Title: Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking)
Author: Christian Rudder
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Genre: Nonfiction, Social Science Study
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The dating site OKCupid is one of the largest in the United States, and the founders and operators have always been transparent about the fact that they use the aggregate data from the site to look at trends and statistics. In this book, OKCupid founder Christian Rudder looks at all the data the site has gathered over the years and uses it to come to some startling and fascinating conclusions.
A riveting look at data and what it says about us as people, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) is an absolute must read for anyone who loves nonfiction and social science research.
I am an unapologetic geek when it comes to data. I love spreadsheets and lists, and I love to see what the information that I gather says about me. That’s why I found the idea of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) is so fascinating. Rudder takes the data he’s gathered over years of OKCupid use to tell us some really interesting things about people in general. Of course, he is very up front about the fact that the demographic is incredibly skewed: single people in a certain age range with a certain socioeconomic status. He’s not trying to claim that the users of OKCupid are representative of the United States or of the world, but that doesn’t mean what he finds isn’t relevant or fascinating.
One aspect of Dataclysm that is very interesting is the way Rudder frames the material—in that he doesn’t. Usually, in books about data, the author uses a story to hook the reader and provide examples of what he or she is discussing (think Malcolm Gladwell telling a bunch of stories to make the same point. He could try and show it with pure data, but he thinks that the stories will be more interesting for the reader.) Rudder doesn’t do that. He presents the data without a frame or story, focusing instead of the numbers themselves. It makes for an intriguing read, but what it also means is that there are a lot of numbers, graphs, and charts. Rudder presents his data well, clearly and efficiently, but this is not a book to read if you’re exhausted. You need to be in the mood to really look at the numbers and understand what they mean; doing so makes for a revelatory read.
If you’re generally a fan of nonfiction and are interested in societal trends, then Dataclysm is a book you should consider. Rudder studies such varied things as racism, sex, and love within our society and comes to some surprising conclusions. There were some things that made my blood boil in this book (especially the study of the average age of women that men at any age find attractive versus the opposite) and many things that just made me think (such as analyzing the strength of my relationship/marriage based on our Facebook friend groups). I’ve purposefully not included much information about what the book discusses because it’s much more fun to explore it and find out for yourself. Though you need to be mentally engaged, it’s actually an easy read and you’ll certainly be riveted by what you discover.