Book Reviews

Super Crunchers

I picked up Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way to be Smart by Ian Ayres while on vacation…it looked like an interesting read…and it was.

The entire book is based on showing the reader how organizations are using statistics, data mining and regression analysis to determine how to better run their businesses and/or get more money from you.   The book is not too technical nor full of numbers and the author writes the book for the non-technical/non-geeks out there.

What I found most interesting about this book was the ‘behind-the-scenes’ details of how companies like Wal-Mart are using data mining and other techniques to model and manage their logistical systems.

Ayers also provides some very interesting (and slightly disturbing) anecdotes about the use of these methods by Casinos to ensure that gamblers don’t lose cross their ‘pain threshold’ while gambling (this threshold is calculated based on various statistics about the gambler).  The casino will nonchalantly ask the gambler if they’d like to receive a free dinner…this isn’t really to ‘comp’ the gambler…its just to make them forget about the money they’ve lost.

Another interesting/disturbing example shows credit card companies using data mining and modeling techniques to ‘get the most from’ their customers.

This book is a fun read and one that I think everyone should pick up. It is a purely non-technical book on the subject of data mining, modeling and statistical analysis and is full if interesting nuggets of informaiton.  If you read the book Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner, you’ll like this book.

PS – If you are wondering why 2 book reviews in one week, its because I got caught up on reading during vacation. :)

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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