Lets be deadly honest about whats happening behind the dating sites

I had hoped I wouldn’t be back dating again but thats the way things go. Stepping back out into the online dating world I’m shocked how worst things have gotten.

Now OKCupid is now very driven around the hot or not mechanism. If you are on the web site, it is possible to search via questions and a keyword. But thats about it. I got sick of Bumble which once again wants way too much attention and removed the app. I requested my GDPR data again, as I’d love to get to the bottom of the cisgender male issue I had.

However saying all this… It was good to see the buzzfeed post and the connected Reddit thread which was pointed to me via Herb Kim.

Before I say anything, sadly almost zero of this was a surprise to me. Its exactly why Herb sent it my way, having the past talked a lot about the problems with dating.

Anyway I wanted to run through some of the reddit thread and add a touch more.

“We used to create fake accounts and chat with users. It was everything from someone having a premium account that wasn’t getting responses, to bored employees.”

The amount of fake accounts on dating sites is a real problem. All the sites are affected by this problem but the site team blame fake accounts on spammers. Most people don’t realise the problem is actually being caused by the dating site its self. People don’t connect the fake accounts with being ghosted over and over again.

“The algorithms are less sophisticated than you think. … The main goal of the algorithm is always to get you to pay, never to actually ensure you meet somebody in real life, as much as we tried to lie to ourselves that it was.”

With everything we know about algorithms in recent times (bias). Its been mentioned so many times and I made the judgement that this is exactly the same as the birthday paradox.

“Female dating app users tend to sign off for the day several hours earlier than male users, which results in men who log in after about 10 p.m. generally not encountering many logged in female users. In order to keep these men feeling like there is genuine female activity on the site (and thus continuing to pay for memberships), dating apps can pay for entire armies of ‘ghosts.’ Ghost profiles use photos of real women, but are  operated by men, typically young men in their late teens and early twenties, living in France, Serbia, Ukraine, and Russia.”

The fake account problem again but targetted based on stats. Its something I’m aware of but I gather its different for different sites.

“Many apps seed attractive bots to keep people engaged. The bots will send/respond to a couple of substandard questions. ‘How was your week?’ ‘What are you looking for?’ and then ghost. Despite the ghost, the high of matching with a super attractive person who spoke to you is enough to get many people hooked and chasing the dragon.”

You start to spot a pattern with the chats. Heck you can spot pattens in the profiles. For example in OK Cupid, there is something I recently noticed with huge number of profiles which have answered the same 15 questions and in the same way. Their profiles were also pretty new.

“I worked as a software engineer for a dating site in the mid-’00s. Literally every single female profile was fake. They were ‘generated’ profiles using arbitrary data and paid-for lewd photos from various sources.”

I have actually seen packs of profiles (1000’s at a time) complete with photos and data you can buy to populate a new or young dating site. Most are grabs from different sources but when I last spoke to a person, they were suggesting some have been generated by machine learning practices.
As for the data, I have seen SQL and XML dumps but most are CSV and JSON.
Prices? I’m not sure but I gather a lot cheaper than getting real people to sign up.

“Most of the female users were fake. We would import thousands of fake profiles all the time to prop up the numbers and let the men think there were all of these women on the platform.”

I experienced this with Bumble a long time ago. For weeks I could get to through most of the users in my filters. Then suddenly there was a influx of model like profiles. They all had a similar style and shouted to me fake. That’s even before you read the small amount of written profile info, which could be a user or operator not bothered. Either way, its not necessarily someone I would be interested in contacting

“I ran operations for an online dating company (notably not affiliated with Match). IIRC, we were able to determine that it takes on average about three dates before sex happens (I don’t recall how we worked that out, I’m not a data analyst, but presumably it was some keyword-based algorithm looking at chat messages).”

Some people forget all messages between users are tracked and analysed. All those things you are sharing with another person is being logged and tracked. If you read some of the  terms, you will see they also sell the keyword data

“The most depressing stat…was the histogram of word count in messages. Something like 91% of opening messages were just one word ‘hey,’ and ~85% of conversations were just one exchange long (‘hey’ -> no reply ever). Looking at human, digital mating habits splayed out in data science form was really depressing.”

