Is it possible to match people with science?

This has got to be one the eternal questions? Maths or science has solved so many of our questions but can it be used for working out compatibility of humans?

That was one of the things which really intrigued me about a year of making love. I assume you’ve seen how it turned in on its self since the production team totally screwed up the process and kept us all in the dark about it. And if you want further evidence do check out the tweets for #yearofmakinglove and #yoml

However because of the total screwup most people are saying its a total failure (maybe very true) but also science or rather maths was never going to work… I can’t disagree specially after the experience we all had yesterday. However basing any judgments off the back of yesterdays experience would be a mistake.

So do I personally think maths/science can match humans? Maybe… (yes what a cope out) but to be honest no one knows for sure. And thats the point of the experiment.

At the very start of the day (ordeal) we were introduced to the professor who devised the test/questions and the matching algorithm. I remember tweeting this

As Michael replied a far…

And he’s right…

In my own experience to date, the matching algorithm over at has been pretty darn good (not perfect!) (OKCupid’s OK Trends are legendary – check out the biggest lies people tell each other on dating sites and How race effects the messages you get). But I had to train it to be good. I’ve to date answered about 700+ questions and there not just questions. There detailed, so you have to answer it, then specify how important this is to you and what answer your ideal match would pick. This makes for much more dimensions in the answer criteria and ultimately the algorithm. Aka the algorithm is only as good as the dataset its working on.

You got to put in the data/time, if you want it to be good… Otherwise your going to get crappy results.

This makes the 50 questions answered for the year of making love look like a pop quiz (hotshot), to be honest.

So back to the original question slightly modified, can a algorithm match people in the interest of love? I think so to a certain extent. But its not the complete picture. Chemistry is a big deal which is very difficult to understand. Its not found by answering questions but watching the interaction between people. Its a different type of algorithm… Situation can cause chemistry, aka the reason why everyone came together on the coaches home (or to the wrong city as some of them seemed to do) is because there was a social situation which we could all share/talk about. (cue talk about social objects/places) Chemistry was in full effect?

I hope people don’t give up on science as a way to find their ideal partner just because of the terrible experience they had at The year of making love… is I guess what I’m saying…

A year of making love and where it went wrong

Most people will remember the last blog I wrote about the BBC Three dating experiment called A year of making love

Well I went to the event and frankly it was a total shambles. So what happened (imho)?

I have to be careful because I did sign a contract with them, which if I read correctly did have clauses which seemed NDA like (yes I do read contracts but it was very rushed at the time and we never got a copy of what we signed) From memory it was more about exclusive use of footage, etc. And Fevermedia actively encouraged us to document our experiences for a year. From the paper work they gave us…

  • How was the YOML (year of making love) launch day for you – what was your experience?
  • What do you think of the science that matched you two together… has it done well or not!?

They even supplied free wifi on the day which did really surprise me, hence lots of tweeting, uploading photos, etc… So I’m just posting my own thoughts…

I got up and got myself ready for the 7am coach journey from Piccadilly Station. 4 Coaches were put on with males in two and females in the others. We were meant to leave on the dot so we would reach the secret venue by 10am. However that never happened as we left Manchester at about 8am instead (no real reason why, or at least explained)

Then when we finally got to Millbrook, we were left sitting in our seats on the coaches for almost a hour. Yes we were on location but each coach was sat in a formation waiting for what? No one knew, no communication, no one to ask. Coach driver only said he’s been told to wait. In the end, its was only my bladder and my unwillingness to go pee in the bushes near the formation of coaches. I personally think they wanted to do a shoot of everyone getting into the building but it just never happened.

Marching into the building/hanger to use the toilets, it seemed stupid to go back to the coach. I also had met some guys on the coach who followed me (more about them later). So we stuck around and waited in a queue of woman also waiting to register and get in.

Finally through registration and directed into the green zone to collect our wrist bands and sign the very light contract. We were given a a food voucher (a sandwich and a drink), information sheets and told to wait with other matches. To be correct, the green zone was mainly for males and the orange zone mainly for females. However, I was pleased to see some woman who in my terrible gaydar sense were homosexual. I was pleased mainly because I did wonder if this experiment was exclusively straight, which turned out not to be. A matching experiment should work with LGBT too, OkCupid‘s does.

Right after about a hour of waiting around, we were told to go into the main area. To be honest it was massive and very impressive at first. Orange (mainly women) on the left and Green (mainly men) on the right. Separated by a large isle in the middle, like a church wedding. Were were also explained this is a “scientific experiment” which has never been done on this scale before…

The idea was when your number is read out, go to either side/wing to get quickly sorted and get given a couple number. When your couple number is read out, emerge from the hidden wings, walk on to the stage meet your partner for the very first time say something nice and walk down the isle in front of the cameras. Basically they wanted to capture that very first moment when you met and the reaction as you walked away to learn more about each other next door

And to be frank for the first few hours it worked. There were some amazing matches and some great moments when people lept into each others arms, did a spin on the spot and carried the parter down the isle over there shoulders. The energy in the room from the 1000 people was great. However after 2-3 hours, the space started to empty from matches and the energy started to shorten.

