Fung explains how to challenge big data interpretations with numbersense

The more that managers come to rely on so-called Big Data in their decision making, the more important it is that they understand how to ask the right questions about data, explains Kaiser Fung in Numbersense : How to Use Big Data to Your Advantage.

Fung is a statistician who believes that data consumers need to develop better numerical common sense  or ‘numbersense’ in order to cope with ‘Big Data’. In this book he teaches us how to challenge big data.

Taking examples from healthcare, law school rankings, marketing promotions, sports and economic indicators Fung demonstrates how misdirected data interpretations can lead to poor decision making with damaging consequences for businesses and individuals and he explains why it is important to challenge big data.

As the data available to us grows exponentially, so too does the number of interpretations and analyses of that data with the result that consumers are faced with increased complexity and reduced clarity. Developing  ‘numbersense’ equips us to ask the right questions and to perhaps listen  more closely when common sense tells us that the data we’re presented with doesn’t quite add up.

 Numbersense : How to Use Big Data to Your Advantage by Kaiser Fung is published by McGraw Hill. ISBN 9780071799669. [Disclosure: A free ARC was provided via]

The Filter Bubble : How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think by Eli Pariser

In The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser tells a powerful story about how the results that we see when we search the Internet are increasingly limited by personalisation so that what I see when I search on a particular topic may be quite different from what you see — even if we search on the same topic, using the same search terms, at the same time. This matters quite a bit because more and more of us are consuming 0ur news from personalized news feeds with the result that we may never encounter really important stories which the alogrithms factor out without our knowledge simply because they don’t match the profile of stories we previously clicked on. Worrying, too, is the fact that so many of us don’t realise this is happening. As Pariser notes: “In polls, a huge majority of us assume search engines are unbiased. but that may be just because they’re increasingly biased to share our own views.” What I really like about Pariser’s book is that is a very accessible and thought-provoking read — particularly in the earlier chapters. For a quick introduction to the topic, it is worth having a look at Pariser’s TED talk on the filter bubble.

“The Filter Bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think ” by Eli Pariser is published by Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012). ISBN-10: 0143121235; ISBN-13: 978-0143121237.