This is why I stopped reading OKCupid’s Dataclysm, I started to loose faith in humanity with the conversation lengths.

“My roommate used to work at one of the big dating apps and one of the issues they had was that their algorithm changed at one point to more emphatically enforce dating ‘pools’ where people who got more right swipes would only see profiles of people who get more right swipes, etc. With the idea being that it would put people in similar ‘tiers’ to actually match. One big issue they were having was…well, racial ‘preferences’ or sexual racism being pretty amplified as a result. Black women and Asian men especially were being overwhelmingly shuffled down the algorithm because there are a lot of people who will basically automatically swipe left on them as soon as they see they’re a Black woman or an Asian man, even if they were hot as hell.”

https://i2.wp.com/image.slidesharecdn.com/dating-against-humanity-ian-forrester-final-160214222131/95/dating-against-humanity-47-638.jpg?w=840&ssl=1

Its clear by algorithmic bias that users are boxed off from each other. This is why its important to be able to find your own way around the users rather than the way the algorithm presents things to you.
My recent ex made it clear I was found outside of the recommendations. If she stuck to the algorithm we likely would never have met. I know some of you might say, well not everyone has the time to manually go through the site. But if you look at this way, madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
I can’t tell you how good it was to read OKCupid members blogs and get in touch. Likewise I’ve been looking for abstract terms across POF to see where people have used it and how. Years ago I had a great conversation with a woman who included a circus skill in her profile. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Diabolo but the Poi is still cool.

My ex bf worked for the Yahoo Italy dating site back in the earlyish 2000s. His job was to pretend to be a woman, and message male customers just as their accounts were going to expire. This would encourage them to pay to renew their subscriptions. Once they renewed, he would ghost them.
He only lasted for a few months due to how unethical it was.

So common and I know a few people in the past who have done this. However recently I met a person who did this for a while for a small amount of money. They are paid to engage with users as they close to the end of their membership period then once they renewed their membership disappear/ghost.
Of course the profile is a fake one, sometimes they are made up by the person or are rotated by the dating site (this has limitations of course, where the ).

A couple met on the dating app I worked on.
Unfortunately, the man passed away and the lady returned to the app where they met for remembrance.
One day, a bug in the system made some profile likes to be sent again after months and she received one from her deceased boyfriend.
Her bug report was heartbreaking.

This is horrible but I have seen similar examples of ex-members receiving emails by accident or their profile coming out of a dormant state. Mistakes happen but this should never happen

Good luck to all the singletons dating in a pandemic, its rough out there and to be fair the dating sites could make things a little easier if they wanted to.

I still have a strong feeling this is all too important to be left to the private sector. Imagine if the covid19 pandemic keeps us apart for another year? Or the next pandemic? We can’t rely on the unethical practices described above to connect people for the future…?

As if perfect timing… The Guardian has a piece about this…

Falling fertility rates have been a problem in the world’s wealthiest nations – notably in Japan and Germany – for some time. In South Korea last year, birthrates fell to 0.84 per woman, a record low despite extensive government efforts to promote childbearing. From next year, cash bonuses of 2m won (£1,320) will be paid to every couple expecting a child, on top of existing child benefit payments.

The fertility rate is also falling dramatically in England and Wales – from 1.9 children per woman in 2012 to just 1.65 in 2019. Provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2020 suggest it could now be 1.6, which would be the lowest rate since before the second world war. The problem is even more severe in Scotland, where the rate has fallen from 1.67 in 2012 to 1.37 in 2019.

On trying Oatmilk…

Dad with milk
I’m no dad but interested in giving milk the push

Independent of the advertising push to stop dad from buying milk (I think its only just started), During the covid19 lockdown’s, I have been trying things which could make me ill.

This time I thought it was time to try the alternatives to milk. Rice, Oat and Hemp milk? (obviously not Coconut, Pea, Cashew, Soya, Almond, etc) Now to be honest I don’t drink much milk, and when I do it use to be skimmed milk or semi-skinned with a bit of water. I also only add milk to cereal (I tried using water and orange juice).

