Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Talk About Anything On A First Date

Jack's Rose Cocktail

Its not usually I agree with these things but Elite daily has a piece title: Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Talk About Anything On A First Date.

…when it comes to first date conversations, most people stick to the basics: What do you do? Where did you grow up? What shows/music/whatever are you currently obsessed with?

Now technically, there isn’t anything wrong with these safe subjects, but TBH they’re kind of boring and definitely won’t reveal anything meaningful about the person sitting across the table from you.

And while a cute outfit and a friendly demeanor are first date requirements, sticking to this safe, vanilla small talk shouldn’t be.

That’s right: We’re here to tell you that NO subject should be off limits. In fact, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from years (and years and years) of research, it’s that cutting to the chase from the start is the best way to figure out if someone’s a good match for you.

  • Small talk is forgettable.
  • You probably already, um, researched the person anyway.
  • You won’t waste your time.
  • Your date’s reaction will tell you a lot about who s/he is.
  • Scaring someone away might be the best thing that ever happened.

To be fair I adopted this approach a long time ago in speed dating, first dates and life generally. Small talk is forgettable, boring and tells you nothing. Sometimes I get really odd looks and responses; but than also tells you plenty. Of course this is all contextual but if you can quickly get down to a deeper level, then its all good for everyone.

I do generally think if you’re not in a deep meaningful conversations then its highly likely there won’t be another date and most likely not right for me. I once put on my OKCupid dating profile, something about being deep and frankly Its something I’ve removed as it sounds wanky but its very true.

The new state of geek chic?

Would you date this man?
Would you date a 36 year old divorcee who is a left-leaning feminist and self confessed geek? If so you should contact me

I subscribe to being a geek and not a nerd or a dork. I’ve written about nerd values in the past (which I obviously say is geek values now)

In work I’ve been having this ongoing discussion about not wanting to be rich and famous just making the world a little bit better a place to live. Its easy to be singled minded and follow the money where it leads, but the harder thing is to live in your means and try and make the world a little better.

Some have boiled this down to, Do what you love, love what you do. Which is a nice but feels a little generic?

So rethinking this… I’ve started to add to this by describing the geek chic/lifestyle as…

Always living life, always learning and always on the go.

This seems to fit well no matter your siltation.

  • Always living life, can be anything from climbing a mountain, soaking up the atmosphere around you, helping others, what ever; as long as you are living life and pushing yourself, living in the moment and enjoying it.
  • Always learning, is a hat tip, full head nod (or heck a dab if your into that) for lifelong learning. Never too old to learn and if you are not learning then what are you doing? That is unless you are educating/helping others, although the act of helping others is a learning experience too.
  • Always on the go, doesn’t necessarily mean going physical places. It can mean other types of progress like reaching out to more people with works, getting ahead in your career, etc. Getting mentally ahead and never settling unless you are ready for it.

Using Twitter in online dating….

I was reading about Loveflutter Relaunches With A Surprising New Way To Meet Your Match: Twitter.

Once upon a time, the world’s great lovers wooed with songs and sonnets. Today, we express our deepest feelings in 140 characters or less.

Or at least you do if you’re on Loveflutter, a dating service that has partnered with Twitter to prove social media feeds are the new windows to the soul.

Originally founded in 2013, London-based Loveflutter relaunched this May with an updated approach to modern matchmaking. Like other popular dating apps, users swipe left or right on candidates in hopes of scoring a mutual match. But unlike the competition, where singles pay attention to little more than looks, Loveflutter takes appearance out of the equation.

Images on Loveflutter are blurred until you click on them. Instead, users are invited to swipe left or right based on each other’s 10 latest tweets.

Its a interesting idea and similar to some of my thoughts way back when… Soon as heard this I thought about Tweetfoxxy, which is the thing I was trying to find on the tram wifi last week.

Match group in full effect, time to rethink online dating

Stop Screwing with okcupid

It was a while since OKCupid was bought by Match group/IAC. They then went on to buy POF, Tinder and others.

OkCupid one of my top dating sites has finally dropped a key feature which for me was one of the defining features.

On Friday, online dating service OkCupid introduced its biggest change since its 2009 paid “A-List” add-on package. Starting today, the site’s users no longer see a major data point that has been standard for nearly a decade: the “visitors” tab.

“What’s the value of a visitor?” the company wrote in an e-mail to users. “Short answer: zero.” However, that valuation is shaken up by a follow-up sentence, and it may explain why the Match.com-owned company made the change. “A person who visits your profile and chooses not to follow up with a ‘like’ or a message probably (read: definitely) isn’t worth your time.”

The Visitor feature was key because it allowed you to see if someone visited your profile. Its a really nice feature and useful to understand if someone is interest or not. (there is a way to opt out if you are worried about this feature of course, but you don’t get to see who looked at you).

In short, a user could look through and see who looked at them, which is a potentially quicker path to determining who out there might have actually tapped “like” on you. (Without real-life cues like body language, online dating users can benefit from round-about paths to finding potential interest. As an occasional OkCupid user over the years, I can attest to appreciating any cues beyond seeing what happens when I send awkward, unsolicited “HI HOW ARE YOU” messages.)

Today (Saturday 29th July 2017 1300 BST) I haven’t received the email or the link to visitors is still there in my app and the site.

The statement from OKCupid is such bollox and clearly a sign they want more people to pay them for the A-list (premium service) which will get the feature of course.

I have used the visitor feature when sending a message and seeing if the woman is maybe interested or not. Generally if she looked at my profile, after I sent her the email. Then its very likely shes just not interested in me and thats fine. Its a good indicator rather than the like feature which leads towards a tinder like system.

I also tend to get about 5-7 visitors a week which is a nice place to look for potential matches.

