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Cannonball Read IV: Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters by Bill Tancer

By Katie | Book Reviews | January 25, 2012 | Comments ()


Click by Bill Tancer

Classes started today and neither of my classes seem too difficult. Hopefully this means good things for my ability to continue blogging throughout the semester! This evening I had time finish Click, my 006 book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like the author, I have to admit that I love data. And this book describes a data-miner's dream. The author has information about the searches made and websites visited by 10 million users (!) and has demographic information for about a quarter of them.

Throughout the book, the author does a great job explaining the data processing behind his conclusions. He writes in an engaging tone and is clearly excited about his work. But what really kept me interested in this book were the cool connections and conclusions he could draw from people's online behavior. Some of my favorites included:

  • the most depressing week of the year is Thanksgiving, based on peaks in searches for antidepressants
  • porn usage is higher in the Midwest and the week of Christmas (more free time?) and lower around Thanksgiving (family Holiday) and Sunday (for the obvious reasons)
  • dieting searches focused more on exercise and healthy means of weight loss after the show The Biggest Loser, with searches for fad diets becoming comparatively less common
  • so many others, but I shouldn't spoil all the fun you could have reading about it You can also see some examples at his company's blog.

The book wraps up with a discussion of why this sort of analysis is useful. What makes this work valuable is the speed at which results can be returned (as well as people's honesty with their search engines). If a company runs an ad, it is possible to immediately measure a subsequent increase in searches for that company. If voting is taking place for a reality TV show, monitoring the number of searches for each contestant is a pretty good way to predict the future winner. And measuring the number of hits on a band's website coming from search engines versus hits from social networking sites is a decent indicator of when a band is going to make it big.

Reading this book has made me realize some of the benefits of reading books in order by Dewey Decimal number instead of just jumping around. I've read a lot of books which are essentially about information lately and it's made me realize what I expect from that sort of book. An engaging tone and ability to explain concepts are crucial since topics can be quite complex. Nice graphs help too. I appreciate transparent explanations of the reasons for each claim the author makes. And finally, interesting conclusions which I can relate to are what really draws me in. This book met all of those criteria and I would highly recommend it.

Summary

Click - 5 stars - one of my favorites so far. Well written, easy to follow, intriguing conclusions about society. I would recommend this book to not only fellow data-lovers, but to anyone interested in studying human nature.

For more of Katie's reviews, check out her blog, Doing Dewey.

This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.



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