This book is by one of the founders of the OKCupid dating website and has the subtitle “Who We Are (When We Think No One Is Looking)”which goes some way to explain what it is about. Expanded from a series of blog posts, Rudder mines the terabytes of data collected from all the messages, views, ratings and eveything else that is captured on a dating website.
The book though is really in two parts. The first is a set of statistics that shows what people on the site are looking for, what brings them together and what keeps them apart. The end of the book however is an exploration of where “Big Data” is taking us, the implications for privacy and what it means to be on the internet in 2015.
The statistics section of the book is presented in an engaging way and free of the dry jargon and numbers that would turn a lay person off thte book. There are plenty of graphs (unfortunatly these didn’t really come out on my e-ink Nook) and lots fascinating insights into the world of online dating and beyond. One example is the words people use to describe themselves on the site. These strongly relate to both gender and race. Another fact, though somewhat unsurprising, was that the more attractive a person, the more messages they got. Exponentially more. All in all a really good look at people, if a self-selected group on a dating website, and what we can say about them in aggrigate.
If that was all, the book would have been pretty interesting but the last few chapters were a more philisophical look at Big Data and where we’re going with it. He touches on the amount of personal information we hand over to corporations and the contact we make with them to provide services in return. And of course in a post-Snowden world, there is government collection of data.
All in all a very enjoyable book. The only critisicm I would have of it would be that it is very short at only 180 pages before the footnotes. I feel that he could possibly have expanded on some of the themes at the end but aside from that, a very good book and recommended.