Why the future of online dating is a bigger deal than you think

Mozilla Festival 2017 was great and I’m hoping to write up details as usual, but I wanted to give another pointer to Evan Prodromou for giving the session about dating on the open web.

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.

Evan’s slides had a lot in it but as there was a lot to cover, there wasn’t enough time for much discussion. On top of that, when talking about personal & sensitive topics, it sometimes takes time for people to warm up and join the discussion.

Almost 24 hours later in the same space (learning forum 2), I talked about the same subject. I started by flicking through Evan’s slides, looking at Tantek’s blog and throwing in my own thoughts about decentralised dating. As Evan said, it seems trivial to most people but it’s having a major effect on our society.

We had more discussion and although it doesn’t seem like it from the photo, had quite a few people joining. It was good to finally have that critical discussion about not just the technical make up of online dating but its good and bad effects on society and the core of our identity.

Another thing Evan started was to submit the problem space of online dating to the W3C as a community interest group. Although I couldn’t find it in the list of submitted, although he did start adding to a etherpad.

When Tinder met Vanity, we all got popcorn and watched

TechCrunch Disrupt Europe: Berlin 2013 (Day 2)
…at the helm of the company that’s changing society in ways they can’t stop, or even fathom because they’re right in the middle of it. Scary.

Tinder (which I have written about and am now somewhat convinced will be seen as a bad bad joke in many years time) was recently written about in Vanity Fair and… Oh dear, tinder took to twitter to complain!

The best deconstruction of the whole thing comes from David Evans over at onlinedating insider.

I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the VF article. Story after story about relationship-challenged New Yorkers. Men in New York treat women terribly and brag about it in Vanity Fair. Wow, you don’t say?

The VF article is a retread of a topic that’s been beaten to death by the media and dating bloggers for almost two years, but VF decided to hang out with a bunch of New Yorkers who rack up Tinder sex-mates like there’s no tomorrow and talk to them like they are adults or something. The writer clearly emerged from a cave last week and the first thing they did was go on a Tinder date and now she’s scarred for life.

Tinder is simply a throw back to old skool dating (when it was al about looks and not the personality), but it doesn’t stop a whole host of articles, posts and shows being written about it… even in mid 2015! Tinder has become the symbol of our misogynist culture much like how the game was a few years ago?

“It’s an eye-opener and validation of a woman’s worst fear. The guys are swiping right to hook up and it’s all just a game.” Give me a break. The women who enable men to behave this way are just as complicit in the degradation of modern courtship as Tinder is. And Tinder is at the bottom of the pile, along with Ashley Madison.

Add gamification and repeat

The gamification of online/social dating can be scary stuff which I’ll cover in my TedX Talk early next year… Don’t miss it, its going to be pretty wild…! Ironiclly it will be on Valentine day, so expect a blood path of broken hearts and trashed dreams

Its so clear there is a problem, as many people including Sherry Turkle and even comedian Aziz Ansari’s modern romance, identifies. They wonder about current social impact of not just its users but on the mating process as a whole!

David really gets into to the metric problem of the throw away action of a swipe.

What is the equivalent of a right-swipe on a dating service? Replied to emails? If I email you and you email me back, that’s a match. Sam Yagan at Match told me that years ago. Back when he was the Co-founder of OkCupid, and they always said Match wasn’t worth the money and nobody should have to pay for a dating site

…Tinder’s definition of a match as two people physically moving their fingers about a quarter of an inch to the right compared with writing and responding to emails. Comparing swipes to responded-to emails is ridiculous; they’re not even comparable. But we’re talking about Tinder here, so anything goes.

How about this. Whenever two people like or favorite each other’s photos on a dating service, they are a match. Is that comparable to Tinder mutual swipes? I don’t know and I really don’t care anymore. And neither does anyone else, because all I read about in the media are stories about people on Tinder hooking up three times a week and 25 million matches a day.

He’s right, no body is really thinking about what the metrics mean when  writing about Tinder. It might as well be 25 millions acorns! There is so much more David writes in the post but I love the ending line, and I’m really starting to agree (even though I know a few friends who have successfully had serious relationships via tinder)…

Tinder is the worst thing to ever happen to the online dating industry. End of story.

