Published by Random House Publishing Group on 9/9/2014
Buy from IndieBound
A few months back, while the internet was in an uproar over Facebook toying with user data, developers of the dating site OkCupid openly announced that they “experiment on human beings“. Lucky for us, OkCupid’s founder Christian Rudder used the data collected in those experiments, along with statistics from several other frequently used websites, to chart a fascinating map of the American psyche in his book Dataclysm.
There’s so much nitty-gritty-good-stuff in Dataclysm that I could spend several hundred words regurgitating it all, but that would totally spoil the reading experience. Still, it’s nice to know what you’re getting into. Christian Rudder sketched out many of his findings on the OkTrends blog as he encounter them, including the discovery that camera flashes add roughly seven years to appearances in photos. It’s just mentioned briefly in the book, but knowing that a 28 year-old who used a flash is as attractive as a 35 year-old who didn’t is just the tip of Dataclysm‘s statistical iceberg. Access to a nearly endless pool of information pulled from a dating site gives Rudder the opportunity to dive deep into male and female attraction, but also allows him to look at the way we describe ourselves and interact with one another. Among dozens of topics, Rudder examines the most commonly used words across different races and sexual preferences, how Google exposes what people really think and the heavily weighted way beauty impacts women.
“For all the hand-wringing, it’s hard to argue that most users are anything but blasé about privacy. Whenever Facebook updates its Terms of Service to extend their reach deeper into our data, we rage in circles for a day, then are on the site the next, like so many provoked bees who, finding no one to sting, have nowhere to go but back to the hive.”
Thankfully, Rudder doesn’t just use all this data without touching on its questionable collection. Dataclysm is wrapped up with a balanced look at both the positive and negative ways big data has been used, the difficult relationship we have with it and a possible look at its future. Though chart lovers and stat geeks should be first in line for a copy, Dataclysm is sure to appeal to anyone with a curiosity for the weird wonders of human nature.