dataclysm christian rudder

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian RudderDataclysm by Christian Rudder
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 9/9/2014
Source: Publisher
Pages: 256
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.


  • AnnabelSmith

    I am so completely reading this! Also I can’t believe the flash adds 7 YEARS. That is A LOT.

  • This sounds SO fascinating, and I totally believe the flash thing. ;)

  • Wow, this sounds awesome! I love data and statistics, especially from such a fun source. Definitely going on my to-read list! :)

    • You’ll be all over this one, for sure. It’s a great read!

      • I actually just requested it on Edelweiss, so hopefully I’ll end up with a copy. Thanks for sharing this one! It would have been sad if I’d missed it.

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  • How do we get people to stop using the flash when taking our pictures, I wonder? I just saw this book by @DoingDewey:disqus and it sounds intriguing, but maybe just getting snippets from all the bloggers that read it will be enough for me!

    • Maybe we really need to spread this information to get them to stop?
      I’d totally recommend reading it – his explanation behind all of the data is really fascinating and the charts in the book are great!

  • This is so interesting! I love the stat about the flash…and no flashes for me from now on..ha! I probably won’t read the book, but will definitely check out the blog. I agree with you on FB…it’s such a help for my blog, but I have major concerns about the privacy aspect.

  • I didn’t even know how much I wanted to read this until I read your review. Damnit, Shannon! I just culled ALL THE BOOKS! Now I have to add this one in. lol

  • Just so intriguing. I think I have to read it and re evaluate my use of FB.

  • Ti Reed

    I try to be good about privacy in general but I know that privacy settings sometimes provide a false sense of comfort. The amount of info out there is staggering, isn’t it? I tell my Teen and now, the Tween, to be very careful of what they put out there because it’s almost impossible to get rid of once it’s out.

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