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Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Christian Rudder , Kaleo Griffith
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Sep 2014
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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group; Unabridged edition (9 Sep 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553397494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553397499
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 13 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

More About the Author

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Product Description


‘This is the best book that I've read on data in years, perhaps ever. If you want to understand how data is affecting the present and what it portends for the future, buy it now’ Huffington Post

‘At a time when consumers are increasingly wary of online tracking, Rudder makes a powerful argument in Dataclysm that the ability to tell so much about us from the trails we leave is as potentially useful as it is pernicious, and as educational as it may be unsettling. By explaining some of the insights he has gleaned from OkCupid and other social networks, he demystifies data-mining and sheds light on what, for better or for worse, it is now capable of’ Financial Times

‘Most data-hyping books are vapour and slogans. This one has the real stuff: actual data and actual analysis taking place on the page. That’s something to be praised, loudly and at length. Praiseworthy, too, is Rudder’s writing, which is consistently zingy and mercifully free of Silicon Valley business gabble’ Washington Post

‘Fascinating, funny, and occasionally howl-inducing…[Rudder] is a quant with soul, and we’re lucky to have him’ Elle

‘There's another side of Big Data you haven't seen … It's the big data that rears its ugly head and tells us what we don't want to know. And that, as Christian Rudder demonstrates in his new book, Dataclysm, is perhaps an equally worthwhile pursuit. Before we heighten the human experience, we should understand it first’ TIME

‘Dataclysm is a well-written and funny look at what the numbers reveal about human behavior in the age of social media. It’s both profound and a bit disturbing, because, sad to say, we’re generally not the kind of people we like to think — or say — we are’ Salon

‘[Rudder] doesn’t wring or clap his hands over the big-data phenomenon (see N.S.A., Google ads, that sneaky Fitbit) so much as plunge them into big data and attempt to pull strange creatures from the murky depths’ New Yorker

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Christian Rudder is co-founder of OkCupid and now serves as chief data analyst and author of the popular blog OkTrends. He graduated from Harvard in 1998 with degrees in English and math, and served as creative director for SparkNotes. His work has been written about in the New York Times and the New Yorker, among other places. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This nearly got 5 stars - It was a fascinating read.
Rudder cuts his data through gender, race and orientation to provide really interesting findings about how we act when behind an anonymous online veil. I don't buy all the hypotheses he uses to explain them, but that is fine, the data is interesting enough the way he sheds light on it. I read it on Kindle - and this is where it loses a mark - it obviously was better on Ipad kindle for the graphs and charts he uses, I can live with that. But when I got to 67% through the book and find endnotes, bibliography, index taking up a third somehow I felt a little short-changed. It is fascinating but I wanted more!
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
To what does the title of this book refer? According to Christian Rudder, "Kataklysmos is the Greek word for the Old Testament Flood; that's how the word `cataclysm' came to English. The allusion has dual resonance: there is, of course, the data as unprecedented deluge. What's being collected today is so deep it borders on bottomless; it's easily forty days and forty nights of downpour to that old handful of rain. But there'd also the hope of a world transformed -- of both yesterday's stunted understanding and today's limited vision gone with the flood."

What his book about? "This book is a series of vignettes, tiny windows looking in on our lives -- w3hat brings us together, what pulls us apart, what makes us who we are. As the data keeps coming, the windows will get bigger, but there's plenty to see right now., and the first glimpse is always the most thrilling. So to the sills. I'll boost you up." Indeed he does.

In this context, I am reminded of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," included in his classic work, The Republic (Book VII, 514a- 521d). The allegory focuses on a group of people who are chained to a wall in a cave, and have been prisoners all of their lives. They see shadows on the wall cast by figures between them and the source of light behind the figures, outside the cave. (Keep in mind, this is an allegory.) Like Plato, Rudder focuses on the human condition rather than on any specific members of it, such as Noah, and he asks the same questions such as "What is real?" That is a question constantly asked by those who are actively involved with social media, especially OkCupid (of which Rudder is a co-founder) and other matchmaking agencies.

Consider this passage in Chapter 8: "Observed behavioral data is very useful, as we've already seen.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  101 reviews
47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is going to be a very popular book. 29 July 2014
By Gavin Scott - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book may be to Data Science and Big Data what Freakonomics was to Economics.

The author is one of the founders of the dating web site OKCupid and has spent a lot of time sifting through the vast amount of data collected by user interactions with their website and each other, and he uses this wealth of personal and private information to explore what it can tell us about human social behavior.

The writing is excellent and it is a very fun read (I was hooked by the second page of the introduction, finished it in a couple sittings, and was never bored).

There's lots of information in this book that will make you think, and a lot worth talking about more. I think it's at its best in the first part where the theme is "things that bring us together" and he talks about statistics relating to how people find each other on his dating site. In the second part of the book "what pulls us apart" he deals with issues like race and what his data shows about the prevalence of racism in American society, as well as the internet's capacity for rage. The last part of the book "what makes us who we are" continues with the relationships theme as he investigates a few more racial as well as gay and bi-sexual issues before covering a few miscellaneous topics like comparing the kind of uses of this data he makes and his vision of using it for good compared to things like marketing and government spying.