Thus, OkCupid’s statement doesn’t necessarily add up. If a person visits your profile and does follow up with the “like” button, they just might be worth your time, and a “visitor” tab would let you tap “like” in kind and find out. But as of today, OkCupid now only has one option to reveal that information: A-List subscriptions, which cost $19.95 per individual month or $59.70 as a six-month bundle. (“A-List Premium” was introduced years later with an additional $15/month charge and more features.) Free users still “pay” for the site via advertisements, which A-List users can disable.

Once I saw this, I did look at the OKCupid EULA for changes and of course the site.

While OkCupid’s public-facing blog is typically transparent about changes, features, and site-driven research, the company elected to only inform users about this visitor-tab change via e-mail. OkCupid did not respond to Ars Technica’s questions about the changes in time for this article’s publication.

Suspect stuff… or a clear sign the match take over is in full effect now.

John from M14 industries asked how many features have they really got left?

RIP okcupids journals

He’s right really…

I think it is time to look elsewhere, as the original OkCupid idea died a long while ago and there is little which makes it better than POF (another Match group site!). At least they still have the visitor option (currently!)

All this drives my thoughts about decentrialised dating again. If I wanted to leave how would I take my profile? Could I take all those questions and answers I spent much time answering? I have had a task for a long while to make my okcupid profile public or duplicate it on a public platform I can control.

The best thing is there is a proposal which went into Mozilla Festival from the ever capable Evan Prodromou about this exact issue.

I realize it seems trivial to people thinking only of press freedom, but romance and sexuality are a huge part of human existence. Almost all major dating sites are owned by a single company (Match.com). It’s an area that requires privacy and gradual disclosure. Open dating systems are fascinating — posting one or more profiles on the open web in a way that preserves your privacy but allows gradual disclosure and connection.

He is dead right!

Some people, especially those married or in long-term relationships; but they have no idea the personal nature of the data being shared and mined by pretty much one corporation which just wants to toy with you and your life. I called it Endemic corruption and I wasn’t mixing my words.

There is an opportunity for something far better and much more useful…

Updated…

I looked at OkCupid tonight and found the notice saying…

We’ve removed visitors so you can focus on better connections
Without the distraction of visitors, you can focus on the people who really want to get to know you. And when you’re focused on those people, your chances of higher quality connections improves.

As I said in a follow up tweet, this is such a load of crap! The justification is just a joke and their blog is lacking in actual data.

So one last time before they took the feature away, I was able to grab a snapshot… Goodbye OkCupid visitors

goodbye OKcupid visitors

Real shame about Siren…

It was slightly sad to see Siren a dating app where females get to browse profiles and ask questions of males in a safe enviornment; is no more.

Its a shame as it really was one of those dating apps I had hoped would gather the attention for good reason, bumble seemed to eclipse it for reasons I’m unsure it deserves. They certainly were blogging and saying all good things. I was just waiting for it to come to the UK and of course Android.

I especially liked this post about what a feminist app would look like.

Here at Siren, we like to consider ourselves feminists, and on the surface, it might be easy for us to claim to be a ‘feminist dating app.’ After all—we’re a tech company founded by fierce, empowered women of color, aimed at fostering intimacy and undermining the culture of objectification that runs through so many dating apps. But is this enough?

In light of current national and global political circumstances, we feel it is incumbent on us to declare that no, this isn’t enough. Feminism is an ongoing process, not a special club or a badge to wear with pride. So here are a few of the ways we are challenging ourselves to earn the title “feminist dating app,” and as always, we welcome your feedback on how we can better fulfill this mission.

Great words and I had planned on blogging about this much earlier in 2017, especially point 5.

MEN CAN BE FEMINISTS, TOO

We get it—all this talk about empowering women can be intimidating for men. Does our emphasis on the struggle for women’s liberation mean that we hate men, or respect them any less than our female, or nonbinary members?

On the contrary. We’ll be frank: men, we need you, too. There are conversations that will never catch on with the culture at large without male allies amplifying our voices, and let’s be honest—sometimes you guys are sexy as hell, to boot!

So if you are a man who dates women—or would like to—we’re glad you’re here, and we have created resources especially with you in mind.

Absoultely… Everything they said amplified and times it by Tony Porter

I imagined Siren was too early, but looking at the following story it seems VC and the startup culture were part of the problem? Its a crying shame but will keep an eye out on what they do next.

Another call for distributed online dating?

Everything’s going to be alright

Brexit
Frankly 2016 has been pretty shocking… Brexit, Trump, Internet censorship, Data retention, the increasing divide between the working class and middle class. I’m not saying its the worst year ever or the worst I have ever experienced, just its pretty bad.

I think this sums up so much

The Brexit campaign was centred on the idea of taking back control. That is what it said in huge letters on the red bus – a slogan that went far beyond the demand for control of our borders.

The point was that people all over Britain were desperate for a democratic system that gave them some semblance of control over their destiny, in a globalised and interconnected world where decisions often seem to be made by anonymous elites a long way away.

To them, the European Union was one obvious villain.

Ok enough… I decided a long time ago that I can’t worry about the things I can’t easily change, I can only change the things which I have direct control over. Actually trying to change everything drives you slightly nuts.

I can't change the world, but I can change the world in me

I happen to read laura’s blog while on the bus back from Bristol and it seemed to fit perfectly here, as I start to deconstruct this years love life.

Its been a busy year but honestly not nearly as much love as you would have thought. I made the effort to date less and have more purpose about my love life. This meant less time on OKcupid, PoF, Bumble and being more selective when speed dating. I tried going more organic with dating aka through friends of friends, its been ok. You do start to wonder sometimes… but I agree with Laura on bad dates…

The consistent comment is that I have such terrible luck, and always end up on these really ‘bad dates’, but I can’t help but disagree. There’s no such thing as bad dates, just the opportunity for a good story, a page in the autobiography, and the more terrible the date, the better the story. In my opinion, the worst possible kind of date are the ones that aren’t memorable, and usually they’re so because nothing of note, either good or bad happened.

