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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2014 Christian Rudder (P)2014 Random House Audio

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

They read the data tables--it is painful

Would you try another book from Christian Rudder and/or Kaleo Griffith?

Yes.

What did you like best about this story?

The story is great. The direction on the audio performance is bizarrely terrible.

What didn’t you like about Kaleo Griffith’s performance?

For some reason the director of this audio performance thought it would be a good idea to read the many long tables out loud. Imagine sitting though five minutes of the narrator reading a 120 data table. It is PAINFUL.

I love audio books and particularly enjoy non-fiction. This is one you need to read in print, though.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Buy the book. Experience it visually.

Would you listen to Dataclysm again? Why?

No.
This is a book to look at, not to listen to. Listening to descriptions of graphs and the contents of tables is far less efficient and effective than looking at them. While deeply interesting, reading the book in this form was tedious despite the narrator doing a wonderful job at a hopeless task. What was I thinking?

Any additional comments?

It's not the content or the narrator that's the problem. It's the format.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Wish a PDF with charts is available

Is there anything you would change about this book?

the over flow is good. Since the book is about data and findings, it would be really helpful to provide a visual. I found it hard to follow when the narrator reads off a graph or a chart for 10 minutes.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • matt
  • Boston, MA
  • 12-31-14

Entertaining listen

Just a note that the tables being read out loud really isn't that bad. When the first table was read, I laughed and said "oh no" out loud. That was probably the longest and hardest table to follow though. Table I'm referencing here is women's/men's age vs. age of interest FYI.

I thought the listen would be full of tables but there aren't that many. Don't let the fact that there are tables read out loud stop you from listening. It did for me for a few months.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Know thyself

A fascinating, if unsettling, look at true human behavior as extrapolated from Internet data. The chapters dealing with racism are some of the most revealing about American race relations.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 09-17-14

Best book on big data yet!

There's a revolution going on around big data and this book explains it better than any other that I've read so far. The author explains how data is cataclysmic (like a flood), how it is changing the way we can study the world, and what are some of the kinds of conclusions we can draw about people by analyzing the data correctly.

Today is a social scientist's dream world. We can learn things about how individuals (or segmented groups) behave unlike any other time before in history and our abilities to understand our networks, desires and motivations are just waiting for some behavioral scientist (or even more nefariously an evil corporation or a corrupt government) to fully analyze the data trail we leave behind. Instead of guessing about human nature we are in a position to know about our behavior (at least for people up to the age of 50!, post 50 year olds aren't always fully represented in the datasets).

There is one warning about this book for audible listeners. Of all the books I have listened to this one handled tables and graphs the least effectively. Note to author: take a minute or two and re-write the graphs and tables with the audio version in mind. Sometimes the narrative got lost in reading a table out loud. I could follow the conversation, but it got deadly boring at times.

This book reminds me of a Gladwell book or Freakenomics, but is much better because it never strays from the data and never lets the model under discussion stray to far from what the data (reality) is really saying. The real strength of this book is not so much the specific examples he gives in the book, but it acts as a guide to how a smart person can change the data from just a bunch of messy information, to organized data, then to knowledge and then finally wisdom.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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book was interesting

didn't persuade me that mass surveillance was a good idea because it gives us small positives though

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  • Eric
  • SCOTTSDALE, AZ, USA
  • 03-08-16

Soooo......not as exciting as the title leads on

Would you try another book from Christian Rudder and/or Kaleo Griffith?

Naw

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Nothing earth shattering here. Some data that most of us already knew in our gut, nothing mind blowing.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

no

Any additional comments?

Interesting to see how the data could be parsed. I was hoping for some real revelations here, but none found. I listed on 1.5 speed to move through it more quickly. I think it would have been a good article -- but not book worthy for me.

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missing pdf

What did you like best about Dataclysm? What did you like least?

The book is good, with tons of useful information

What was one of the most memorable moments of Dataclysm?

The data

Any additional comments?

I would say that like many other books that have graphics, its required to include a PDF file with the tables, instead of reading them.

  • Overall
  • Performance
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Not as insightful as expected

What was most disappointing about Christian Rudder’s story?

Rudder's insights were fairly pedestrian. He spent an awful lot of time analyzing behaviors and attitudes along racial lines, which is fine, but none of that produced any insights which were even remotely novel. None of it was surprising.

I'm not sure why Rudder published this book. It doesn't reveal anything that we might not have guessed on our own, without even having the data.

Any additional comments?

I'm not convinced it is ethical to use this data in the way Rudder did. Did users of the web site agree to have their data analyzed in this way?

The data was aggregated, and thus it was no longer really private or personal data. Nevertheless, Rudder's method left me with some misgivings.