I don’t really like milk, ever since we had to drink it at primary/junior school. Remember tasting whole milk and feeling so sick. Anyway I added Oatly to my monthly online shop and today tried it with some Wetabix minis.

The colour was a little off white but thats fine, when I actually tasted it. I was very surprised how sweet it was. The important part is there was no gag from the milk taste, I didn’t feel ill like I sometimes feel with milk but I also wouldn’t want to drink too much of it.

In short I would drink it any more than I drink Milk right now. However I will switch to Oat if Rice or Hemp milk are not any better. Be great if I could get a half a litre instead of a litre.  I would also give it a try in a mocha coffee, as I can imagine that working well. Maybe I could also finally get my Matcha tea latte going at home.

So in short its better than milk but I need to give Rice milk a try too.

One of the most shocking Catfish episodes I seen…

Catfish Season 8 ep 32
Its all smiles now, but you just wait…

Its one of my guilty pleasure Catfish, I have seen it all over the 8 seasons but this one had me shouting no, no, NO!

Catfish Season 8 episode 32: Paul & Caitea

Paul met Caitea on Xbox and fell madly in love, but one day Caitea just disappeared! A decade later, Nev and Kamie help Paul find his first love. But what they find is one of the most shocking reveals in catfish history!

I seen a lot of them but there was something completely screwed up about this episode. Really screwed.

Kamie preys for some sainity
Kamie can’t believe what shes seeing and preys for sanity
Spoiler!

Between the fact Caitea’s mum was seducing someone 16 on the internet (although they say in that state its ok? Really?
The fact she was taking nude pictures off her own daughters phone and share it online with total strangers
The fact she did this for years!

I’m not the only one, its been talked about quite a bit including this youtuber who pretty much says it how I feel about it.

I understand the mum has gone through therapy but there is something which put a horrible taste in my mouth. More than the fights, devious trickery, ransoms, etc.

Although I know Catfish is somewhat setup for TV, this one is beyond the pale. What a season finale…

Just some of the damage Trump brought to America

I found this video incredible to watch the damage one person can do to democracy. Remember just don’t read the comments!

Its great to see Joe Biden straight to work the next day over ruling trumps previous decisions including leaving the World health organisation (in the middle of a pandemic!) and leaving the Paris accord.

Biden/Harris in the white house at long last

Joe Biden being sworn in as 46th presidentKamala Harris being sworn in as vice president

I saw this post and had to add it..

Inspiring the next generation

What is Bluesky doing which others can’t do?

A leaf, blueskies and clouds

Following Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey’s discussion about de-platforming Trump, there was mention about Decentralisating twitter and BlueSky.

He first made mention of this in 2019 in a number of tweets.

Researchers involved with bluesky reveal to TechCrunch an initiative still in its earliest stages that could fundamentally shift the power dynamics of the social web.

Bluesky is aiming to build a “durable” web standard that will ultimately ensure that platforms like Twitter have less centralized responsibility in deciding which users and communities have a voice on the internet. While this could protect speech from marginalized groups, it may also upend modern moderation techniques and efforts to prevent online radicalization.

When I first heard about Bluesky there was little information then at some point during the pandemic I heard about the iOS only app Planetary. My instant thought was oh no there going to try and bypass all the excellent work which has been done by others already. Especially with ActivityPub now a W3C recommendation.

I looked beyond the Techcrunch post (which is full of little odd bits) to see what I could dig up about Bluesky. Looking at the Github repo from Planetary it seems to be based on the Scuttlebot.io protocol? Its good to also see Scuttlebug to ActivityPub and RSS too. As its Scuttlebot, theres other clients for many other platforms.

So my question is what difference does it make over what already exists?
I get if twitter was to be a client of the protocol that would be generally a good thing and I imagine the publicity for decentralised systems would be welcomed but beyond that? Will their business model change? Will anything change? I guess does anything need to change from Twitter’s point of view?
On top of this all, will all the efforts before hand be forgotten now Twitter throws their hat into the ring? That would be awful for all the hard work others have put in for years and years.

Some of the excellent books I read in 2020

I watch a lot of TV and Films but I also consume a lot of Audio (likely more than visual media). As mentioned in my new years resolution for 2021, I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks now I’ve been working from home for 10 months now.