Match, OkCupid, Tinder and now POF?

Swallow your fish

Big news on the online dating scene… The picture above sums it up

The Match Group, the global operator of digital dating products such as Match, Tinder, OkCupid and Meetic), and a subsidiary of IAC, announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase PlentyOfFish for US$575 million in cash.

Yes if you didn’t already know IAC own Match, Okcupid, Tinder and now Plenty of Fish.

Plenty of fish has had its ups and downs… but $575 million isn’t bad for a dating service which was independently run and managed. Remember Instagram was sold to Facebook for just under double that at $1billion, which goes to show.  The community aspects certainly made it stand out from the rest and this was emulated by some of the others. While the freenium approach back then was quite unique.

Cheers Chris for the heads up

Is free online dating catfish central?

26/365: A tribute to nosy aunties and aunty-like uncles...

I listened to Radio 4’s women and mens hour special about online dating. It wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t great either. Anyhow I kind of got into a discussion/debate with C_T_S to do with her (I would suggest) somewhat unique experience of talking maybe dating a person who was a catfish.

Now to be fair we have a small twitter history of disagreement. But when I put the idea of never paying for online dating sites out there, she responded with…

As a victim of an emotional fraudster on a free website, I’m totally the opposite.

The best dates I had were from paid sites, without question.

Fair enough thats her experience, but I still feel from my experience and others paid for online dating is a bigger con, as the panoroma documentary revealed recently. I do have friends who have met up via match.com and others paid for dating sites but I have many more who met via free dating sites and the likes of Facebook. I also have never had someone catfished me as such. I’ve had some timewasters but generally I’ve spotted the signs of any kind of scamming.

So the question comes into focus…

Is free online dating inherently more prone to catfishers than the paid for dating sites?

On the face of it, it would seem more likely, however it also seems likely that people willing to pay will be more serious about there dating? In my experience this isn’t necessarily true. I’ve been thinking about this and one such reason is because of the focus on time the sites add to the equation. A lot of people pay month by month (wish I could find the survey which talked about this). Knowing in the back of there minds that the month is coming to an end, the mentality could be to speed things along a little more. While on the free dating sites, you can sit back and relax. Take it all in and decide to go full on or not when it suits you.

So theres a slight paradox… Could there be a slight paradox around catfishing on free sites too?

But how do/can you judge sites for their catfishing potential? Of course none of the sites are going to shout about there catfishing…

I guess you could look at the way they monitor their users, usage policies, etc… But this is data which we just don’t have. Its interesting that OKCupid resorts to crowdsourcing. While others seem to resort to alerting the likes of eharmony via the spam/abuse buttons. Looking a little further theres quite a lot of stuff about this catfishing from online dating sites. Reddit has a dedicated OkCupid subreddit, with some very interesting related threads. On the Match.com front theres some stories in the subreddit relationships but not a dedicated subreddit, however theres relevant court cases and views.

I would suggest its still undecided due to the lack of data available…

The big problem with most online dating conclusions and results. I would also include the fact most men are willing to put up with some crazy issues. Maybe someone should do some research how men and women react to being catfished?

So much to research, so little data…

Dirty little fingers in the data bucket

OkCupid | NO MATCH

Well I got to say… Its good to see some of the online dating sites feeling the heat from BBC’s Panorama last week.

In “Tainted Love: Secrets of the Dating Game,” the state broadcaster’s flagship current affairs program, Panorama, claimed to have uncovered a wide range of questionable practices by the online dating industry.

These include deliberate use of millions of photos and private details taken from social media sites without consent and reused to set up fake profiles of imaginary potential partners to, in the program’s words, “tempt the lovelorn.”

The documentary featured interviews with former online dating agency staffers who admitted on camera how they’d used such data to create fake profiles and adopt multiple personas to reel in those looking for love — and to boost profits.

The report also claimed the sources of this illegally obtained personal material ranged from British celebrities, politicians and even children. On camera, one former employee said that other European countries (notably Spain) were the main target, with easy pickings apparently coming from platforms such as MySpace.