Where it went wrong…

We were promised breaks but never told when they were. Instead there were long periods where they had called quite a few numbers and trying to sort out there partner numbers in the wings (once again no communication of what was going on).

Little Update…
Also worth mentioning there were doing in small batches starting from 2xxx and 1xxxx going upwards. So realistically I should have been matched very early with 2135. However they skipped over large batches at certain points. But still generally going up into towards 2500 and 1500. Of course they never reached 500.

Later the blame was pushed on to people leaving and their partner being left alone. In actual fact, if they had brought us into the arena in small batches, instead of random it would have speeded up the process no end.
People started using there phones, reading magazines and generally chatting away. The clapping went from loud to drips in a sink. People screamed for food as we hadn’t had food for over 5 hours! I was thinking about starting a shout out about this but decided better of it.

The event was due to come to a close at 6pm but we left the venue at about 8:30pm. Lots of people including myself, came by coaches but others drove and got connecting trains to Milton Keynes. If your coming from a long way, you want to make sure you get home safely (specially if your a single woman, friends were not allowed – you had to come alone). The coaches threaten to leave but were held back as long as possible. There was a air of people needed to go and they did.

Fevermedia tried to speed things up but with the false positives and the lack of excitement it became very telling. However, instead of changing things (after a announcement captured on youtube). They pushed on with the same format (they really wanted that moment of first meeting on camera), even my number got called and I was waiting in the wings to meet my partner.

Then they changed their minds (finally realising this will never work in the time) and pulled everyone to the back of the venue to read out the numbers and matches. This was very badly done (it was like calling for cattle) and done far far too late. Hence it pretty much exploded at the end with  a ugly stand off between production staff and the people who had not been matched (roughly 100 people).

I like many others were peed off (lack of food, drink, sitting in uncomfortable chairs for hours on end, with very little communication about what was happening) that maybe in the room was our matches but we would never find out because they wanted to hold on to that information. At one point they even suggested a speed dating session (I hope as a unhelpful joke) which would have made the whole scientific experiment a total joke. Fevermedia did say they would contact everyone who wasn’t matched and match them over email but like many expressed, the moment is gone and after such a bad handle of the situation why would anyone want to be involved again?

The cold light of the next day

They wanted to be the largest but only matched about 350 couples? (aim was 500). They could cover up some of the holes on in post but its going to need plenty of editing and they will never get the magic 500 couple number, specially now.

It wasn’t that I was pinning my hopes on meeting the one, just that I like many wanted to meet them and felt bad for this other person who you may have even rubbed shoulders with. In actual fact, I met some great people on the day and sharing stories and experiences on the coach was interesting.

After all the trouble of the day (we got back to Manchester after midnight! I even had to direct the coach driver…), a few of us went to Tai Wu for Chinese food as we were so bloody hungry. Two of the guys I met on the coach, had met there match partners but hadn’t really clicked (yet?)  so hooked up with other people. One of them came to Tai Wu with us and they seemed to be hitting it off very well. Mismatch maybe, who knows? We’ve all agreed to meet up again soon in the Northern Quarter for drinks as we swapped numbers.

For me it was a the not knowing and being in the same room with someone who might be a great match. End of the day I was more interested in seeing if it could work. One guy I spoke to on the coach home, had staked quite heavy amount of time and effort on this and was deeply upset. Some would say thats really bad but at just 18 and frankly a super shy personality, the build up and catastrophic breakdown of the show was heart breaking. I did say to him don’t confuse the show format with the actual idea of using maths to connect people. OkCupid does a excellent job (imho) but I have to date answered over 500 detailed questions. While for the show we answered roughly 50?

End of the day, I’m not that upset (some were screaming blue murder at the end)… I do fear it reflects very badly on the BBC because I heard negative comments about the show and attributing BBC Three. It was all very anticlimactic for something which started off well (even with the small problems at the start). I did feel sorry for Fevermedia specially when people were laying into them but if they had sorted out the matches and worried less about getting that on camera everyone would have been a lot happier. I’d suggest they should have done it over 2 days for such a number of people really, but I imagine that would have been a logistical nightmare too.

This further adds further weight to my thoughts about broadcast TV. There’s a sense your just cattle and don’t matter in getting the final product. Your the bi-product and thats just not right (specially felt this when they were reading out numbers like cattle). In my TedX talk earlier in the week I talked about everyone being unique and special. 500 new stories and relationships had the potential to be an amazing story but for a lot of people it was an experience they never want to be involved in again…

And with this I rip my green band off with my match number 2135. Its very unlikely I’ll be involved any further… And I’m sure my match if anything like me won’t either…

a year of making love band