Its worth noting I don’t really read fiction books for entertainment (this seems to be a common thing with some dyslexics?) because I think I get the fiction or entertainment part from TV & Films? Or maybe I was put off in earlier age by stuff like Lord of the rings?

So I thought I’d share some of the great books I read/listened to, not in order as such.

  • Winners Take All
    Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
    Anand’s book is a excellent look at the corruption of power. Its a great true story which is inter-sliced with cases from history of how Anand came to tell the people who he points the finger at, during their own conference.
    Anand also makes clear the problem of inequality and how its driving a lot of the ills, just like the book the inner level which I also read and highly recommend to everyone!
  • The Inner Level
    The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being by Pickett, Kate E and Wilkinson, Richard G.
    This book is incredible, I can’t stop not thinking about it and recommending it. There is so much in the book but the examples really make the overall backbone of the inner level and the previous book the spirit level. Inequality is the bedrock of so many problems and ills in this world, I’m very convinced by this now. For example here is the start of chapter 5: The human condition.

    Larger income gaps make normal social interaction increasingly fraught with anxiety, and, as we have shown, stimulate three kinds of response. Some people are overcome by low self-esteem, lack of confidence and depression; others become increasingly narcissistic and deploy various forms of self-aggrandizement to bolster their position in others’ eyes. But, because both are responses to increased anxiety, everyone becomes more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and falls prey to consumerism to improve their self-presentation. As social life becomes more of an ordeal and a performance, people withdraw from social contact and community life weakens. Crucially, we have seen that the bigger the income differences between rich and poor, the worse all this gets.

  • How To Be an Antiracist
    How to Be an Antiracist by Kendi, Ibram X.
    What a book, as said elsewhere its not great if its your first book on systematic racism. Ibram X, makes some excellent points and later gets right into the subjects of feminism, LGBTQ+ and ultimately intersectionality. He makes very clear you can’t be antiracist if you are against queer rights for example.

    To be queer antiracist is to understand the privileges of my cisgender, of my masculinity, of my heterosexuality, of their intersections. To be queer antiracist is to serve as an ally to transgender people, to intersex people, to women, to the non-gender-conforming, to homosexuals, to their intersections, meaning listening, learning, and being led by their equalizing ideas, by their equalizing policy campaigns, by their power struggle for equal opportunity. To be queer antiracist is to see that policies protecting Black transgender women are as critically important as policies protecting the political ascendancy of queer White males.

     

  • White Fragility
    White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo
    I read this book again just after the murder of George Floyd. I know some people are not keen on it but I found the examples and approaches extremely useful when talking about racism. For example the notion of white women tears.

    …well-meaning white women crying in cross-racial interactions is one of the more pernicious enactments of white fragility. The reasons we cry in these interactions vary. Perhaps we were given feedback on our racism. Not understanding that unaware white racism is inevitable, we hear the feedback as a moral judgment, and our feelings are hurt. A classic example occurred in a workshop I was co-leading. A black man who was struggling to express a point referred to himself as stupid. My co-facilitator, a black woman, gently countered that he was not stupid but that society would have him believe that he was. As she was explaining the power of internalized racism, a white woman interrupted with, “What he was trying to say was . . . ” When my co-facilitator pointed out that the white woman had reinforced the racist idea that she could best speak for a black man, the woman erupted in tears. The training came to a complete halt as most of the room rushed to comfort her and angrily accuse the black facilitator of unfairness. (Even though the participants were there to learn how racism works, how dare the facilitator point out an example of how racism works!) Meanwhile, the black man she had spoken for was left alone to watch her receive comfort.