Some would say this sounds odd, cold or calculated? But honestly it’s not, the point is each interaction changes you and your outlook. A new story a new experience, a new view. Some dates are memorable and some you forget about. It’s worst to be non-memorable and one worst to be memorable for the wrong reasons.

This is always a tricky time to be single and for some of my newly single friends it’s a lonely time. I can only say this is a good time to take stock, be honest with family/friends and share. Its not the time for judgement. Its time to listen and enjoy each others company.

Think about what makes you unique and focus on that rather all the things which you should be (no matter what people, media, etc say). Theres a lot of pressure to be this, that or another. One of my new years resolutions was to think humanity, being human we are not perfect but we can only be the best we are. We move through life in the best we feel (hopefully not harming ourselves or others). For me thats being as honest, genuine and open as I can be.

For me, I enjoy meeting new people (I’m very much an extrovert) and tend to make things an experience worth remembering. Focus on the present as thats what you can change now; don’t dwell on the past and think about the future.

Enjoy the holidays and each other…

The problem with deal breakers is…

....just dealing in sherbet lemons?

Simon was asking me at the lunch table at work, about some of my deal breakers when it comes to going out with women. I said I have a few including my concerns about dating a woman who do not identify as a feminist.

Si pointed out that he had a problem with the term deal breaker, as it implies there is a deal happening?

Dealbreaker
A word used to describe the eligibility of a friendship or relationship based on one trait or preference of the other person. Can also be used if you don’t agree with someones views.
John: “So whats your least favorite band?”
Jill: ” It would have to be Arcade Fire.”
John: “Wait…What? You don’t like Arcade Fire? Thats a dealbreaker.”

Lots of thoughts come to mind… Relationships as deals, deals as relationships? Deal with whom? Is this how we think about postive relationships?

Can opened
Can opened!

Before dropping into the deepend of the ocean. Lots of peoples dealbreakers I hear, are sometimes just shocking in my eyes. But I guess it doesn’t matter because its not my dealbreaker, and people would say the same about mine.

However, the biggest problem I have with dealbreakers is, most of the time they are prefrences not dealbreakers.

Take the above example…

John: “Wait…What? You don’t like Arcade Fire? Thats a dealbreaker.”

Is it really a dealbreaker? Is it something which everything else is in right, you still wouldn’t even consider the person? I feel a dealbreaker needs to be something much more fundemental, not just a passing phase or fashion!

Anna and Jane a few days later, when we talked about this during lunch in the Northern Quarter… Suggested the deal could/is with yourself? This seems about right… The dealbreaker should say something fundmental about you, not I like Arcade Fire or I like Turtles…

My dealbreaker about feminist is built on many things and says plenty about the kind of relationship I want to have with another person. It rules out a ton of women but its better  as this view isn’t going to change. This is a deal I have done with myself as well as being a dealbreaker.

Undressed: A lesson in accelerated intimacy

This was written on the train back up to Manchester. I would love to post it but I signed a non-disclosure agreement and I’ll have to wait till it’s shown. From my reading, it might also have to be later due to the legality of it being shown on encrypted subscription cable/sat.

So as some of you know, I took part in a dating show called undressed. The concept is quite simple, but not for the fearful. Think of it as First dates with balls.

Meet a blind date in a studio for the first time, take each other’s clothes off down to their underwear then lie on a bed next to each other while a big screen suggests a few of those 36 questions for you to ask each other. At the end of the time, make a decision if you would like to see each other afterwards.

Yes I just did just say striped to your underwear, by a stranger.

This is intense and rocket fuelled accelerated intimacy. You can’t really get much more accelerated than this? It certainly makes channel 4’s first dates look like a snail crawling across the floor. The whole experience lasts all of 30 mins.

My experience

Today started for me early as I caught the 9:35am train to London, then the northern line all the way to South Wimbledon, where I grabbed a coffee before the cab came and took me to the studio. The studio was a bit like the Pie factory in Media City UK, bit old and worn but functional. Sara the researcher who had been my main contact through the process was there to greet me and finally give me a giant hug. Other staff ran around doing their thing while another production researcher sat with me and led me around.

There was a man already in the changing room, who obviously already gone through the experience (he was wearing a night-gown) and was saying nothing about what it was like. After looking at my selection of clothes (I decided to pack most things (deliberately over pack to be sure, as the criteria for clothes which could not be worn was vast) so tomorrow I could just change a couple of things and hop on a plane to Berlin)

NO LOGOS OR BRANDING ON UNDERWEAR or CLOTHES, NO MATTER HOW SMALL
No thin or see-through fabrics as studio lighting emphasises transparency
No small polka dots
No checks
No small thin stripes
No busy /detailed patterns
No black clothes
No white clothes

Turns out the white shirt and plain-ish boxers I bought, was fine with the new summer jacket. I did have to pick the lighter trousers and not wear my striking blade trainers, due to the Adidas logos. But everything else passed the camera test. Then came the question about what to call myself, as the title of producer was too closely related to TV and they were worried about this. So in the end we settled on futurologist, which I only said as a joke. I shouldn’t have joked because likewise my firestarter title, got picked up on too.

After a bit of food, carefully chosen to not cause problems with my allergies and not drop any on my white shirt. Some make up, removing the hair oil I applied earlier. It was time for a the pre-interview.

