Misunderstanding dating apps from a far

"i saw you on tinder" Trastevere 2014

Tinder, tinder, Bloody Tinder!

Even now people keep going on about Tinder…

In the past I have been pretty down on Tinder and to be fair I still am, but its true people do meet, hit it off and even get married via Tinder. Of course I say the Birthday paradox is in play.

dating-against-humanity-48-638

The thing I keep hearing from people (usually in relationships) is tinder IS dating apps. When I tell them there is a new dating app/service every month, they never believe me. At a party on the weekend I tried to put into words why I use OkCupid and recommend other services over Tinder (yes I know they are owned by the same people).

The point I made is that unless you both swipe right, you can’t talk or get to know each other. Thats ignoring the fact men are more likely to swipe right, profiles are mainly pictures with little text and you can’t see the next person (grass is always greener beyond the swipe) unless you make a decision one way or another (gamification).

I insist the system of tinder encourages or even dictates playful interactions. This is fine if you like playing but not ideal if not. Its clear people are using Tinder to fill their time when bored or playing around with friends.

The tinder/hot or not system is setup that way, and the human behaviour follows suit. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can work the other way but Tinder is strongly built with this mentality in mind. I am reminded of addiction by design, simple as this – tinder is built to maximum shallow activity. There’s no other way around that unless you pay them money.

Other services have similar systems (OkCupid has likes, POF has meetme, etc) but each one of theses have the ability to just see a user and message them. This subverts the tinder behavior but requires more effort like getting over your fear of rejection.

The key point I’m making is each service is different and requires a different way to look at it. For example Bumble although it does have the hot or not dynamic, the system is set up to give the women the control. As a result the behavior of the users is quite different?

It’s a mistake to think of Tinder as the de-facto dating app. It would be like thinking McDonalds was the de-facto of restaurants from those who are vegan!

Now that’s one scary thought, I think we would all agree?

I won’t even dig into why all these people with partners always want to get wrapped up in their single friends lives? Thats best left alone…

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

Dating after a long relationship

Chess on the High Line

Lifehacker has a well reasoned piece about returning to dating at a older age. Its something nobody really wants to think about, married and happy then things go wrong. Before long you are separated or divorced and you are pondering what to do.

For me I decided to get back into dating as its very easy to slip into a endless cycle of regret and depression. To be fair I wasn’t really dating much beforehand just like the Thorin.

I’ve always felt dating was a weird experience in general, but somehow, coming back to it in the last few years feels different. I was married for several years in my late 20s, so I missed out on the earlier days of online dating sites. It was also a much more carefree time, when if you liked someone, that was enough. But now that I’m in my 30s, the rules and expectations are completely different—making it a lot harder to get back in the game.

I have said it before many times, this is why when talking to people in long term relationships, its hard to explain why things are different now.

…you have billions of other human beings at your fingertips through a variety of channels. As always, you can hit up bars, clubs, and shows. You can venture off to parties and barbecues. You can also go online and have access to loads of single people in your area. It’s a far cry from even high school, when your dating pool was largely pretty much your friends and their friends.

Online dating gives you more options than ever. Not just in people, but in sources. Dating sites like OkCupid, Tinder, Match, eHarmony, and Plenty of Fish all give you access to other single people in a matter of seconds.

I have a talk inside of me all about this and much much more. I gave a 10min overview at Best of British, which you can watch on youtube.

There are some really good points raised

The Deal Breakers Have Changed, and They’re Much Bigger Deals.
Yes the deal breakers are serious now, if something isn’t right for you. There are enough other people to give try. There is the downside to this of course, paradox of choice and people seeking the greener grass on the other side.

The “Game” Is Different, and Bluntness Is King
No body likes time-wasters and you need to be blunt and to the point otherwise things will drag on.  It doesn’t mean you have to be super rude, just honest and direct. People will thank you for it deep down, even if its painful at first. Of course you got get a think skin and be prepared for honest and direct feedback too. This is why getting over the fear of rejection is so important.

