have repressed or disowned. Below that again, I believe, is our deepest nature, one of pure love and kindness. The ego can be a fragile thing. Faced with the turbulence of what lies beneath we can feel very insecure about own self worth. This can lead us to try to establish our identity as "the good guy" by singling someone else out as an "evil-doer" and attacking them. Not only do we reinforce our self-image but we get to drain off some of the scary aggressive feelings that otherwise might threaten us. This can be such a seductive strategy that once one person puts it into action there will tend to be plenty of others ready to join the "Jihad". This is an immensely entertaining book and one which I think will play an important role by inspiring interest in a field of enquiry which shows great promise of helping to enlighten us about ourselves.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! **I received a copy of Dataclysm for review courtesy of Blogging for Books** Dataclysm is a social snapshot of society drawing on data from Facebook, Twitter, and OkCupid, a popular dating site created by the author, Christian Rudder. This book explores how the things people "like" on Facebook can reveal very specific details about our lives - such as our sexual orientation, - how people describe themselves online versus how they actually act in person, a/>**I Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! **I received a copy of Dataclysm for review courtesy of Blogging for Books** Dataclysm is a social snapshot of society drawing on data from Facebook, Twitter, and OkCupid, a popular dating site created by the author, Christian Rudder. This book explores how the things people "like" on Facebook can reveal very specific details about our lives - such as our sexual orientation, - how people describe themselves online versus how they actually act in person, as well as how to deduce the approximate amount of homosexuals live in each state, whether they are open about it or not. The data Rudder draws from a majority of the time is relatively slim, considering most of it is from OkCupid, a dating site. He admits that much of his data will be skewed as a result of this, but it still lends a bigger question of how much we should really take stock in what he says representing everyone versus how much we should just take for purely entertainment's sake. Since OkCupid is a what it is - a dating site - it's obvious that there's going to be a skewed sample of people that are generally single, middle-class, and more likely to be male than female. It's important to realize that this information is largely applicable mainly to the United States, as there are different cultural and societal norms in other countries, and some countries don't have nearly as much access to the internet and social media sites. I do think that Rudder's information lends itself to a bigger picture of how people interact with one another and act online versus how they act in real life. The actual real-world picture may be different from Rudder's limited sample, but it still creates the same overall idea, which is really what I think Rudder is trying to point out. It's very thought-provoking, and I think Rudder brings up some really interesting points through his research. For example, his deductions revealed about attitudes on race and sexuality seem to be rather representative of the United States as a whole, and I feel that this can lead to intriguing discussions on how people change their views or attitudes based upon what is socially acceptable. Rudder's writing is wonderfully engaging. He has a strong sense of humour and wit that makes this novel both enjoyable and easy to read. In fact, I finished it extremely quickly because of this: I would sit down to read, only to look up a while later and realize that an hour had passed and I didn't even realize it. Whether the information presented was enlightening and groundbreaking or not, it's still a highly amusing and interesting book. I did really, really love the graphs, though. I love looking at graphs and statistics, so I had a delightful time looking at all of them, even if they weren't very interesting or necessary to what he was saying. There were a few graphs that didn't really add to the discussion, but they still fit in well enough with what Rudder discussed. The format of the book was interesting. There were large categories that housed chapters within each; I both liked and disliked this method. It was nice to have more brief, to-the-point chapters, but it also felt a bit disjointed and rushed as well. Personally, I feel like each chapter could have been a separate blog post on Rudder's blog, which I had never previously read, but I've heard that the book is basically just a really, really long blog post. So if you like Rudder's blog, you are most likely sure to enjoy this book. I'll be honest, I was expecting more from this book. While Rudder provided a large amount of interesting statistics and insight, I was expecting to learn something much deeper and juicier than what I really learned, which is basically that people aren't what they appear to be on the internet. Overall, I feel as though Dataclysm deserves three-and-a-half stars; it was wonderfully entertaining, but I think it really lacked the overall cohesion or depth that I was really craving.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ezra