The room was small, very hot and the whole process was tricky with the producer (Katherine?) rewording what I had said into more simple sound bites. I would reply to her question and it would be quite wordy, and she would boil it down quite a lot. Sometimes she would make it sound almost comical, and I wouldn’t repeat it because it was quite distorted from what I was trying to say. In the end, I would say what I was thinking or happy with and she would go with it or say the question in another way. I’m sure it will be taken out of context, which will be a shame but alas I knew it would.

During the interview, a couple of things stuck in my mind, which she dug deep into. feminism, bi-sexuality, red hair and curvy women. I didn’t know then but it turns out my blind date was most of these.

Afterwards, we waited for a bit before being taken to the actual film set. It’s worth saying I also had developed a cold this morning and was very stiffly. I was taking cold & flu meds and blowing my nose quite a bit, especially in the air-con controlled rooms. When showed the set and shown what I will need to do, I had the opportunity to stand by an open fire exit and breathe some fresh air; this did wonders for my nose, thankfully. While explaining to the onset production team, they had me put tissues under the pillow just incase I needed them in the middle.Of course I wouldn’t have access to my clothes, once in my boxers. Although they did say, I could find a way to pause the date and blow my nose. I was cursing myself for developing the cold on a critical day.

As I waited full clothed behind the scenes, looking out of the fire exit on a lovely bright blue sky. I couldn’t help but feel quite calm about everything. My biggest worry was actually my nose and since that seemed to be getting better, I thought more about who I was about to meet. What incase the team had got it all wrong, what incase she was the total opposite? What incase it was a setup like previously? I considered it all in that time at the fire exit. I also considered fact I hadn’t really thought too deeply about who the other person was? The casting producer, Anouska who was with me most of the day was lovely and honestly wanted the best for me. She had been involved in the production and choice of who was matched; and I could tell she had really high hopes for this match. She didn’t say anything but you can just tell (well at least I felt I could) when people are guanine about these things.

Then the moment came. In clearing my nose, I kinda forgot what I needed to do, once I marched along the spotlights and reached the end of the bed. The floor managers reminded me quickly. The crux was to meet at the bed look each other in the eye with some distance so the camera could see us and the big screen behind. Then she will take my clothes off and I’ll do the same. Once in our underwear, we need to sit on our side of the bed and questions will flash up for us to ask each other. The amount of questions and type of questions will depend on the conversation and how things are going. Aka we won’t answer all 36 questions and photos from our past will pop up for us to talk about.

Stepping out

Ok I can remember this, as I waited to cross the back of the screen, I saw her name. Jessie. Nice name I thought, must not forget her name (people who know me, will know I tend to forget names quickly). As I crossed behind the screen, and waited at the other end the impact of what I was about to do hit. I smiled as I was held and thought about all the people who told me don’t do this, its insane. I thought about Jane who originally sent me the email, saying this sounds like your kind of thing. This was going to be an experience which I will have fun telling people about in the future, so its time to experience accelerated intimacy.

I stepped out and my eyes were transfixed on Jessie who was standing there at the end of the bed dressed in a purple dress. I’ll be honest, when I say holly crap they got just the right looking woman. She was cute but the smile on her face was so warming and put me at ease straight away. I’m sure my face was a picture too. We embraced with a hug and if I remember a bit of a single kiss on the cheek. Stepping back to our marked spots.

Time to undress

We stood facing each other smiling in a slightly coy way, unsure what was going to happen next. The production staff told me they wouldn’t interject unless things went quiet and to just carry on normally. As normal as standing in a black TV set with mood lighting and a bed can be? Slightly unsure, we talked about undressing and Jessie walked over to me, as the production staff said before; I get undressed first then her afterwards. I wasn’t meant to help but Jessie was having a bit of problem with my shirt buttons and my slip on shoes. I honestly started feeling self-conscious when sitting at the end of the bed with her pulling on my shoes; it felt a little wrong so I helped a little. I remember thanking Jessie for nicely folding up my clothes on the end of the bed. The whole undressing wasn’t as painful as I’d first imagined, but I feel that was because Jessie made it so.

Anyway, once I was undressed we stood back at the spots looking at each other. Then I moved across to undress her. I was having a slight problem with the buckle on her shoes and the only way to solve it was to get on my knees and pull quite a bit. We laughed about it a little and finally it was done. Stepping around the back of Jessie to unzip her dress I was surprised to find there was no zip. Jessie told me I would need to pull the whole thing over her head. I tried to be gentle but firm about it but it was tricky and not very elegant. Finally we did it and I stepped back around the front to see Jessie in her underwear. Yes I was impressed but honestly I was focused on her face and that warm smile.

Its bedtime

We climbed on to the bed from our respected sides. Jessie was sat up a little more than myself. I noticed around the set there was quite a lot of cameras in the black background, it was obvious but not as painful as first imagined. Anyway, it didn’t matter because my attention was firmly on Jessie. The big screen in front of us, finally kicked into action with pictures of Jessie’s past as a young child. She talked about her past and the pictures changed a little. I asked questions of her and frankly we just had a nice conversation; while lying on a bed in our underwear.

Then it became my time to have pictures of my past and places I had been.

I don’t know how it happened but we just kept talking and talking. The screen would somethings jump in with some probing questions. For example, at one point it just said… “Feminism.”

Jessie instantly said this must be her; and to be fair I just sat back and let her chat. There was a slightly apologising tone but I jumped in and said how impressed I was with her rich history around feminism. We then talked about how I would only date feminist and the problems I’ve had previous around women who don’t identify with being one. It was a great discussion which was only cut short by the screen throwing out the word… “Sapiosexual.”

