The quality of OkCupid has gone down for me?

Opimal Cupid

I love OkCupid, its been consistently good for me and for me been streets ahead of the other dating sites. But things are starting to change (as you’d expect). Besides Okcupid being bought by a while ago its been ticking on, however the industry and environment changed.

Little things changed like the end of journals have happen but the big fear was to switch to a paid subscription model, which hasn’t happened (yet).

So its largely stayed the same…?

However, not so fast… OkCupid lives on its matching algorithm and although you can debate how effective this is compared to other ways to match people… OkCupid stands out for its algorithm, as even Chris (found via Tim who also recommended I read reddit too), the man who hacked OkCupid points out.

OkCupid was founded by Harvard math majors in 2004, and it first caught daters’ attention because of its computational approach to matchmaking. Members answer droves of multiple-choice survey questions on everything from politics, religion, and family to love, sex, and smartphones.

On average, respondents select 350 questions from a pool of thousands—“Which of the following is most likely to draw you to a movie?” or “How important is religion/God in your life?” For each, the user records an answer, specifies which responses they’d find acceptable in a mate, and rates how important the question is to them on a five-point scale from “irrelevant” to “mandatory.” OkCupid’s matching engine uses that data to calculate a couple’s compatibility. The closer to 100 percent—mathematical soul mate—the better.

Hacking online dating is nothing new, we’ve all heard about Amy, the woman who hacked online dating?

Chris’s story is something special and quite elegent…

Chris McKinlay used Python scripts to riffle through hundreds of OkCupid survey questions. He then sorted female daters into seven clusters, like “Diverse” and “Mindful,” each with distinct characteristics.

First he’d need data. While his dissertation work continued to run on the side, he set up 12 fake OkCupid accounts and wrote a Python script to manage them. The script would search his target demographic (heterosexual and bisexual women between the ages of 25 and 45), visit their pages, and scrape their profiles for every scrap of available information: ethnicity, height, smoker or nonsmoker, astrological sign—“all that crap,” he says.

To find the survey answers, he had to do a bit of extra sleuthing. OkCupid lets users see the responses of others, but only to questions they’ve answered themselves. McKinlay set up his bots to simply answer each question randomly—he wasn’t using the dummy profiles to attract any of the women, so the answers didn’t mat­ter—then scooped the women’s answers into a database.

And thats the nub or pressure point.

For any of this to work you need people filling out the surveys… I for example have answered over 700 questions. The problem is I’ve seen a dramatic drop in the number of answered questions and more people with zero questions answered.

OkCupid works best on those answers rather than scraping the profile for data. Chris’s hack wouldn’t work without the data. I’d be very interested to see what kind of results you would get now compared to then…

Anyhow Chris’s story is fascinating, specially when you consider the method and drive. Don’t think I’ll be buying the book yet but if your a maths wiz go for it.

I don’t really know what to do about the data problem for myself. I’m tempted to try Plenty of Fish again, see how much its changed (or not). Frankly I have had little to no interest from Tinder, so maybe time to remove it from my androids. Hacking Okcupid isn’t a bad idea but maybe in a way to remove the time wasters.Heck I even had my first speed dating recently where I wasn’t matched with anyone. Luckily one woman was interested in seeing me, so it wasn’t all bad. I’ll save what happened with another one for my book.

I do keep reminding myself it might just be the season or time of year too. These things seem to cycle.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

6 thoughts on “The quality of OkCupid has gone down for me?”

  1. I always found OKCupid full of poseurs and misrepresentative profiles. Plenty of Fish had a lot more geninue people. A lot of really strange people too who I wouldn’t want to date, but that’s the case across the entire dating sphere I think, for everyone.

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