    Maybe really 2.5 stars, but I rounded up. I have read the OkTrends blog since its inception. Human behavior fascinates me, so I take any opportunity to read on it. The We Experiment On Human Beings post ensnared my attention since it flubs its nose at academic sensibilities at what is ethical experimentation. But, this review is not about Rudder's ethics, so I will move on to the book. The writing engaged a technologist interested in Big Data, interesting links, and how data can be used in interest Maybe really 2.5 stars, but I rounded up. I have read the OkTrends blog since its inception. Human behavior fascinates me, so I take any opportunity to read on it. The We Experiment On Human Beings post ensnared my attention since it flubs its nose at academic sensibilities at what is ethical experimentation. But, this review is not about Rudder's ethics, so I will move on to the book. The writing engaged a technologist interested in Big Data, interesting links, and how data can be used in interesting ways. (Hardly surprising.) Many references made me laugh out loud. I highlighted 32 places according to my Kindle stats. Much more were worthy. The writing alone would make me give it 5 stars. My first problem manifested in the lack of details in the main text. Where I expected to read about how conclusions were reached, the details were light. Where it all fell apart for me fell in the Coda section where he delved further into the methods used. Suddenly the assumptions, based on nothing but super wild ass guesses (SWAGs) came into complete view. For example, his conservative estimate is that active OkCupid users go on at least one date every two months and uses this with active users/month to arrive at 30,000 dates will happen tonight because of OkCupid. This number is used for other calculations. I would give this aspect no stars. So an average of 2.5 stars rounded up is the reviewed 3.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    I feel bad giving this book two stars because I've met the author in person and he's a nice guy and I know how much bad reviews suck. But, reading this book as a person who works in data gave me a very bad feeling. All of the notes indicate that he didn't pull the data himself, nor work on any of the charts, but did so with the help of James Dowdell, who did the heavy lifting in the stats and visualization, and two other guys from OKCupid who pulled the data at Rudder's request. What was Rudder' I feel bad giving this book two stars because I've met the author in person and he's a nice guy and I know how much bad reviews suck. But, reading this book as a person who works in data gave me a very bad feeling. All of the notes indicate that he didn't pull the data himself, nor work on any of the charts, but did so with the help of James Dowdell, who did the heavy lifting in the stats and visualization, and two other guys from OKCupid who pulled the data at Rudder's request. What was Rudder's actual role at OKCupid? The details are vague there, as well. Where is the GitHub for the code for this book? It should be available. All of the conclusions are kind of cool and I do give him credit for coming up with some of the theories he wanted to explore, but I'd much rather a sociologist or statistician take me through the implications of racism, etc, rather than Rudder, who seems to merely be speculating and grandstanding about what his Theory of the Internet is. It's kind of like sitting in some hipster bar next to a guy who wants you to know how cool he is. A lot of the anecdotes can be found simply by having kept up with internet culture over the past 5 years. Overall, a VERY pop book that does not do good data analysis credit. Very pretty charts, though.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    So I'm on OKCupid and I like pulling data apart so I thought this was worth a look. And it is. Even if it's better taken in bits than it is all put together as a whole, a problem with this type of nonfiction generally. The chapters are very tidy, with nice little introductions and anecdotes, but Rudder is pretty straightforward about the fact that this is not going to be a book based on anecdotes. He is a numbers guy and I appreciate that. It's why I read the book in the first place. But things So I'm on OKCupid and I like pulling data apart so I thought this was worth a look. And it is. Even if it's better taken in bits than it is all put together as a whole, a problem with this type of nonfiction generally. The chapters are very tidy, with nice little introductions and anecdotes, but Rudder is pretty straightforward about the fact that this is not going to be a book based on anecdotes. He is a numbers guy and I appreciate that. It's why I read the book in the first place. But things can still get less interesting when he tries to parse out what the numbers mean. Interesting for the armchair psychologist. Depressing for the online dating community. (People are even more shallow than you think they are!) Worth a bit of your