Christian Rudder, a Harvard grad and co-founder and president of the dating site OkCupid, has written an engaging book in which he uses data to analyze human behavior. Most of the data is taken from OkCupid’s user base, and is presented as an aggregate so no one is singled out. According to Rudder, he is telling the story of the masses.
Dataclysm is a wonderful read. It’s funny, light, and relatable with a few narratives thrown in. The book looks thick but it can be a quick read if you have the time for it. It also helps that the text and graphs are visually appealing. If you’re interested in graphic design, I suggest taking a look at Rudder’s graphs and tables. He presents a variety of them in a clean manner that makes them easy to understand.
Rudder draws surprising conclusions from his data though some were more of a confirmation for what I already know. A few points Rudder uncovers include: older men are more attracted to younger women (a glance at the TV show Millionaire Matchmaker proves this); using Twitter may actually improve one’s writing than hurt it; the more followers a person has on Twitter, the more that person sounds like a corporation. He also includes his opinions on his findings, some of which I disagree with, but I like reading them. He doesn’t try to ignore the subjectivity of his research.
One problem I have with his data, though, is that he takes it for granted that people on OkCupid are being entirely honest on their profiles. People do lie on the internet and often try to present themselves in a favorable light. I think Rudder should have taken that into consideration even if OkCupid does ask a bunch of questions to weed out the fakes. It makes me question the stats in his data even though his conclusions ring true.
I am an introvert through and through. I like solitude. I enjoy sorting through my thoughts or dreaming up stories to entertain myself. I am shy at times and find it hard to operate in intimate sit-down-and-chat parties, where small talk is the mode for socializing. Last year, when I was hooked on TED Talks, I came across Susan Cain’s TED Talk. It intrigued me that someone who claims to be shy could do such a compelling, and at times funny, talk. Upon discovering that she had written a book about introverts, I became excited and immediately wanted to purchase it. But, being one of the many postgrads with a huge student loan, I was unable to quickly attain what I desired. A few months passed before I could purchase it.
Cain’s book is just as compelling as her TED Talk albeit longer. Like most nonfiction books these days, it is written for a mainstream audience and deftly mixes narrative with facts and data to engage the common reader and sustain his interest. Cain is a bit heavy with the narrative and sometimes the reader will tire of the stories but the reader will hardly want to skip them since they help to illustrate the facts Cain states. Basically, the stories are not unnecessary. Cain ensures that they all tie into the facts that she plans to expound on, or that they highlight those facts she has already stated. The narratives range from a peek at Rosa Parks’ personality at the beginning of the book to a profile on Asian students in California to stories on notable businessmen who benefit from being an introvert. These stories help to demystify some tales associated with being classified an introvert and highlight its benefits.
Have you seen Ken Robinson‘s 2006 TED Talk? If not, you should check it out. It’s hilarious and insightful too. I bumped into it by chance. I was browsing TED.com since I’m addicted to its videos. I think I told myself at that time that I was seeking inspiration or some such excuse for why I was procrastinating. Though Robinson’s talk was mostly a call for reform to the school systems to include more artistic programs and allow students the ability to explore their varied interests, he also spoke about passions, which he calls the Element. I perked up at the mention of this (I’m always interested in passions) and decided to check out his book The Element, which he mentioned in his talk.
It’s a thoughtful read. It will leave you wondering why you didn’t do as some of the people in the book did and just say to hell with everything and do what you really love. Well, that’s what I wondered when I read it. According to Robinson, the Element is something that a person has a passion for and is really good at. It can be something that is artistic like painting or dancing, or it can be something that is analytic like science or business. A person’s Element can be anything and a person can have more than one Element.