Jessie had not heard the term before but I explained and yes Tom, I did say it was heavily dismissed as a sexuality. But as we talked about it, the deeper the conversation became. Not that I’m saying it was wasn’t already deep. We just kept chatting and chatting, we shifted position a little (I tried to sit up a bit, sure mum wouldn’t be happy with my lying position). Every once in a while we would go on a tangent and the screen would ask one of the 36 questions.

From memory we got…

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Tell your partner something that you like about them already

Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner and tell your partner something that you like about them already came up

Rocket fueled intimacy

I was feeling very comfortable with Jessie and the whole thing, and the production staff could tell. The questions got more about physically smelling and touching each other. So at one point Jessie was asked to describe how I smell and me straight afterwards. The only way to do this was to really get close, and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. After a quick chat about how smell is important, the next question from the screen/production staff was to hug each other for 20 seconds. We kneeled in the centre of the bed and hugged. Jessie was warm and very huggable. I was trying to keep things polite for TV (if you know what I mean), which was tricky but I think it was ok. We moved back to our lying down positions on the bed and talked about what just happened. But things were short-lived when the screen interrupted with the next question

Would we kiss each other?

Now honestly as the question echoed in my mind, I looked at Jessie and there was a voice reminding me of my 2016 new years resolution

Make some bold moves with my love life

But the biggest factor by far was the honest & open look on Jessies face. She was ever so lovely and I wanted to kiss her. I always said to myself, I wouldn’t do what I’m not comfortable with, even if that means walking off the set. Especially if the chemistry wasn’t there. Honestly I would have declined or gave her a peak on the cheek. But no, I wanted to kiss her and so we did.

Yes, lying on the bed kissing and cuddling for a short while. I’m sure the production staff must have been so happy with themselves, but not as happy as I was. (ironically last year, I mentioned something about the escalation from eye contact, free hugs and to kissing a stranger, wonder what Elizabeth would think now?)

The experiment/show was coming to the end and like the italian version, we had 60 seconds to ask any more questions we may have before answering the question, would we want to see each other again by pressing on tablet screen yes or no. We both pressed yes (it was obvious) but the production staff couldn’t help but add tension to things (unknown to us at the time). The big screen spun between yes and no on both sides (same as the italian version)

Jessie’s yes was set but my side kept spinning and spinning. It was painful and we even talked about it out loud. I had said yes and pressed it again on the tablet to make sure it had registered correctly. Finally after a few more spins, it was a yes | yes. We shifted back on to the bed waiting and chatting between ourselves as the lights went down.

End of the experiment

We then were separated off and gave another interview about how things had gone. The interview had to be done in our underwear, to show it was after the experiment. There was quite a few questions about what Jessie had said including her feminist answer, the smell and of course the kissing.

I was also told to reflect on her looks and some of the questions I answered. This went on for quite sometime but it wasn’t as bad as the first time. I’m sure there will be some slicing and dicing for the show.

There was one last thing to do after getting dressed getting my things and having Sara and my production runner express how much they loved it and always hoped it would be a great match. I congratulate them on such a great pick.

I waited in a room for Jessie to finish her exit interview and I was joined later. We embraced quite a bit and after some pictures taken together including a bunch of those ones you do at weddings. Swapping numbers, we shared a cab to South Wimbledon station together. It was a shame to leave early, but I have a flight to Berlin booked tomorrow morning (5am). We travelled together discussing what had happened on the show, till Clapham, where Jessie continued her journey on another line home. I hadn’t quite clocked it was still a Tuesday and I couldn’t get on a train till 7pm (due to London peak time hours). But by the time I could text Jessie, it was too late.

It would have been great having some more private time together, but I went to our Euston Square offices, got changed in the bathroom and caught the first off-peak train home to Manchester. The train I’m on now.

In reflection

I was very pleased with the way things went, except the questioning which I know will get manipulated. Being in my underwear on TV still isn’t a thing I would do again but it really worked out. It’s a shame I had to go straight away but I am going to stay in touch. Even if things don’t work out, the experience we shared was so unique and the chemistry was pretty electrifying.

I always did say… The drive to push my limits socially, is fun to me. This was fun but honestly without Jessie, it would have been far less fun and enjoyable.

Watch this space….

That was the end of the post.

Most of you are wondering what happened next? Well theres a blog and audio for that.

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.

Exposing online dating lies with burritos

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It started as a April Fools’ Day Prank but it may have exposed something they never talk about online dating. The truth that the matching algorithms are actually rubbish

Almost every major dating site (including several Burrit-oh took a swipe at in a press release) touts the importance of sophisticated matching algorithms. They’re praised as the most effective way to pair people based on some “deeper” measure of interests or personality that guarantee “real” compatibility.

But Burrit-oh? Well, it’s anything but sophisticated. The algorithm is as basic as it gets, and it’s built on the flimsiest of foundations, and yet… users are still hitting it off. This supports the finding, long promoted by social scientists, that matching algorithms aren’t really science – they’re just good marketing. Behold, the unbeatable power of the burritos.

Burrit-oh, exposes the fact that once you connect people around something (burritos, beards, film tastes, journey to work, type of phone, almost anything) they find interesting (social object style). The chances they will fall for each other; birthday paradox style as much as the custom expensive algoithms. Aka those custom algorithms most of the dating sites go on about so much is bollox and what are you paying?

Is a truly blind date a real thing?

Blind Date 2

Mr30notsoflirty recently wrote about The magic of a blind date, which I had some thoughts about. Too many to put in a tweet.

These days, blind dates have become a rare commodity. In an age of social media, it’s so easy to share a photo or run a little background check on Google or Facebook. You can’t even search on Tinder without judging someone based on your so-called FB friends.

A truly blind date has become an endangered species… you actually have to try hard to maintain that mystique, that surprise, the opportunity to meet someone you know nothing about…. with no judgments or preconceptions, just the excitement of the unknown.