     

  • The Guilty Feminist
    The Guilty Feminist: From Our Noble Goals to Our Worst Hypocrisies, Deborah Frances-white
    I am a keen listener to the podcast with the same name and the book is well written with guests injections now and then. Like Ibram X, Deborah talks a lot about intersectionality and its absolutely importance.
    In a earlier chapter Deborah breaks down feminist by waves (second wave feminism for example) its quite powerful and makes super clear how different things have been over time. She also dispels some of the awful common stereotypes (bra burning & men hating for example) but thoughtfully uses intersectionality too.
    I listened to most of the book while waiting in long queues at Alton Towers. Well worth the read even if you listen to the podcast.
  • This Could Be Our Future
    This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World by Yancey Strickler
    Previous co-founder of Kickstarter Yancey Strickler’s book is a welcomed read while looking at the state of the mainstream internet. Its a rallying call for longer term focus and is a refreshing read coming out of the epicentre of America’s hyper-capitalistic silicon valley. Yancey starts the book this way

    This book is about a simple idea.That a world of scarcity can become a world of abundance if we accept a broader definition of value. We recognize that there are many valuable things in life—love, community, safety, knowledge, and faith, to name just a few. But we allow just one value—money—to dominate everything else. Our potential for a more generous, moral, or fair society is limited by the dominance of money as the be-all and end-all. It puts a ceiling on what we can be.

    On a similar topic, I also had a read of Amy Lui’s Abolish Silicon Valley. Both are good reads and fit right alongside the R&D work into human values. Yancey is also one of our extremely knowledgeable guests in our Human values podcast series.

 

Mind the Gap, How Common Medical Symptoms Appear on Dark Skin

Me and Claire who I haven’t heard from in a very long time got talking about last year. From the covid19 pandemic, to the vaccine, systematic racism and to trypanophobia. It was during that conversation mind the gap was mentioned.

I had never really imagined or thought the images and books medical students might be learning from, may not have people with dark skin. Meaning an unbalance in the treatment of dark skinned people simply because of education.

Simple things like finding veins which are relatively easy to see under white skin can be challenging under black skin (generally). There were other aspects which I hadn’t ever thought about…

This where mind the gap came up… from the root

A Zimbabwe-born medical student living in London is filling in an important blind spot in the medical community: informing healthcare providers and patients how symptoms for a broad range of conditions appear on darker skin.

It’s the kind of problem that feels shockingly outdated for the 21st century, but as 20-year-old St. George student Malone Mukwende recently told the Washington Post, the lack of teaching about darker skin tones, and how certain symptoms would present differently on nonwhite skin, was obvious by his first class at the University of London school.

“It was clear to me that certain symptoms would not present the same on my own skin,” Mukwende told The Post, referring to conditions like rashes, bruises, and blue lips. He quickly extrapolated that the same would be true of other people sharing similarly dark skin.

Malone Mukwende
Malone Mukwende

If this was dated in the 80’s I would understand but Mukwende started the book which is free to download in 2020!

Shocking but so glad of the solution, although its worth noting there is things missing from the book where you could help.

Publicspaces conference #1 towards a common internet – March 11-12th

How can we achieve public spaces on the internet?

On March 12, 2021, PublicSpaces, Pakhuis de Zwijger and Waag are organizing a conference to save the internet.

This event will happen mainly in a virtual form of course, however there might be something in person in Amsterdam’s Pakhuis de Zwijger. The conference will make up part of the Mozilla Festival 2021, also in Amsterdam and mainly virtual currently.

Of course I will be organising, joining the conference and the pre-conference on the evening of the 11th March (more details will come soon)

Conference 2021

The internet is broken, but we can fix it and replace broken parts. In this conference we will look for ways how we can make the internet a healthy public space again. With a day program for professionals from the public sector looking for a way out of big tech, and for developers of alternative systems for a safe, open and fair internet. We conclude the day with a talk show for everyone about the dangers of the current model, but also the concrete possibilities for a future internet without surveillance capitalism, and with healthy alternatives that we can use immediately.

Together we answer the impossible question: how do we create a public space on the internet?

Mark it down in your calendars… and expect more details soon.

Replacing Mixcloud with Funkwhale

Funkwhale mixes

For a long while I have been threatening to leave Mixcloud in favour of hosting my own mixes. I looked around and thought funkwhale looks great as its a federated network for music. With some help from JonT, I started to scrape the metadata I stupidly forgot to keep for myself.

I installed Funkwhale on the Yunoserver but spent too much time trying to work out how to mount my NAS on the Yunoserver. I gave Navidrome but  decided it wasn’t right as there was no way to listen without logging in, so went back to Funkwhale and got things up and running.

