HN Books @HNBooksMonth

The best books of Hacker News.

Hacker News Comments on
Dataclysm: Love, Sex, Race, and Identity--What Our Online Lives Tell Us about Our Offline Selves

Christian Rudder · 6 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "Dataclysm: Love, Sex, Race, and Identity--What Our Online Lives Tell Us about Our Offline Selves" by Christian Rudder.
View on Amazon [↗]
HN Books may receive an affiliate commission when you make purchases on sites after clicking through links on this page.
Amazon Summary
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.
HN Books Rankings
  • Ranked #26 this year (2022) · view

Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
Online dating is a skewed game (for M/F), if you're in the top 2% of attractiveness for men it's great - otherwise it's not worth it. This is compounded a bit by region, if your dating market is pretty even or skewed where there are more women than men (NYC/DC) it gets a lot better (I suspect actually for both men and women, but don't know) - in the bay area it's not worth it.

Women get a lot of matches which while a lot better than no matches (can go on dates, get practice, etc.) leads to a filter problem. Many (based on OKC data [0]) tend to pre-select based on attractiveness*, so the top 2% of men get most of the matches, which pre-filters out high quality candidates that would have a chance in real life. It also leads to lower quality interactions (since those men have more options anyway).

If you're a woman with hundreds of matches it's not really a surprise they'd be multi-tasking on a zoom date, the dates are abundant - each one has low value. This shifts as people get older though - if I had to guess that's probably part of why your recent matches improved after 5 yrs, suddenly there are fewer men available and the competition heats up (both because there are fewer available men and because there are more younger women getting more attention).

If you're a man that gets one match at best every other month, they're so scarce the value is high. I think honestly women and men have a poor sense for how extreme the difference in online dating experience is.

We're not that different from other apes in a lot ways, if you're not really good looking and you're in a skewed market online dating is a bad approach for you (imo).

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/Dataclysm-Identity-What-Online-Offlin...

* Men do too obviously, but not to the same winner-takes-all extreme (based on the OKC data).

baron816
I doubt it would be that challenging for the apps to rebalance things. All they have to do is say if a user has X number of likes per Y period, stop showing them so much.

I guess they’re all working on the Yahoo! model though—don’t work too good or else people would quit before you make money off of them. But I bet someone could come up with a business model that makes money off of finding good matches for people and incentivizes good behavior.

lsd_throwaway
I think they're fighting an uphill battle because these incentives are sexual selection incentives. There's not much you can do to 'fix' them.

I think what happens is that both sexes go through it and come out the other side. If they were lucky enough not to pair off with a bad mate early they can then choose more wisely.

For a lot of men this means being unhappy and lonely in their 20s, for women it means being unhappy while sleeping around a lot in their 20s. Eventually people figure out what they want.

I'm not sure an app can do much to fix that.

Sexual selection's affect on behavior is a powerful thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7QZnwKqopo

whynotminot
I've been riding the dating app carousel for a few years now. I've had some good experiences and met some really great women, so I can't complain too much, but I do agree that it's a pretty rough numbers game for men. It can be depressing at times.

I kind of wonder if the app makers just viciously slashed the number of likes men can give out, if things would get better. You often see men just blasting swipes to the right through hundreds of women just trying for any scrap of match they can get. I think that really messes with things. As a result of this, women get inundated with literally hundreds of matches, and then proceed to ignore the vast majority of those matches because there's so many they're all virtually meaningless. And then men swipe more and more and more because they've realized it's really just sending out the dating app equivalent of a Nigerian prince spam email looking for any sign of life at all.

If you only give men say 5 swipes a day, maybe women would value the matches they get, conversations would actually happen, and people would actually meet. Just a theory.

csunbird
Then, they sell packages/boosts that remove the like limit, making tons of money :)
arbol
This is essentially what the dating app bumble does. It only allows women to match with men, not the other way around, ending the spam.
whynotminot
Actually that's not really what I mean. Bumble's system doesn't cut down on the "women have too many options" problem because men still have tons of likes/right-swipes to distribute. Women have to message first, but they still end up inundated with countless matches they won't talk to.

I think Bumble does cut down on the amount of grief women deal with though--less disgruntled men are even able to send angry "why aren't you talking to me" messages since women have to message first.

lsd_throwaway
I don't think limiting swipes will fix it - the issue is more on the selection side (who women choose to swipe) than on the seeking side.

The reason men swipe a lot is because even with that most get few matches (~0). If you limit their swipes then most will never get matches and they'll stop using the service.

Bumble solves little, many 'initial' messages from women are ".", "hi", or ":)". It's basically equivalent to a match where the men have to initiate contact. The pre-selection winner-take-all issue is still there.

I think you can't fix it via apps - because the issue is upstream sexual selection that's been in place for thousands of years. It's good to have an honest view of it though because it lets people navigate it rather than becoming bitter and miserable.

Even if you had an app where men make profiles and don't swipe at all, one where women just select people and then men get notified - you still end up with only the top 2% of men getting selected and women would have to notify someone they're interested who may not have mutual interest or message them back (a rejection of the type mutual swipe matches are supposed to avoid).

Also, I think at least some women like having hundreds of matches because it's a nice self-confidence ego boost (I think complaining about this is 'high-status' humble bragging). If you took that away I suspect they'd also use the service less. Most women don't want to actually be the pursuers (a lot of men don't want to be either probably, but don't have a choice) - sexual selection doesn't work that way among most other mammals, humans are probably not an exception. If you try to force it with an app I'd doubt it would work.