I read this and laughed a little, only because I was about to go one hell of a first date. No idea who she was where she was from or anything. However I do get mr30’s main point, it’s easy and very tempting to Google the person. I mean why wouldn’t you? Knowledge is power right?

Yes its power but it certainly encourages creeping thoughts too.

There have been women who have googled me, as I tend to use cubicgarden for most things.

I tend to prefer the this me, love me or hate me; although I totally understand identity is fluid and in certain contexts you may want to adopt a different identity.

Anyway sometimes I find out they have made up their mind on something they have read. No chance to reply just see you later. It’s a shame for them really; this is why I’m a little more flexible about these things. Heck I have ignored somethings as I don’t want to judge too harshly, giving the other person a chance at least. I know most people are not like me. That’s why I’m sympathetic to what Mr 30 has written.

Serendipity is great (it makes us so feel alive, even if we are living it through others I guess) and that’s what makes blind dates exciting.

I’m hearing Mr 30, but question how blind the dates are there is a someone/something doing some filtering and matching on something. Even if random, each person usually want to know why they should go along. Even if it’s the verbal/written equivalent of “she/he/they are perfect for you.” (I could delve into the match maker expert/algorithms problem but won’t today).

Can you imagine, the opposite? “Well she/he/they are a random single person, it could work?” No neither can I…!

I once went on a first date purely on the notion the woman needed to fulfill a dating quota for a wager. Never met her before, never ever heard of her… But it was the connection with the sister, which I had met before; which had me convicted. Any member of this family must be worth a first date. And no I didn’t Google her… I should put that date up on dating yarns.

Was it truly/totally blind? Well I guess, most would say yes but there’s always something connecting or a relation. How strong that is dependant on the threshold of the people/end points. If we are talking about truly blind then that threshold needs to be zero… ha! Now that would be interesting. Although I know friends who have contacted people on OKCupid with the highest enemy percentage for kicks and giggles.

I contest, there never was truly blind dates, there’s always something which connects you. it’s just hope low your threshold can handle.

The BBC horizon dating experiment

Horizon dating 2015-09-12
My scientific perfect match

The Horizon episode: How to find love online just aired and here’s a blog I wrote straight after filming for the show. I have no idea what just happened or if I’ll even be involved, but judging by whats been seen so far, it looks like I might be. I trust BBC Horizon have done everybody proud but he’s my view on what happened that afternoon in central London.

I’m writing this the morning after the BBC Horizon dating experiment in central London (Sunday 13th September 2015).

We were asked and signed a contract saying we wouldn’t talk about the programme till the TX (TV transmission date). However the programme should have gone out by now.

It was an interesting time and the experiments were quite good too. From what I gather on the day, Hannah Fry wrote an algorithm to match people and Xander? I heard Xander is going on 3 dates today (day after the experiment). With the algorithm, she (Hannah) needed a large pool of people to match him with but also she wanted to see if it worked for other people. Hence the afternoon-evening of Horizon dating (I’m sure this will change).

Ok being brief (very hard for me). We were divided into 4 groups using colour wrist bands, then did some rough speed dating (I say rough because it there was no real flow, no direction and we were kind of left to get on with it, with the occasional call to change).

The four groups were…

  1. Told everybody in the group was matched and we actually were (this was my group – Yellow)
  2. Told everybody in the group was matched but that was actually was a lie
  3. Told no body in the group was matched but actually everybody was
  4. Told no body was matched and no body actually was (control group?)

You can see how this all works right?

The results were actually quite good and seemed to go with the algorithm and the priming of what were somewhat told. Hannah seemed confident it might actually work beyond this stage.

There was another test but to be honest, I got pulled away to do some stuff in a back room to the waiting camera about online dating. So much I wanted to say, but was told to keep it brief and look directly down the lens of the camera (hate that). Anyway I briefly touched on things related to my experiences and observations, should be interesting enough.

After some finger food and lots of chatting with various people, the results were announced to the room. They were cavatted with the notion, it was getting most matches in the room rather than most ideal matches.

Regardless, our usernames were read out and we stuck our hands up to show pairings.

My match was a woman who I had speed dated earlier but thought we didn’t really get on because of my lack of knowledge about the smiths. Can I remember her username? Nope, but we did take a couple selfie on both our phones.

After the matching, were had the opportunity to spend time together just chatting away and some quick interviews from Zander and Hannah.

Weirdly enough, my match lived in Bristol, had lived less than a mile away about the same time I lived in Croydon, London and shared similar views on certain things. Of course the location stuff  is a coincidence, as there was nothing in the questionnaire about previous locations, etc. But interesting one regardless.

We chatted away then we talked about circumstances currently. I wrongly guessed her age and it turned out we were quite distant on age and places in our lives. She had 3 kids, while I’m obviously child-free. It was clear the algorithm did work but only on the matching part, but did not factor in all the other things like looks, circumstance, desires, etc. The stuff which is unquantifiable?

End of the night, she left and we said goodbye while a bunch of us went to the Yorkshire Grey pub (George would be so proud) to discuss and carry on into the night. It was a warm night, so we sat outside on the benches, telling dating stories to each other. It was an nice end to the evening.

The last lot of the Horizon dating event

Everybody I spoke to had a good time they also had some good and bad stories about dating in recent times. The matches were somewhat hit and miss. Some numbers were exchanged but to be honest I think there will be maybe one or two who actually carry it further than a date or two (which still means Hannah’s algorithm would beat the year of making love!) . My match I’m unlikely to meet again, we didn’t swap anything and the pleasantries at the end of the night said it all. The initial excitement just seemed to break down once we discovered the difference in lifestyle, age and place in life.