casual perusing time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    I loved this book, and I want to say at the outset, that if you need “fodder” for starting conversations at social gatherings, this book is replete with it! The author, Christian Rudder, is President and Co-founder of the dating site, OKCupid. He began collating and charting data from his own site, and then expanded his database by looking at comparative data from “rival” dating sites, Facebook, twitter and other social media sites. What he has found out is just amazing. The underlying theme is I loved this book, and I want to say at the outset, that if you need “fodder” for starting conversations at social gatherings, this book is replete with it! The author, Christian Rudder, is President and Co-founder of the dating site, OKCupid. He began collating and charting data from his own site, and then expanded his database by looking at comparative data from “rival” dating sites, Facebook, twitter and other social media sites. What he has found out is just amazing. The underlying theme is that, no matter what people claim about themselves and how they express themselves in surveys, what they actually believe and do is often quite different, but can be discovered by their online interactions. Even in the privacy of one’s own home, what one searches for in Google is revelatory. I think my favorite aspect of this book is how it demonstrates the remarkable revolution in sociological research. It makes me gnash my teeth in regret that I did my own studies before this sort of data had become available - what fun it would have been! (Not that I didn’t have fun, in a bizarre, pedantic sort of way, but just saying….) For example, you can analyze tweets to see which people celebrate certain traditions, and how closely these mirror political borders. Using the program DOLLY (Digital Online Life and You) - to cite just one example, researchers found that the Dutch holiday of Sint Maarten is not only celebrated in the northern Netherlands, but also in Western Belgium: “the tweets reconnect old Holland to Flanders, its cultural cousin.” As the author observes: “Thus we watch an animated visualization of GPS-enabled data points, and see shadows of the Hapburgs." Just imagine, he says, if we could have tracked the tweets in Alsace-Lorraine over the years as it changed hands from German to French to German to French, with each government trying to impose its culture and language on the people. [When we traveled to that area, it was clear the mix was still trying to sort itself out!] Other entertaining discoveries: research on Facebook has now verified that most of us are in fact connected by six degrees of separation; the majority of searches for “missed connections” are from sightings at Walmart (and most of those are in the South); when white men write essays about themselves for dating sites, the most commonly used word after “the” is “pizza”; the most antithetically used words (words most used by everyone else but least used by specific groups) for Asian men include “layed back” [spelled wrong] and ”6’4” (oddly, the second most typical phrase for Asian women is “tall for an asian”); and that the Center for Disease Control coordinates with Google to track epidemics because when people are getting sick, they search for symptoms and remedies. Far and away the most revelatory data have to do with race and gender preference. The author explains, for instance, that a variety of indications (searches, friend connections, etc.) suggest the figure of 5% of the population being gay is pretty accurate and holds true across the states. But the number of self-reporting gays varies by the level of acceptance by states. So for example, if you see a state in which only 1.5% of respondents self-report as gay, you can probably pretty safely assume that 3.5% are in the closet. (He provides a lot of documentation to substantiate this.) The details on race are the saddest, and show the extent to which race still is in fact a problem in the U.S. (in case you could possibly doubt it). Rudder reports data (not only from OKCupid but also DateHookup and match.com - a total of around 20 million Americans) on ratings of each group (white, black, Asian, and Hispanic) for each sex by each group, ranking the attractiveness of the other sex by race alone. Every single category and sex rates black women the lowest. Claiming to be part white elevates one’s rating substantially. Perhaps most significantly, data outside the U.S. reveal no such bias! He also talks about spikes in Google for searches like jokes about [the “n” word] that correspond precisely to peaks in Obama’s presidential campaign cycle. In addition, as the author explains, you can find out a lot about peoples’ prejudices by watching the operation of Google’s sentence completion function. Google will fill in the most popular responses as you begin questions like, “Why do all blacks….” “Why do all gays….” “Why do husbands….,” etc. Finally, the author includes a very thorough discussion about privacy, even bringing the Edward Snowden revelations to bear. Discussion: I could have a couple of small quibbles. As one illustration, the author made a chart correlating