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Beautiful Data

Another book I just finished is Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions. This book is a bit unusual in that, rather than being written by a single author, instead each chapter is written by a different person or group. The common thread tying all the chapters together is data - data collection, analysis, and presentation. The book was published a few years ago, in 2009, so some of the technology discussed is a bit dated. But it still provides a valuable historical perspective.

Most of the chapters were quite interesting, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Embedded Image Data Processing on Mars, in which the author talks about the challenges of collecting and processing image data on the extremely limited computer aboard one of the Mars rovers. Fascinating!
  • Cloud Storage Design, in which the authors, who worked on building a distributed cloud database platform at Yahoo!, explain the challenges they faced.
  • Building Radiohead’s House of Cards, in which the authors explain how they used LIDAR imaging and data processing techniques to create the mesmerizing graphics in a famous music video.
  • Natural Language Corpus Data, in which the author talks about the origins of Google’s n-gram project, and various applications of the data.
  • Life in Data: The Story of DNA, in which the authors talk about the extraordinary volumes of data produced by the human genome sequencing project, and how the data was processed and analyzed.
  • Exploring Millions of Social Stereotypes, in which the authors used a database of 100k face images and 10M tags to explore relationships between and clustering of descriptive words.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in both the theory and nuts-and-bolts of data analysis. A long but enjoyable read!