Nice Slashdot Review of Programming Collective Intelligence

Checking the Amazon bestseller list recently, I was delighted to see Toby Segaran’s Programming Collective Intelligence back among the top ten computer books on Amazon’s Computer and Internet bestseller list. The book made it as high as #2 or #3 when it was published last year, but it’s great to see it hitting the top of the charts again.

Turns out the jump was the result of a new Slashdot review of the book. (Publishers call this “the slashdot effect,” as it continues to dwarf the impact of a review in any other publication, including such stalwarts as the New York Times, in driving book sales at Amazon.)

From the review:

Among the chief ideological mandates of the Church of Web 2.0 is that users need not click around to locate information when that information can be brought to the users. This is achieved by leveraging ‘collective intelligence,’ that is, in terms of recommendations systems, by computationally analyzing statistical patterns of past users to make as-accurate-as-possible guesses about the desires of present users….

Programming Collective Intelligence is far more than a guide to building recommendation systems. Author Toby Segaran is not a commercial product vendor, but a director of software development for a computational biology firm, doing data-mining and algorithm design (so apparently there is more to these ‘algorithms’ than just their usefulness in recommending movies?). Segaran takes us on a friendly and detailed tour through the field’s toolchest, covering the following topics in some depth:

Recommendation Systems

Discovering Groups

Searching and Ranking

Document Filtering

Decision Trees

Price Models

Genetic Programming

… and a lot more

As you can see, the subject matter stretches into the higher levels of mathematics and academia, but Segaran successfully keeps the book intelligible to most software developers and examples are written in the easy-to-follow Python language. Further chapters cover more advanced topics, like optimization techniques and many of the more complex algorithms are deferred to the appendix.

I’m particularly pleased to see this book do so well, because it shows that there is still real demand for books on substantial technology topics rather than just new releases of popular consumer products that increasingly dominate the Amazon lists. It’s also a great reminder to people that Web 2.0 as a technology means far more than just lightweight consumer apps funded by advertising — a theme that we’ll be hitting hard at next week’s Web 2.0 Expo.

tags: ,