Over drinks much later, a couple of us stayed out till about 1am. mr30notsoflirty, asked me if there were others I was interested in. I said yes and funny enough she was in my speed dating round, which meant she was likely matched quite highly with myself (remember I was in the one which was matched and were told so). I got a hint there might be some actually similarity in outlook earlier on but then got pulled away to do the pieces to the camera. There was another lady who stayed out later but had to get a train back to Kent, who was quite intriguing asking lots of questions about the scientific nature of everything, especially when I mentioned my geekness for dating. At the market place bar, we talked briefly and she said the comment of the night.

“You smell really good…!”

“well thank you” I said in return with a puzzled look on my face

Over all, it was intriguing and I’m happy to say Horizon did me and the BBC proud. It was pretty fluid, they seemed to get lots of footage (which I wish they would talk to BBC R&D about, as each couple have a interesting tale or two I’m sure). Met some lovely people and  my fears of the Year of making love were ironed out with the small contained venue, good people and a professional but friendly crew.

Just hope this is reflected in the show when it went live…

Update…

There’s a iWonder guide related to the programme (BBC iplayer).

On watching the programme, I was surprised how much of the vox pops from me made it into the programme. The show was mainly about Xander and the challenge of getting him a decent match. But it was clearly me on screen…

In the end, it was stalemate between the matching algorithm and random choice, which was a good conclusion I felt. Makes you think as you sink money and time into online dating, right? Also summing up why I find this area so interesting.

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A couple of things interested me, Helen Fisher and Lucy Brown‘s theory sounds interesting but once again where’s the paper or study? Prof Eli Finkel is absolutely right its somewhat rubbish and theres lots of papers proving it, even OKcupid’s OKtrends blog (and the deepend blog) doesn’t go into enough detail or give up the data for others to pull apart themselves. Xander was also wrong to say he was skeptical of algorthims, it was the premise which he wasn’t happy with. Even Hannah at one point said she wasn’t sure about the data which drives the algorthim she wrote.

I have already publiclly said it just doesn’t add up and the number element looms large. Hence why I chalked it up to the birthday paradox after much thought.

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While watching the show, my twitter and facebook was pretty busy, so busy I had to watch it again on iplayer. But some things came up which I wanted to reply to…

Xander and Hannah! Yeah they were very comfortable with each other, a few of us kept saying surely the two should get a room? But we all knew Hannah was happily married, but was so strange that Xander finally met a woman who from the back looked like a shorter version of Hannah. I actually thought it was her at first glance. Then I remember talking to some of the guys on the day, saying how she was very attractive.

During the show there was some comments about the lack of sexual diversity,  and I wanted to say, yes most were straight but there were a few gay couples too. The cameras missed a lot on that day but thats TV for you. There was also a diverse age range from quite young right up to much older than myself. Culturally it was quite diverse also, the BBC certainly did a good job and its important to once again say what you saw on screen wasn’t just it.

As a whole it was good and enjoyable, BBC Horizon did a good job touching on aspects of online dating problems and joys. Even down to Xander’s text exchange at the end of the programme. The whole worrying about what to say how long it takes for someone to come back to you is a real drama in modern dating. Although I do feel for the woman who went on the date with Xander because shes going to get a lot of angry women looking for her now…

Massive thanks to, Rachel Clarke I may have missed this great opportunity if she didn’t tweet me ages ago.

Can the enlighten people step forward?

There’s a lot of things which wind me up but I was shaking my head knowing it was true when reading the study about men being intimated by smart women. It had originally came from Facebook via Anina.

…these studies found that when men imagined a hypothetical woman who was smarter than them, or only knew of the woman in an abstract sense, they were interested in meeting or possibly dating her. Apparently, a smart woman is great in theory but not in practice.

…the men who were partnered with a woman who scored higher on the intelligence test felt the need to physically distance themselves from her when moving their chairs. They also tended to rate the woman as less attractive and datable than the men who interacted with a woman and scored worse than they did.

I tried to fault in the study but honestly its pretty clear on the face of it. Deep in thought thinking about my experiences of how men are crapbrushes with the pickup artists and of course being called a traitor to the male race. I can’t help but feel this type of legacy nonsense is what is holding back the human race. It’s not just this but also who pays on the first date, the height of women, who earns more and even more crap I can’t bring myself to even describe on my blog. It’s all so flipping sad, that this legacy still exists in 2016!

I like to hope there are even more smart women for us enlighten men but I know it’s never that simple.

smart-

In another post which I was reading about the redpill and manosphere, its easy to think every man wants to be the alpha.

Socially dominant. Somebody who displays high value, or traits that are sexually attractive to women.

Most of the postings refer to being the alpha not the beta. For example from the same post.

AF/BB – Alpha Fucks/Beta Bucks. AF/BB, as an idea, is closely related to AWALT (“All Women Are Like That”). All women, in this argument, divide men into two types: alpha males they want to fuck, and beta males they use for financial and emotional support in exchange for sex.

Really?!

It’s this nonsense which bugs the hell out of me on many different levels. All women want alphas, the betas are suckers and you need to be alphas to stand a chance. Do me a flipping favor, what a load of mashed up crap. Now I could argue on ideological and humanity grounds but I’ve tried that and failed to convince my intrenched male pals. So I’m going to try the diversity of thought option.

The biggest problem with all this is (AWALT) all women are like this and (AMALT) all men are like this. Is that there not, yes there might be a large population which are like this but I bet you those stereotypes are dying out quicker than you think. People are finding themselves and are less bound by the norms defined by the previous generation/society.

For example, gay, lesbian and bi people can be much more open than previously (don’t get me wrong, it’s a long way from the idealistic utopian dream in some parts of this country, let alone other parts of the world). But there is no longer a need to hide in the wardrobe/shadows. People are expressing a different more realistic/enlighten view on the world around them and ultimately that is changing things quicker than previously. Also worth saying non-monogamous relationships seem to have increased (or at least become more public). Like wise there’s less hiding in the shadows.