So this doesn't solve the underlying issue, and economically wouldn't work because men that drive income for dating sites wouldn't have much of a role to play beyond creating an account and waiting (even though functionally this is basically the action they're doing anyway for the most part on the other services).

Men need to play to their strengths - online dating turns you into a commodity competing entirely on looks. If you're not going to win in that arena (and 98% won't), get out.

whynotminot
> I don't think limiting swipes will fix it - the issue is more on the selection side (who women choose to swipe) than on the seeking side.

Right, but I think women are extra choosy on the apps (going only for that top X percent of men) because they can be, because literally every swipe is a match, because men just fire off the right swipes by the hundreds. Just thinking about this logically, if every girl I swiped on Tinder was a match for me, I'd probably be more choosy too.

If men didn't have as many swipes, women wouldn't have such an extreme amount of matches. Maybe they'd widen their net and invest more time with the smaller number of matches they do get.

Again, hypothetical. Maybe not.

> Even if you had an app where men make profiles and don't swipe at all, one where women just select people and then men get notified - you still end up with only the top 2% of men getting selected and women would have to notify someone they're interested who may not have mutual interest or message them back (a rejection of the type mutual swipe matches are supposed to avoid).

Where do you get the 2% number? Just curious.

> I think at least some women like having hundreds of matches because it's a nice self-confidence ego boost (I think complaining about this is 'high-status' humble bragging). If you took that away I suspect they'd also use the service less.

So the cynical part of me does kind of agree with this. I do think there's some percentage of women who aren't even on the apps for meeting people. In that sense, the overwhelming number of matches is an ego-boosting feature, not a bug they would like to see fixed. I'd like to think this is a small percentage, but I'd be curious to see data on this.

lsd_throwaway
> Where do you get the 2% number? Just curious.

It's an imperfect number, but it comes from one of the graphs in dataclysm. It was a graph that paired attractiveness vs. amount of incoming messages.

For men messaging women it's mostly linear (more attractive women get more messages, but the high end gets maybe twice as many as the low end).

For women messaging men, it's a flat line at zero until the top 2% of male attractiveness at which it ticks up (a bit, still pretty unusual even then).

This is an imperfect metric because a lot of that skew is around who initiates at all which mostly falls to men, but it's tricky to get perfect data. Swipe data would be better, but dataclysm was written before the move to swiping mutual matching started (and now the sites don't publish anything interesting).

I'd predict the swipe data would match the initial message data similarly, it'd be interesting to see it.

> Maybe they'd widen their net and invest more time with the smaller number of matches they do get.

I'd suspect they'd go to other apps where they have more power (and the men would follow).

pydry
The no #1 complaint I've seen among women online is that they get routinely used and ghosted. This suggests that when they try to sort through their hundreds of matches they tend to select for men with a lot of options who treat them as disposable.

Interestingly a lot of them also complain that physical attractiveness of the man isn't necessarily a good predictor of getting used and ghosted.

This sounds to some like a better problem to have but I don't think it necessarily is.

The best fix might be an objective feedback mechanism on dates that future swipers can see. The women who filter these men out will consequently pay more attention to the other men.

Of course, people will try to game it like nothing else so it would need to be a good mechanism that had inbuilt protections against this.

There's also an obvious selection bias - the matches may be sending low quality messages, but if women are largely selecting only the top 2% of good looking men they're skewing these results themselves. The 'better' men never get to the messaging stage at all.

I'm happy to be out of the game, but online dating is bleak for 98% of men.

Okcupid used to have great data on this before they sold out, a lot of it ended up in this book:https://www.amazon.com/Dataclysm-Identity-What-Online-Offlin...

The data in that book corroborates a lot of this. We're not that different from gorillas - sexual selection is tough and most of the discussion around it ranges from wrong to dishonest.

tacocataco
Do you mind if you can explain okcupid selling out? I'm currently on the platform.
fossuser
The founders sold to match.com a few years back.

After that the cool data blog was killed.

There's a pretty good book by one of the OKC founders that goes into a lot of this data.

https://www.amazon.com/Dataclysm-Identity-What-Online-Offlin...

There's a bunch of good graphs and analysis in there (which matched my anecdotal experience of online dating).

The takeaway for me - if you're a man looking for a woman and you're not in the top 5% of attractiveness for men (really top 2%) then online dating is a waste of your time and you're better off doing pretty much anything else. This is doubly true in skewed dating markets like the bay area (less so in favorable markets like NYC, DC).

There's a lot of 'what you can't say' [0] in that book, sexual selection is skewed in lots of ways people pretend it isn't. I think it'd be better to acknowledge some of these things and consider it in an intellectual way - not so you can leverage it in some sleazy/misogynistic pick-up-artist way, but because understanding how it works helps you know how to behave/show confidence etc. Helps for the aspie-er among us where this doesn't come naturally (and is more important for men seeking women where for better or worse we have to be the ones to figure it out [1]).

On a somewhat related note, this Ted Chiang short story explores some of this and is just generally great: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:vSPLnv...

[0]: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7QZnwKqopo

The co-founder also wrote a book about statistics behind dating sites, as well as a variety of other topics, called “Dataclysm”. I read it a couple years ago and I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in this kind of stuff. https://www.amazon.com/Dataclysm-Identity-What-Online-Offlin...
The cofounder of OKC and author of these posts for a long time wrote a book in the vein of the blog: https://www.amazon.com/Dataclysm-Identity-What-Online-Offlin...
dalbasal
Nice. Ordered
HN Books is an independent project and is not operated by Y Combinator or Amazon.com.
~ [email protected]
;laksdfhjdhksalkfj more things
yahnd.com ~ Privacy Policy ~
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.