As part of the investigation, reporters posing as prospective dating agency business openers were able to buy 10,000 people’s details, including birthdates and sexual preferences. That dataset included a member of the House of Lords, academics and BBC staff, all of whom told the BBC they had never signed up for such services.

Even my choice OkCupid are being targeted. Which is good because to be fair, although I do like their business model (well its better that the rest), I will never forget that they have been bought by Match.com and things are slightly changing for the worst.

 

Why is it so hard to find a normal, single woman I fancy?

Dating in the 21st Century

So I have been meaning to blog about Northern Lass 32 for a while, since Josh or Tim pointed me at it… She’s started writing a series for the Guardian which has got me going a few times.

Northern Lass, 32, wishes she could just do things the old-fashioned way – flutter eyelashes in a bar. Here, she opens an occasional series on navigating the new dating jungl

Ok so far so good, always good to have some more focus on dating in the 21st century, because it certainly needs it.

…as I quickly found out it’s very different in your 30s than in your 20s; things have changed. In my early 20s, I could rock up to a club and 50% of the guys would also be single. Therefore with a scientific combination of the power of averages and copious amounts of alcohol, it really wasn’t that hard to dance around someone at the Music Box (RIP), give them the eye, pretend you could hear what they were saying, then … BAM! Boyfriend! Well at least that’s how I remember it.

Now however, they are all paired off, settled down, off the shelf and there is the added minefield of multi-platform stalkfests such as Facebook and internet dating sites to navigate.

Yes those days are pretty much long gone. Many of my coupled friends say pretty much the same, go down the club and find someone ffs. Well its not that simple, specially when older and somewhat wiser?

a few of my friends had tried Internet dating and loved it. So, figuring I had nothing to lose but a subscription fee, I signed up to Guardian Soulmates and Match.com. That was 12 months ago, and wow has it been an interesting ride. The messages and dates have ranged from the lovely to the out-and-out bonkers.

I will say this now… I have tried both Match and Guardian Soulmates. Thinking was Match might have the biggest selection and Guardian Soulmates would be full of left leaning woman who might fit nicely.

Match.com for me was a total joke, I signed up for 1 month to try it out and although I did talk to a few woman nothing really got far. I did go on one or two dates but what that was about the time I really noticed how much people will lie in there profiles. Not just a bit but quite a lot… Lies about all types of things. Heck since then, I’m sniffy about all types of things.. Had a woman once lie about which country she was from, why? I have no idea!

Guardian soulmates… worst still. Why? Well its simple.

Everyone laughs at the uniform dating advert on TV. Uniform dating sign up if you wear a uniform, signup if you like people who wear them, heck sign up if you dont! Enough said really!

Well Guardian soulmates is pretty much the same. I met people who bought a guardian paper once, or those who honestly have never bought a guardian paper ever. Worst still I met a woman whose politics was right leaning. Don’t get me wrong I’m not going to reject someone just because there politics are not aligned with mine – that would be very bad. But you expect someone on Guardian Soulmates to have a slightly left leaning viewpoint on the world.

Internet dating is a bit like catalogue shopping for someone you want to hang out with. Little thumbnail pictures of, in the Guardian’s case: X hanging out with friends, or X building an African village and then X skydiving for charity. Or in Match.com’s case: X lifting up his top to show his abs and his ex-girlfriend’s name tattooed on his chest.

Among all the faces and messages, I started to communicate with a few blokes that seemed nice so started to meet up for the odd date. But a pattern emerged. All the guys I got on with and fancied didn’t come from Manchester. Derby, Sheffield, Kent, Liverpool – all great dates, all who I would see again. Manchester, on the other hand, seemed to be a hotbed of dating disaster.

If you are comparing online dating with looking in a catalogue, your maybe not taking it seriously? I do know what she means about the photos and I’ve already had my say about those. And I won’t lie a pattern is emerging for me too, mainly to do with the Cholton area of Manchester, although I wouldn’t say I have any hotbed disasters, there have been a few places I would be weary of in the future.

The further examples of dates further drive me to start “The Life and Opinions of a Datasexual Gentleman” (or some such title) – thanks Janet Davis.

Generally I’ve met woman like Northern Lass 32 (although I’ve never bumped into her directly I don’t think) and frankly they have taken everything for a joke including meeting up in real life. Usually its there first time ever meeting anyone through the internet and its all…

a little surreal..?