People who consider themselves Data Scientists may be bothered by the fact that he does not go into much formal detail and actually few of his analyses require any fancy math or a PhD in anything.

It's a book that I can strongly recommend to anyone, both as a fascinating look into human behavior as well as an introduction to the sort of things that web sites are doing with all that data they collect on you, and as inspiration for those who aspire to the new discipline of Data Science, both in terms of the sort of things you can accomplish as well as some of the moral and ethical issues involved.

Probably the most interesting and thought-provoking book I've read in a long time.

23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Save your money, read the blog 16 Sep 2014
By Rosco Snappy - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed his blog, OKTrends The best parts of this book are just a rehash of the posts from OKTrends plus many, many pages of insufferable pontificating.
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big Data Yields Small Insights 6 Aug 2014
By W. A. Carpenter - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Christian Rudder, one of the founders of the dating service OkCupid and a Harvard trained mathematician, offers us insights from some really big social media data bases. Using analytic techniques to look at overall trends, rather than predictions about individuals, he demonstrates an ethical way to use all of the data that is collected on people who do Google searches, use dating sites, tweet on Twitter, and "friend" people on Facebook.

The results are not always dramatic or interesting, but it is amazing how much can be determined from the on-line behavior of millions of people. He offers, for example, a very credible estimate of the percentage of the population that is gay. He also has an interesting analysis of how people reacted when it became clear that Obama was going to be our first black president.

The only reason I did not give this book five stars is due to the author's tendency to throw in unnecessary profanity and sarcastic comments. I think he intended these to be humorous, in at least some cases, but I found them distracting interruptions in the flow of an otherwise fine book.

Rudder has a number of really wonderful graphs in the book, showing the trends in the data sets. These are inspired by the work of Edward Tufte - see The Visual Display of Quantitative Information for example - and he could not have chosen a better role model. One of the most interesting parts of the book, to this geeky reader, was his final Note on Data which should be the standard that all researchers in this type of analysis.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly amusing popular science, poorly sourced, terribly edited 15 Sep 2014
By Mike - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In short, a mildly amusing, somewhat inaccurate popular science portrayal of BigData from the viewpoint of a former OKCupid head honcho - who is not all that good at statistics or experimental design.
The Good:
The book is a lively and occasionally interesting work which you will find of interest if you use OK Cupid a lot or don't know anything about BigData. The graphs in the book are very pleasing to the eye.

The Bad:

This person thinks Wikipedia is a reputable source for, well, everything. Sources are misattributed. Some facts are just plain wrong - like embeddedness' origin (it's Polanyi). A lot of the statistics involve sweeping and bizarre assumptions (sentences have no impact on language) or incorrect extrapolations of information (Twitter is far superior to Shakespeare).

Profanity is used needlessly (this would otherwise be perfectly appropriate for young teens). Last, but certainly not least, sources are unreliable (Wikipedia is used repeatedly). The book is disorganized and desperately needs some chapters juggled around to be a more cohesive entity. I blame the editor as much as the author.

Overall, very readable, but thoroughly mediocre and terribly sourced.

Mediocre. 2.5/5
45 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Interesting Snippets of Data 18 Aug 2014
By Paul Cassel - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The author implies that this book presents data which will change the way we see ourselves. Not true. Instead, what we have here are snippets of often interesting but, for the most part, unrelated bits of data sourced variously and without mention of method.

There are two issues with the data itself. It's not cohesive. That is, the author doesn't drive toward a point or perform research. Instead he samples this or that he apparently either finds interesting himself or he thinks the readers will enjoy absorbing. Some of the data is worth thinking about or discussing around the water cooler tomorrow at work. The other issue is the interpretation the author puts on the data or the lack of it or something or other.

A good deal of the data is taken from the dating site, which the author started along with two others. Any person who's taken Statistics 101 can tell you that this sample has a few issues from self-section to it not representing humanity as a whole. For example, you can be well assured that no happily married folks had anything to do with these data sets. Aren't happily married people part of `humanity'?

The second issue starts with the author seeming to make a good deal out of nothing. In one chart with frequency of words used to describe oneself cross tabbed with race, he finds Hispanic males rarely describe themselves as having a southern accent, having blue eyes or being a redneck. I believe the author's data here, but did I need to see this chart to know these things?

In another chart, how men rate women's looks is cross tabbed by women's race. The chart shows that black women are, and are by far, rated as less good looking than Asian, Latina or white women. So what do we take from that? Well, I can think of several things other than maybe your first blush thought.

Maybe good looking black women are so popular that they don't need to go to to find their dates. Maybe black women take crummy photos of themselves. Maybe the nature of OKCupid shows black women's thumbnail pictures up poorly. I can go on. Here, again, I believe the author's data but I don't see the reason it was published.

The final part of the book is a well-considered and well expressed diatribe against the war on privacy being waged by several entities and abetted by your behavior online. Your behavior with your cell phone, OnStar equipped car and debit card are also contributors among other things. While the author laments this loss of privacy as if it's a future event, I have news for you: that ship has sailed.

Aside from some amazingly poorly worded personal musings, the expositional writing acceptable if not elegant. Overall worth a read but not a breakthrough of any sort.
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