Marcus asks how ambitious are you?

Interesting email sent out to members of plenty of fish recently…

I am Markus the creator of plentyoffish.   We recently added a new field to profiles that asks you how ambitious you are.  Go to edit profile and update your profile now.   This new field will start showing on the web immediately and in the mobile apps in a week or two when we release a new version.

Ok nothing that special… Although its a interesting field to add to a dating profile. I think its a bit pointless as the options are not ambitious, somewhat ambitious, ambitious and very ambitious. I don’t know who would put not ambitious? Honestly?

Anyway that wasn’t all which was said. Marcus took the time to educate us all about the truth surrounding hookup culture, which made a interesting kicker…

These days the mass media loves to talk about the hookup culture and focus shows around sex.   In reality hookups are rare.  The median number of female sexual partners in lifetime, for men 25-44 years of age is 6.1 for women its 3.9.  Only three percent of men aged 18 to 30 have 3 or more sexual partners per year for 3 years.   If you want to hear what else is normal check out this great Google Talk by  Wendy Walsh.

Marcus launches into a attack on the mass media. Maybe this is part of his rallying call to drag/lead Plenty of Fun, I mean Fish out of the gutter?

Maybe he’s right but to be honest the only thing which has come from Plenty of Fish is hookups or rather booty calls.

Joining the Plenty of Fun wagon again

I’ve decided to join POF again, thought I’d give it a try wondering if the lack of maths in OKcupid profiles might be changing the aspect of the site… looking at the site, it still looks a royal bloody mess. Not quite as bad as it use to be, but generally its always makes me really miss the smooth look of OkCupid.com.

Filling out the profile has been interesting. If you want to fill in extra fields in the profile, you need to be a paid member. Theres lots of other bits paid members get on top of free members, just like Alist on Okcupid. I had a bit of shock when I found my mention of Cocktails blanked out, because it might be a rude word. So it now reads “…enlightening conversations over****ails

Great!

I also filled in their 70 questionnaire/data capturing/Chemistry test. The results are pretty good (but of course we’ve all aware of how this can work)

Does this sound like me…?

As someone with high self-confidence, you feel quite comfortable interacting with other people. Indeed, you find the company of others very stimulating and enjoy meeting new people. Your relaxed demeanor in groups makes people around you comfortable too. Perhaps because you feel comfortable talking about yourself, others tend to enjoy being around you and perceive you as socially competent.

The confidence that helps you feel comfortable talking to people also spills into your own personal beliefs about yourself. Although you have several strengths, it’s likely that you also acknowledge and accept your weaknesses. But unlike some people, you take full responsibility for your actions—you rarely regret things you’ve done in the past and are not embarrassed easily.

Perhaps the defining feature that sets you apart from most people is the exceptionally high standards that you set for yourself. Your competence in social gatherings as well as at work should provide ample evidence for this. With these characteristics, it’s very likely that people come to you for advice and generally think of you as someone with leader-like qualities.

Hummm maybe POF have started to put more emphases on the algorithm side of online dating?

Anyway we shall see how things turn out, I’m hoping I don’t get those late night messages/bootycalls which I have no idea how to read or respond to. What messages you ask? You will have to wait till the book is written…

The quality of OkCupid has gone down for me?

Opimal Cupid

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

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

So its largely stayed the same…?

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

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

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

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

Chris’s story is something special and quite elegent…

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

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

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

And thats the nub or pressure point.

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

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

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

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

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

Somebody once called me the wikipedia of online dating…

OK only one person has but its kinda of stuck.
Why do I recommend OkCupid? Because its a great dating site and highly recommended by many

OkCupid. This site tops the list, and maybe because their demographic skews younger and it’s a little more engaging with members than some of the classic dating sites. Most of the searches were conducted by men (68%).

Interestingly…

PlentyofFish. This dating site has a bit of a reputation, but that hasn’t stopped people from checking it out. Formerly known for its “intimate encounters” section, POF has recently undergone an image change to focus on matching people with relationship potential.