the age at which a woman looks “most attractive” to a man by the age of the man. As the age of the man increases, the age of the woman by and large does not. But does that mean men find aging unattractive, or could there be a conscious or subconscious consideration that older women either might already have children (a.k.a. “baggage”) or conversely, might not be able to have children, which the man might want? [Or am I just trying to come up with reasons why aging women aren't really seen as less attractive?] And speaking of the constraints of the data, the way questions are formulated doesn’t necessarily allow for all possible variables that might come into play. [Example from a recent Facebook “test” I took: “Do you prefer acid rock, pop, or rap? Those were all the choices; no “other”; no “none of the above”. I was forced to make a choice and provide an answer that wasn’t at all accurate.] In other words, I sometimes want more “data” to understand the data. (Rudder says in the Afterword that he deliberately omitted statistical details to make the book more readable, because “mathematical wonkiness” wasn’t what he was trying to get across.) He does add references in the back whenever possible for further study. Another small criticism I have is that the author presents so many arresting data findings that he sometimes goes from one to the other without full elucidation. On the other hand, I am confident the author is aware of all of this. He acknowledges an intellectual debt to Edward Tufte, who is a (perhaps “the”) leading authority on the uses, misuses, ambiguities, and deceptiveness of data, and Rudder acknowledges: "
…behind every number there ’s a person making decisions: what to analyze, what to exclude, what frame to set around whatever pictures the numbers paint.” As he concludes, this science of data analysis is just in its beginning stages; he is trying to give us a taste of what is already out there, and what is to come. It is aggregate data, he cautions; we still have to account for individual differences and quirks. But it sure is fascinating to find out what the numbers show about broad trends. Evaluation: This book is full of stunning and provocative information about who we are, as well as who we want to be (but aren’t, at least not yet). Learning “sociology” has never been this fun!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Allison Riding

    As a single 25 year old who has lightly dabbled in dating apps, this book successfully has me swearing them off forever. Mostly because I'm clearly past my 20 year old female prime. Also because (as many studies have shown) we repeatedly select differently than we say we desire. With that said: what a fun book!!!!!!! For a data-centric, behavioral psychology treasure trove of information, it read like a guilty pleasure. Highly recommend! Danced through in one sitting on a flight. I al As a single 25 year old who has lightly dabbled in dating apps, this book successfully has me swearing them off forever. Mostly because I'm clearly past my 20 year old female prime. Also because (as many studies have shown) we repeatedly select differently than we say we desire. With that said: what a fun book!!!!!!! For a data-centric, behavioral psychology treasure trove of information, it read like a guilty pleasure. Highly recommend! Danced through in one sitting on a flight. I also thought it was interesting how our writing has not declined with Twitter and other short form- but improved. Creativity loves limits!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    The social psychologist in me requested this one. All that social data just seemed irresistible. And it is, particularly for a person who abhors social media and is naturally suspicious/cautious/wary of any form of data collecting. And yet, it is unavoidable, every time we make a purchase, take a quiz, log onto a website. So the internet knows us, it really does, the real us, the paranoid worriors (it’s my word and I like it, accept it, Word), the obsessive googlers, the compulsive shoppers. And The social psychologist in me requested this one. All that social data just seemed irresistible. And it is, particularly for a person who abhors social media and is naturally suspicious/cautious/wary of any form of data collecting. And yet, it is unavoidable, every time we make a purchase, take a quiz, log onto a website. So the internet knows us, it really does, the real us, the paranoid worriors (it’s my word and I like it, accept it, Word), the obsessive googlers, the compulsive shoppers. And Rudder is really a perfect candidate to write a book like this, with his Ivy League math degree and OkCupid’s cofounder credentials, the guy knows the data behind the avatars and best of the bunch photos and stock description phrases. So it does make for some very interesting reading and he makes a valid case for and against data collecting, the pros and cons (and both exist) are very much a real part of our lives very fabric, although that always makes me think of those old cotton commercials. By largely abstaining from having online presence (Goodreads being the exception, because if you read you just gotta) I’m probably not actively factoring