Seems Funkwhale might not be the best solution for the mixes, plus the developer is looking for new maintainers recently. Its really setup for single tracks not mixes. I could upload mixes but my plan to use cue files, won’t work. The only place to put playlists is in the comments. I also need to do more digging as I can’t change the year of the mixes. More importantly, the public sharing is a bit broken for me. You should be able to listen to the radio but its not working for me

Funkwhale profile

As I get my head around it all but you can subscribe via RSS and if you’re using Mastodon or other fediverse applications, you can subscribe to this account: @digitalitalicmixes@mixes.cubicgarden.info.

Enjoy, I’m one step closer to self hosting my mixes.

Why there is still an need for public telephones?

Red phone boxes

I found Jon Udell’s blog about public telephones funny but also quite telling of so much more.

Public infrastructure is important for so many reason including for equality.

If you take the telephone as communication infrastructure and apply that same thinking to the internet infrastructure. You see a clear rationale for public wifi, public internet kiosks at public libraries, etc – Yes and also the systems which surround it. This rules out the likes of Facebook free basics, which isn’t a public service.

Interestingly the public phone is also somewhat anonymous. Data is collected once used like where the call is coming from at what time, etc; but you don’t need to register first to use them or sign in to use them. Each of the companies setup to deliver these public infrastructures have a aim of coverage not profits (or they should). There might be legitimate and less-legitimate times when you want this, but this is a choice you can make, rather than be forced into.

These all seems so obvious if you live in a country which encourages public service but worth pointing out. Plus I’m focused on the notion of a public service internet.

 

Learn the Diabolo during a pandemic?

Glad someone else did a video about learning the Diabolo during the pandemic. Its something I have really enjoyed and look forward to when ever I can.

Here’s my advent calendar of Diabolo tricks for example.


The shared reasons…

  1. The Diabolo is good physical exercise
    Weirdly enough, I’m doing roughly about 3500+ steps while with the Diabolo for 45mins. The big difference is my heart rate, its raised during the Diabolo and thats a good thing.
  2. The diabolo is good mental exercise
    Its a good distraction and being in a state of flow while doing a trick is great. Like others, I’m doing it with headphones on, so able to listen to some of my trance mixes (haven’t done any recently) to get into a zone.
  3. Its the perfect social distancing device
    Especially when learning the vertex, can’t tell you the amount of times I almost lost the Diabolo over the fence or its ended up in a bush. Its part of the reason why I use one for practice and the more expensive one for the camera.
  4. Its not a expensive device, but you can pay a lot for better
    Talking about Diabolos, I have a lot of them. Some going back to when I was in college and a bunch of triple axis bearing Diabolos. Even considered a fire Diabolo. The sticks are also worth a thought. Originally I had quick thick wooden sticks then they got thinner before switching to aluminium and now carbon fibre is my style.
  5. Its fun and rewarding
    The benefits of fun are well known but theres also side effects like amazing hand eye coordination, agility and of course style.

Even if you are not convinced about the diabolo, consider the devil sticks, yoyo, hoops, poi or heck just juggling.

VPRO documentary: How did Brexit happen?

Brexit: The Uncivil War
The UK left the EU on January 1 2021, big ben chimed and there were fireworks at 2300 on December 31st in some places.

There are so many things I have said and want to say but I found the VPRO (Dutch public service broadcaster) really worth watching.  As always its good to see Brexit from the view of our neighbours.

Good documentary, hard to watch but very fair leaning on Brexit: civil war, the horrible class divide in the UK, the lies of the Boris bus, targetted advertising, the problems with nostalgia, etc..

 

Snowfall rolling into Manchester time-lapse

I knew Snow was coming so I setup my Pixel2 to best capture the snowfall on Saturday 2nd Jan 2021. It was good but I didn’t position the camera behind my black out blinds and so you get a slight reflection and later in the video the light of living room in the sky (I obviously removed this part as it looked weird). I also need to sort out the autofocus next time.

Still a nice timelapse of the clouds rolling in then the snow for a short while.