Pof… I heard on a film (was it thor2?) the other day. Its certainly starting to grow in popularity specially since they cleaned it up? Free online dating is growing and pof is positioned its self right behind okc in my personal line up. Glad to see I’m not the only one…

Tinder. This mobile app was made popular by college students, a sort of “hot or not” version of online dating. With its easy-to-use and convenient set-up, the app has taken off among singles who like to see who’s close by and wanting to meet a little more spontaneously.

Tinder also known as the grindr of the heterosexual world. This has really taken off and to be fair I can’t knock it. I hear its great if your female (like most dating sites to be honest). Unlike the rest of the mobile apps its damm simple and ties directly to your Facebook. Even bettering OKCupid in the regards you don’t need to fill in a profile. Wonder how long till my dating site idea happens, although tinder is pretty close already.

Whats in common with Tinder?

A while ago I wrote a piece for Single black male titled technology assisted dating.

A trip to the coffee shop or a bar is full of surprises. Who has not heard of the likes of Grindr? Grindr is/was extremely popular with the urban single gay males and it seems highly effective in meeting other people. You could see this as a digital wingman of sorts or a step on the way towards a technology assisted dating/hookup depending on what you’re actually after?

The likes of OKCupid and POF’s mobile apps use geolocation to find singles which match your profile. Grindr however seems to have that extra element of passive fun or hookup. So the question always has been? Wheres the hetrosexual version of Grindr? Those in the know, recommend Tinder. So I checked it out a while ago and recently gave it another try .

The thing about Tinder is its totally based on your Facebook profile. When I first saw this as a requirement, I read the privacy policy and though no thank you. But since I gave it a shot and found it weirdly interesting.

As said before the app requires (there is no other way to make it work) Facebook data. Once you hook it up every aspect of your Facebook data you get recommendations of people you may like. As I letter found out you can alter some of the settings in the app. Things like distance to search, sexuality and the age range.

The interface is a hot or not styled thing based on profile pictures from people around you. Its not exactly scientific in anyway.

However whats interesting is when Tinder finds something you like in common. This can be something you both liked or something you both have an interest in. It even points out any friends you both have in common. So instead of filling out loads of questions, its simply highlighting the commonality between you both.

Tinder app okcupids app

For example above, there are 3 common things me and Sally share. If I click the i, I can find out which things exactly. In this case Sally likes donnie darko, fight club, and the watchmen. If we had friends in common it would put a number in the other box too.

Once you’ve done all this, thats pretty much it. If the other person comes across your profile and also hearts you, then your both made aware of this connection.

Its simple but also quite effective, if your facebook profile is maintained and well used. The problem I have is I don’t really use Facebook and its apps much, so alot of it is more guess work than matching. Maybe I might consider updating and managing parts of my FB profile in future.

Using Facebook makes a ton of sense and I’ve always maintained that Facebook makes a great dating site.

So its pretty frictionless as a app and service. I have already seen people adding additional information like there twitter username and even email address to the one and only free text area. Which makes me wonder how there going to make any revenue from the app and us the users? Its also lot less realtime that Grindr, so I don’t expect to see people wondering around with the app open, so no real time adverts.

Is it all about the data and what they can sell on? Will there be a pro version on the cards? Will they start selling adverts? Or will they simply go for a walled garden type thing like most other dating sites? It would be good know before I can really recommend the service.

But as a whole, I’m quite liking Tinder and it will stay on my android devices for now. Its certainly not Grindr for us hetrosexuals but its something smarter and slightly clever.

POF cleans up and advertises in unique locations

POF on OKC

Well I’m hearing Plenty of Fun, I mean Fish is cleaning up its hookup image

POF is blocking hookups based on age difference and message wording, resulting in immediate bans, Intimate Encounters going away, 17% of the time we can pick the exact person you will end up dating, 70% of POF use is via a mobile phone.

Markus says, “Unfortunately about 2% of men started to use POF as more of a hookup site mostly due the the casual nature of cell phone use.”