into this book’s various researches, but then again just reading a book of the science of Data makes me some sort of a statistic and my brain does enjoy the neat orderliness of slotting persons and personalities into their neat orderly boxes. Rudder comes across as a hip nerd, clever and erudite, but the man is a mathematician by education and the book reads like it’s written by one and relies heavily on graphs and charts, so be forewarned. You don’t need a math degree to get through it by any means, it is still after all a work of pop science, but it helps to have a certain predisposition for numbers. And it’s a quick read for what it is, owning in no small way due to the fact that less than 60% of the book is the main text, followed by extensive notes (which I actually read to look for some more factoids and minutiae and even found some) and even more extensive index. In fact, of all the nonfiction I’ve read and I try for at least one or two per month, this book might have had the least content to additional material ratio. Worked for me, because I pretty much got as much on the subject out of it as I cared to, a lot of it not all that surprising, a lot of it refreshers from a social psychology class and a few authentically new and interesting things. The author went with using general data as oppose to individual examples, an honorable choice given the availability of the latter at his fingertips, but it did lead to a more textbook narrative. Still plenty of information for self edifying purposes. And plenty of food for thought, particularly when it comes to surveillance, data collecting and analysis and so on.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie_blu

    I agree with Rudder's main thesis that each of us is being tracked much more than we think we are, and that this data will change forever how we live, whether we want it to or not. However, I have serious misgivings about many of the conclusions that he draws. My main misgiving is that since most of his data comes from members of OKCupid, his data is highly skewed by using this very limited group. Another issue I have with the information presented in the book, is how Rudder cherry picks certain I agree with Rudder's main thesis that each of us is being tracked much more than we think we are, and that this data will change forever how we live, whether we want it to or not. However, I have serious misgivings about many of the conclusions that he draws. My main misgiving is that since most of his data comes from members of OKCupid, his data is highly skewed by using this very limited group. Another issue I have with the information presented in the book, is how Rudder cherry picks certain results without investigating more deeply or widely. For example, he uses the data to show that white racism is still deeply embedded in America. I agree that racism exists on all levels of American society, even though overt racism is generally hidden, but he stops there and doesn't pursue the data further. Rather than simply taking the easy way out and highlighting white racism, he could have used the data to show that racism exists on many levels and in many different forms. America's horrible history of slavery makes racism a complicated and deep-seated issue, but by only focusing on one result in his data, Rudder does a disservice to his readers by not using all of the data to examine how racism functions in other groups. His analysis of governmental surveillance is another area in which I found his analysis specious. After reviewing the breadth of governmental surveillance, he states: "Does surveillance make us safe? Is the security apparatus a blanket? Well, there haven't been any terror attacks on American civilians since 2001 - at least, not ones by the syndicates. That's not meaningless, certainly not to a New Yorker. But an argument from absence isn't very strong, and at least until we're allowed to know the threats that were thwarted as opposed to those never planned, it's hard to trust what we're told." I disagree with two main points in this quote. First, I believe an argument from absence is a rather strong argument in this particular case. The lack of attacks is a good indication that the surveillance is working, at least to an extent. Secondly, telling the public about thwarted attacks could alert extremists as to our methods, and thereby, hamper those efforts. Is the concept of "big brother" cause for trepidation? Yes, but considering the current world situation, quite a bit of big-brotherism is, unfortunately, necessary. How can we decide when it goes too far? That is a decision that must be made by each society, and it will most likely come after the surveillance goes much too far, and a nation's citizens join together to rein in the surveillance. "Dataclysm" could have been a important work. Instead, I feel that it was superficial and misleading.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Morris