Chill and take your time, stop rushing and just let things wash over you as interesting experiences

Heck worst comes to worst you could write a fictionalised, very contemporary, digital 21st century story connecting the rollicking & romance of 18thc classic. But of course not before I do… *smile*

updated…

I had not looked at the comments for that post till Vickytnz made a interesting comment about them. Wow, seriously wow… Maybe I should reconsider my contemporary fiction…?

I really want dataportability for online dating as OKcupid gets bought by Match

Tim Dobson sent me a tweet earlier this today but I only saw it recently because he usually sends dodgy and crap stuff (*smile*). Anyway the news threw me…

OkCupid Acquired by Match.com for $50 Million.

I’m shocked… and to be honest I really want to get off OKcupid pretty soon. But I really want to take my data with me. I’m already considering building some kind of scaper so I can get my data out. The only good thing is…

OkCupid co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan will stay on at the site to run operations.

Sam Yagan also recently said

We Will Not Charge Users Following Match.com Acquisition

“Our goal is that [the acquisition] will have no effect whatsoever,” Yagan told us, saying that no positions will change within the company, and that it will continue full-steam ahead as usual — sans censorship or fees.

Sounds great but is this all lip service? To be honest, as some people have already noticed. A article about paid vs free online dating has been taken it down!

Internet denizens have also pointed out that a popular OKCupid article from last year titled “Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating” has been taken down from the company’s blog.

“I chose to take that down. Match didn’t ask,” Yagan says, denying that the other site was attempting to censor OkCupid. Apparently, the story was pieced together from public information, and Yagan has learned that some of the assumptions made in it were untrue.

Also, he says, “It’s a common sense thing to do. We’re joining a bunch of new colleagues, there’s no need to have that post.”

There is the google cache of course. And no wonder it was removed… It starts this way…

Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating

Today I’d like to show why the practice of paying for dates on sites like Match.com and eHarmony is fundamentally broken, and broken in ways that most people don’t realize.

For one thing, their business model exacerbates a problem found on every dating site…

Oi! No wonder it was removed, its a scaving deconstruction of the match.com business model, oh whoops I mean our new boss.

And if that wasn’t so bad enough, this bit will have you in stitches.

Match.com’s numbers are just as grim. They’re a public company, so we can get their exact subscriber info from the shareholder report they file each quarter. Here’s what we have from Q4 20094:

And finally this flow diagram kills it dead. The owners of Match.com must have been having kittens by the point.

Remember, sites like Match and eHarmony are in business to get you to buy a monthly subscription. There’s nothing wrong with profit motive, but the particular way these sites have chosen to make money creates strange incentives for them. Let’s look at how the pay sites acquire new subscribers.

That for me is a clear sign that we’re about to be shafted. Yagan might be right that he was not told to remove the blogs but to be honest the fact he felt that he had to take it down speaks volumes! And its going to be a very bumpy ride down to the bottom, I can feel it now. And I want to get off now.

I want out! And I’m not the only one. I’ll be interested to see what kind of protest the people of okcupid put up. Might be worth starting off a specially branded avatar… Bit like whats been done on flickr before.

Yes I did go to an Arsenal Football Match this weekend

Arsenal vs Newcastle Utd

My good friend and Best man Ross won some tickets to Arsenal vs Newcastle United recently, so the plan was for him and his wife to go to the match. And we would Babysit our god daughter. But it didn't quite work out that way and so I ended up going with him.

After we found a nice parking space just 5mins walk from one of the entrances we on the march along one of the stadium bridges, found our gate in the Orange Quadrant and before long we were in our seats. The Emirates Stadium is new and Arsenal are unbeaten at home this year. The stadium is very comfitable and actually very clean and tidy. Not what I was expecting for a football ground. The match wasn't so great, Newcastle Utd scored against the run of play and after half time Arsenal scored with a great freekick by Thierry Henry to make it a draw at 1-1. 60,058 people attended the match and actually I'll admit it was a good day but I would only ever do it for a big World Cup game. I've got tons of pictures of the stadium and game on my flickr stream.

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