Dataclysm – Christian Rudder

If you’ve been searching for a popular social science book that actually uses hard data, look no further: Dataclysm by Christian Rudder will meet your needs and more. Graphs are printed both in glorious black and vivid red, bringing attention to data like a popular science book never has before. The book itself is a breezy conversation between Rudder and the reader, without an agenda being pushed at all. If you were sitting at a bar and Rudder pulled up the stool besides you, this is what I imagine he’d talk about. “Hey look, here’s what I found out…”

Nearing the end of the book, I got a bit disappointed that the narrative wasn’t leading up to anything important. But that’s part of the appeal of Dataclysm. You’re treated to a narrative commentary about slices of data that almost nobody ever gets to see, much less draw conclusions from. Your innermost thoughts are laid bare when you interact with the Internet. The only downside about the entire book is that Rudder only truly has proprietary data from the dating website OkCupid. Everything else is nakedly observable by anybody else that feels like doing their own research. But that’s fine – this is more of an introduction to data, data sets, and how to draw conclusions from them.

Most of the book itself is indeed fun to read, even if you’re not really interested in statistics, the raw math behind them, how the data was gathered (hint: some of the gathering is described by Rudder), but what I truly enjoyed was some of the personal tidbits that get peppered throughout the book. Delicious morsels such as how Rudder enjoys reading the website Clients from Hell, whose existence I was unaware of. That link alone was well worth reading the entire book for. I’m able to commiserate over shared interests with Mr. Rudder now.

If you’re well familiar with the arcana of  statistical analysis and work with data on a daily basis, nothing in this book will truly surprise you. Especially if you’ve also used OkCupid in the past. This isn’t anything new to people who know the ins & outs of the various type of graphs you can utilize to showcase trends. But if you’re not familiar with any of these, Dataclysm serves as a wonderful introductory primer to the types of results that can be pulled from “big data”. Especially shocking to some would be some of the conclusions that Rudder was able to pull out of OkCupid’s data, especially on the attractiveness ratings of various people (nothing personal is shared or needed).

Utterly enjoyable, you might wonder why nobody else has written a book quite like this before. It’s simple – most people just don’t have access to the kind of data that Rudder does, much less be able to transform and translate it into something intriguing. It doesn’t hurt that he’s able to talk about the primal urges that drive humanity’s greatest conflicts – sex, racism, and personal identity. Newly issued in paperback by Broadway Books – this book has become even more accessible.

The paperback itself has a soft-touch varnish cover (rubberized), is perfect-bound, and actually prints graphs and diagrams in red ink as needed. That last touch is what truly elevates this printing above a mere “regular old paperback”.

Overall grade: A
ISBN: 978-0385347396
Publisher: Broadway Books
Binding: Soft-touch paperback, perfect-bound (Excellent)
Paper: Matte, perfectly trimmed (Excellent)
Affiliate link: Dataclysm(paperback) (Amazon)

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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