    The copy I am reviewing was received through Netgalley from Crown publishing in exchange for an honest review. In “Dataclysm”, Christian Rudder embarks on the mission to bring Big Data to the masses. Big History and Big Economics are popular today, and I think this book is going to achieve the mission with great success. Math is not known for being embraced by many, so Rudder’s work was cut out for him. His subject choices and examples were well-chosen and interesting, and The copy I am reviewing was received through Netgalley from Crown publishing in exchange for an honest review. In “Dataclysm”, Christian Rudder embarks on the mission to bring Big Data to the masses. Big History and Big Economics are popular today, and I think this book is going to achieve the mission with great success. Math is not known for being embraced by many, so Rudder’s work was cut out for him. His subject choices and examples were well-chosen and interesting, and concepts are explained in a way not “dumbed down” too much, but easily understood by anyone wishing to put the effort into learning about them. At a few points it became a bit too dense with information, and that is why I give the book four stars instead of five. I wish four and a half were an option, because while it keeps it from having the ability to capture the attention of any reader who may pick it up, I believe that the author is respecting those who want to truly gain knowledge, thereby making the density not a necessarily bad thing. The facts and writing were both funny and horrifying. One minute I would be laughing at the idea that Belle and Sebastian are the whitest band in America, and the next I was completely uncomfortable with the racism that is inherent in the population as a whole. It’s easy to say “I am not racist”, but quite different when the patterns of a large group are put on display and analyzed and you recognize your own behaviors in there. It’s food for thought, and something most of us are not even conscious that occurs, so the hope that we can now see it on display and work to make changes in our thoughts is a very real one. The most unsettling question raised is whether or not the social gains are worth the privacy we are sacrificing. Since it’s a new field, it’s up to the people to set standards, so learning about it is more than educational or entertaining. Without knowing what is going on, we cannot object or consciously aid in what it’s used for. Also, please be sure to read the author’s notes at the end. He does an excellent job of explaining where and how he got the data, as well as the approaches and controls he used in his research. It’s fascinating and adds the legitimacy numbers often require. If you enjoy facts, data, charts and graphs (the ones in “Dataclysm” are excellent), or are inquisitive in any way I recommend you give this a try. The first couple of chapters may feel a bit overwhelming, but eventually the read becomes easier, and it is well worth the time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lesa

    Christian Rudder defines Dataclysm as "An unprecedented deluge of digital information reshaping our view of the world". The cofounder and president of OKCupid, has gathered data from that site and other sites, analyzed it, and compiled it into a fascinating book that examines what we share on social media. The result is Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One's Looking. In my workplace, we talk about the fact that people tell us one thing, but their actions say something different. Christian Rudder defines Dataclysm as "An unprecedented deluge of digital information reshaping our view of the world". The cofounder and president of OKCupid, has gathered data from that site and other sites, analyzed it, and compiled it into a fascinating book that examines what we share on social media. The result is Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One's Looking. In my workplace, we talk about the fact that people tell us one thing, but their actions say something different. In fact, we're in the process of using a service similar to what stores use to actually examine the actions and behavior of our customers. So, Rudder's book showing analytics that actually tell what is happening, rather than surveying people to see what they say, is intriguing and right in line with what we're doing. Rudder uses all his data to tell "the human story", how people behave on sites such as OKCupid and Twitter when they think no one is watching. Before social media, universities studied their students, which slanted the results. Rudder says it even has a name, WEIRD research: white, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic. Hardly a good judge of society. But, Rudder claims all of our networks present a better picture of society. He examines his own site to look at how people behave when it comes to sex. Rudder examines beauty and race in the book. The chapter "Days of Rage" and the mob reaction on Twitter to some comments was an intriguing chapter. There's discussion of government use of data, as well as the use merchants, banks, and social media makes of it. But, Rudder is an optimist, one who hopes data will ultimately be used for good, as a way to discover what we have in common as humans, as well as a way to reach us as individuals. It's this optimism, coupled with the research and data, that makes Dataclysm a fascinating book. His book ends with a wish, a hope for the future of social media data. "To use data to know yet not manipulate, to explore but not to pry, to protect and not to smother, to see yet never expose, and, above all, to repay that priceless gift we bequeath to the world when we share our lives so that other lives might be better - and to fulfill for everyone that oldest of human hopes, from Gilgamesh to Ramses to today: that our names be remembered, not only in stone but as part of memory itself."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Richard Wu

