Blockchains for online dating?

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

I was listening to Sarah Meiklejohn from UCL talking Blockchains at Thinking Digital Newcastle 2016. I tweeted an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while…

Blockchains for online dating… The crux of a blockchain or a distributed ledger is a way to encourage trust in a sensible networked way. Chris asked…

So here is some logic behind my thinking… I’m doing that dyslexic trait of having to reverse explain how I got to where I am at; although I recognise not the only one thinking about this.

There is a problem with online dating (not pointing to the white elephant in the room, as I have many times before); how do you know who you are contacting is really who they say they are? This has given rise to not only the 419 scams, catfishing but also sexortation scams. Also most of the research/hacking (amy webb/chris mckinlay) has been done through the loop-hole of people being able to just fire up (you can automate this, I’ve witnessed scripts) another profile.

There has been questions in the past why online dating sites haven’t done more to protect their users? Some of the Asian dating sites have started to verifiy their users, others are following, Tinder did so for celebs and even Badoo just launched photo vertification. Each is a very clunky solution and usually an after thought added on.

How about if you could see the interactions between the people on the dating site? There actions verify who they are, the patterns speak volumes. Want to send the same messages out to 1000 people, go ahead but we (all) will see. Currently that data is only accessible by the owners of the site/service. Would that be a step too far into radical transparency?

Would that influence the way people interact? Knowing the interactions (not the actual messages/content) were publicly logged and could be looked at by anybody in the site?

One of the things I quite like about OKCupid & POF is the notion of the visitor. basically you can see everybody (unless they are paid members and turn off the visitor option). I quite like this because it makes you more careful about who you click on and view, knowing they will see this too. But with a public ledger system, others could see this too. This would solve my issue when trying to find the most popular person on OKCupid and throws up the question Hannah Fry talked about in a TED talk about finding love with mathematics and I experienced at MOSI.

Too many steps forward? Ok how about we hide the end points, like in a traditional blockchain system. You don’t see the interactions but you do get stats about how many times that person has fired out messages, what kind of reaction they got, etc.

Basically blockchain or distributed network ledgers could tweak human behaviour slightly towards something more positive for everybody? It’s an idea but something I’d like to see tried at the very least, expecially because its a total wild west out there right now.

Some accountability for some of our actions, isn’t a bad thing I have to say.

Author: cubicgarden

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