When I attended the event in Manchester with Rosie Wilby, I was actually slightly worried about talking about openly afterwards because it may crush certain friends world view. I could imagine myself talking about the event in detail and upsetting someone in the process.

Going all the way back to the top of the blog, what if smarter women actually preferred less smart men? What would people make of that scenario? It quite a different take eh?

Ultimately attitudes are changing and becoming more diverse, this is a good thing! It’s not good enough to jump to lazy stereotypes. Yes I understand this messes with your view on the world and makes binary answers a thing of a bygone era – Its time to get use to it! People are messy and the world is messy. No matter what Zuckerberg thinks or imposes (yes that is the right word) on a large number of internet users.

I am personally trying to use gender neutral pronouns. So less saying guys and more people. It’s a tiny thing but it all adds up and ultimately may have a positive effect of making others reconsider their own language.

Recently I was asked about my deal breakers, and I said one was old fashioned thinking. It seems harmless at first but I honestly think its holding back real progress and it needs to die/end. I’m not saying we shouldn’t learn from the past but trying to hold on to the past, has conquences like the results we see in the test.

Updated following the artist known as Prince’s death

It was Rebecca’s Facebook where I found the piece from the Guardian about Prince. I felt it was super relevent to what I was trying to say previously in this blog. Prince broke all the rules about what black American men should be

Prince repelled and fascinated me because he represented every side of all the contradictions I felt. I felt nervous even looking at him, and yet I couldn’t look away. What would it mean if I opened myself up to the letting go of all those rules he seemed to have dispensed with? That purple clothing, those high heels and ruffled shirts: was he proudly feminine, or so secure in his masculinity he didn’t mind others questioning it? That small frame and that tight, small butt that seemed to leave him “shaking that ass, shaking that ass” for men and women alike?

I remember when I was young having a discussions about sexuality through the paradox known as Prince. Never a dull moment and I even had the joy of visiting Minneapolis and going to First Avenue, prince’s club in purple rain.

Wow and what a club!

First Avenue, Minneapolis

Prince was so ahead of me in my own understanding of what it means to be black in this country, to have a sexuality and gender expression at odds with the white men who try to tell everyone else how to behave – and to embrace what is amorphous, not easily categorized, beautiful, and yet unknown.

Fitting I feel…

BBC Horizon explores how to find love online

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Its weird how things all seem to happen at once… First my TEDxManchester talk, then a chance enounter on BBC News 24 Live stream with LJ Rich, then me and Kate’s listening project recording is edited for Radio4. Now the BBC Horizon documentary about finding love online.

They were nice enough to tell us this afternoon via email, but I wasn’t sure I could blog it (nothing on their programme page or facebook page either) till I found it in the Radiotimes.

Update – The programme information page is up.

The internet has transformed every part of our lives and is now changing arguably the most important – our love lives. Internet dating is a cultural phenomenon and is now the second most common way that couples meet. But what is the best way to make the online search for love successful? What are the ‘matchmaking’ algorithms that the big companies use? Do they really deliver the goods, is it really clever marketing and actually a giant con – is there really any science?

Funny enough Mr30notsoflirty and Maren I met through the show filming (as you will find out soon, in a post I wrote straight after the filming). We were talking about the trailer on twitter, and Mr30 said he spotted, Mr30 and some other people. I watched a couple times and spotted myself! Scary stuff!

BBC Horizon dating experiment

So look out on Monday 25th April at 9pm – 10pm on BBC Two. It will be fancinating to see how its all crafted into a hour show and how much success they have in the matches compared to the Birthday paradox.

Hannah Fry the pressure is on…!

Are you sitting comfortably?

富士山 (Mount Fuji) - 04

In the continuing saga of undressed. I had an interesting awakening while waiting for my audition on Wednesday morning. They were very late but finally got hold of me on Skype.

During the Skype text conversation, I was asked if I was somewhere private. I was thinking this is an odd question? Then they said…

Just a reminder – we are doing these skypes in underwear

They might as well have said…

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

To be honest I was very surprised (actually quite shocked), same as I was when the researcher called me back and told me the show involved being undressed physically not by the 36 probing love questions alone, as I had taken it.

Yes so I was wrong again and although I thought they were joking, it became clear it wasn’t. I had a decision to make, go forward or drop out. I went ahead with it, but I was thinking boy oh boy if this is some kind of sextortion scam, I’m in deep!

To be fair it makes a little sense, because it was an audition and I assume in the physical auditions it would be the same. Don’t get me wrong it was bloody weird having them fully clothed watching me on a webcam!

People I described this to, have asked

Why? why are you doing this madness?

A while ago I was listening to someone talking about how they were planning to climb something insane in the middle of nowhere. I thought about it and on reflection, I now feel some people challenge themselves physically (climbing mountains, tall buildings, running across busy roads, etc), some mentally and I guess for me socially?

I’m not putting myself in danger from my view and it is a good yarn (lumbs law). Yes I guess being on TV in my underwear does come with some reputation damage? But I’m not about to run down the gym, I’m just me and I’m happy in my own skin with that.

It reminds me of when I went to the Japanese onsen (温泉) in Tokyo Dome over night. Going naked in front of a bunch of japanese business men I’ve never met before was crazy but I did it. Wearing underwear seems a lot more acceptable at least. Plus frankly if you seen me swim or about to go to sleep… it’s not much different?

The drive to push my limits socially, is fun to me. Don’t get me wrong its also slightly terrifying but like standing at the top of a mountain, its certainly exciting and takes a certain person to do so.