REVIEW: "Beautiful Data", Toby Segaran/Jeff Hammerbacher
- BKBEADAT.RVW 20091103
"Beautiful Data", Toby Segaran/Jeff Hammerbacher, 2009,
%E Toby Segaran blog.kiwitobes.com
%E Jeff Hammerbacher
%C 103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA 95472
%G 978-0-596-15711-1 0-596-15711-8
%I O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
%O U$44.99/C$56.99 800-998-9938 fax: 707-829-0104 nuts@...
%O Audience i- Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 364 p.
%T "Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions"
The preface says that the editors published a book of essays on
program code, were approached to collect a similar volume dealing with
data, and are giving the royalties to charity. These premises; that
random collections of articles are valuable, that an approach to the
topic of coding can be applied to data can be valuable, or that
donating royalties to charity makes the work more valuable, appear to
be a bit thin.
A number of the papers emphasize either the collection or (more
frequently) display of data. One presents geographical data as
treemaps, and while these subjects would seem to be conceptually
related the actual utility of the approach is not apparent. Crimes
are mapped, in another article, and this has proved useful in the past
but has also been done. Three more essays note the use of social
networking in order to gather data for certain forms of research.
Some items seem unrelated to data as such. One paper stresses "user
experience" (abbreviated to "UX") as if it was a new topic, when it
has been a subject of extensive study for at least thirty years.
Another promotes the idea of refining search results by looking at
past searches, which appears to be a rather obvious notion. Yet
another promotes the idea of "data scientists," without making clear
what this field of study might be. (It seems to involve data
warehousing, and a lot of switching of topics.) If you are a rock
music fan, you may be interested in how an unusual video was made, but
it has nothing to do with data as such. (The explanations in this
paper are careless, particularly in regard to issues of resolution.)
One paper notes that there are problems with statistical analysis, if
you aren't careful. Another mentions that DNA is a form of data
storage, and that we need to store data about it.
A few articles appear to be simply reports of work in progress. A
group is fuzzing input data on forms in order to index background
databases (which seems to sail perilously close to attempting to
breach confidentiality and intellectual property controls).
An interesting article describes the tradeoffs between data, storage,
processing, and power involved in the NASA Mars lander project.
Slightly disconcerting is a paper noting that social networking sites
are more concerned about an appearance of availability than actual
integrity. (This essay relies on a mass of buzzwords rather than
actual analysis.) Another notes the contribution of statistical
analysis of text to cryptanalysis, as well as the development of
programs to check spelling.
There are some interesting points as one works through the essays.
There is, though, nothing to say what types of data are beautiful, or
how data can be made beautiful, or handled or stored beautifully.
There is no central thread to the book, nor structure of any kind.
So, you can pay for this collection, or you can spend a few hours idly
toying with your Web search engine of choice. The results are likely
to be equally useful.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2009 BKBEADAT.RVW 20091103
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