    I rate this book 3 stars for me (mainly because 70% of the book is just updated versions of Rudder's old blog posts), but 4 stars for anyone who isn't already familiar with data journalism and wants a jolt of reality. I think the book lacks direction. Half of the book talks about communication and demographic trends, the other half talks about preferential trends in online dating. His thesis, "big data is powerful, present, and can tell us more about ourselves," might have been revela I rate this book 3 stars for me (mainly because 70% of the book is just updated versions of Rudder's old blog posts), but 4 stars for anyone who isn't already familiar with data journalism and wants a jolt of reality. I think the book lacks direction. Half of the book talks about communication and demographic trends, the other half talks about preferential trends in online dating. His thesis, "big data is powerful, present, and can tell us more about ourselves," might have been revelatory in 2010 but is merely quotidian in 2015. Rudder also says nothing about the data besides how to do the interpretation. While leaving the reader to form his/her own opinion is a respectable editorial decision, it makes for a boring book. Also, this book is not built to last; a snapshot in time, it will become highly anachronistic in 2, 3 years as the data change - as social attitudes change. But I will admit... I appreciated the table on page 167 showing that Asian men really hate misspelling things.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    "Here's the kernel of it: the phrase 'one in a million' is at the core of so many wonderful works of art. It means a person so special, so talented, so something that they 're practically unique, and that very rareness makes them significant. But in mathematics, and so with data, and so here in this book, the phrase means just the opposite: 1/1,000,000 is a rounding error." "Trolling a soda is something no formula would ever recommend. It's no industry best practice. And it's evidence that as "Here's the kernel of it: the phrase 'one in a million' is at the core of so many wonderful works of art. It means a person so special, so talented, so something that they 're practically unique, and that very rareness makes them significant. But in mathematics, and so with data, and so here in this book, the phrase means just the opposite: 1/1,000,000 is a rounding error." "Trolling a soda is something no formula would ever recommend. It's no industry best practice. And it's evidence that as much as corporatism might invade our newsfeeds, our photostreams, our walls, and even, as some would hope, our very souls, a small part of us is still beyond reach. That's what I always want to remember: it's not numbers that will deny our humanity; it's the calculated decision to stop being human."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Philip Hollenback

    This was a fun read about some surprising statistical topics. It turns out that one of the best predictors of compatibility between people in a relationship is how they answer the question, "do you like scary movies?" Some of this is a rehash of the Okcupid blog posts that the author did a few years ago, but there is some fresh info and insights. My only complaint is the book is kind of short. Oh, also the charts and graphs make a lot of use of color so you need to read this book on a This was a fun read about some surprising statistical topics. It turns out that one of the best predictors of compatibility between people in a relationship is how they answer the question, "do you like scary movies?" Some of this is a rehash of the Okcupid blog posts that the author did a few years ago, but there is some fresh info and insights. My only complaint is the book is kind of short. Oh, also the charts and graphs make a lot of use of color so you need to read this book on a color device.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Merlini

    4.55 stars I really enjoyed reading dataclysm; even if only for getting insight into the okcupid dataset. It made me intensely curious about some of the datasets that I work with and thought about new ways of slicing/presenting the data. Nothing earth shatteringly unexpected, but I found the book very readable, and all of the graphs/typography very visually appealing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book is based on a blog the author created specifically to share his interesting data. I enjoyed seeing his data and graphs. He makes some interesting comparisons. But I feel his analysis of what the data means is limited. Professional sociologists might come to different conclusions.

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