POF have made systematic changes too… Directly from Markus the founder

1. Any first contact between users that contains sexual references will not be sent. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will be deleted without warning. This rule has actually been in effect since last month and it’s made the site so much better.

2. You can only contact people +/- 14 years of your age. There is no reason for a 50 year old man to contact a 18 year old women. The majority of messages sent outside those age ranges are all about hookups. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will get deleted.

3. Intimate Encounters will go away in the next few months. There are 3.3 Million people who use the site every day, of those there are only 6,041 single women looking for Intimate Encounters. Of those 6,041 women, the ones with hot pictures are mostly men pretending to be women. Intimate Encounters on POF can be summed up as a bunch of horny men talking to a bunch of horny men pretending to be women.

In short the vast majority of people will not be impacted. This is because the vast majority of people are not going around spamming women saying “let’s have sex tonight”. I can’t change POF alone, I need your help to get the word out there that POF is all about relationships!

So I assume with the clean up, POF needs to shout about the change… Shout about it they do, so much than you can see the advert on OKCupid.com, another free online dating site. Weird but I guess it makes sense, OKC is a dating site with a lot of daters on board.

An experiment in mobile dating…

OKCupid!

For years now I’ve been dating using websites and speed dating. I have also at the same time been reading people’s accounts of there dating, such as 52 first dates. Every once in a while I moan about the lack of transparency and data from dating sites and if you know me, sometimes over a couple of drinks I swear I’m going to write a book about my dating experiences.

So with all that in mind, I read the blog post “taking my dating life mobile a social experiment” with a lot of interest.

Basically Senior Writer for ReadWrite.com Dan Rowinski is going to use mobile dating apps to gage there success rates in finding love. Of course there is rules…

I have to set some parameters here, or this type of experiment could completely take over my life. So here are my ground rules:

Parameters

  • I will actively use dating apps for at least one month to meet actual people.
  • I will use a variety of apps (Android and iOS) to get a good sense of their depth and variety.

What I Will Do

  • Approach each connection with an open mind and respect.
  • Apply the rule of “half your age plus seven” to how old a date has to be (nobody in their late teens or very early 20s).
  • Notify dates that I am writing a series on dating apps.
  • If I make a meaningful connection and start a fledgling relationship with someone I meet, I’ll terminate the experiment.

What I Won’t Do

  • I won’t actively use the dating apps to just look for a “hookup.” No trolling for sex on my smartphone.
  • I won’t recount much in the way of specific details about my dates. Yes, I’ll share a few anecdotes here and there, but if you’re looking for salacious gossip, click elsewhere.
  • I won’t do anything to endanger my physical, emotional or financial safety.
  • I won’t lie to make myself look better or misrepresent myself in any way.
  • I won’t ignore possible connections in real life that didn’t originate on my smartphone.

The Apps I’ll Be Using
I chose the following apps because they represent a good cross section of new, interesting, location-based, social and traditional approaches. I won’t be using any traditional websites affiliated with the services, should they exist. For instance, when I use eHarmony or Match, I’ll only use those sites through their apps and over email to my phone. Here they are:

  • Let’s Date – Popular new app that allows to browse anonymously for connections.
  • Tinder – Location-based app that allows you to see who’s nearby, their pictures and snippets from their Facebook profiles.
  • eHarmony – There should be at least one traditional dating site in here to provide a counter to mobile-only apps.
  • OkCupid – It’s free and has a decent app.
  • Blendr – Among the several sub-tier dating apps in contention, I’m going with Blendr just because it looks the least troll-y.
  • Martini (if applicable) – Group dating app that just came to the Apple App Store.

Now the question is do I join in and try it out for myself?

In the past I have used Okcupid and Plenty of Fishes mobile apps and its been fun in some cases.

Don’t get me wrong I’m interested to find out what could happen and find out if mobile dating is any good or not. Mobile dating is a different take on the same idea? I did propose this as something different a while ago.