OkCupid without the explicit data?

I was reading through OKCupid’s interview on the Wall Street Journal. I highlighted a few things which got me thinking about whats wrong with OKCupid.

WSJ: Could you explain the “substance over selfies” focus?

MR. SEIDMAN: If you look at what we have seen in online dating in the past four to five years, there is a huge increase in speeding up: Let’s get people to go faster, let’s get people to spend more consideration over booking a restaurant on OpenTable tonight than choosing someone to connect with on an app.

We said, we are actually going to double down on what is fundamentally true for a large part of people dating, which is, I want to meet someone based on who they are, not what they look like. One of the ways we do that is during sign-up we take you through a minimum of 15 iconic OkCupid questions. These go through religion, culture, sex and gets to what you are like.

Our questions emulate what is happening in the real world, like a conversation you would have at a bar or dinner party.

There are a lot of people who have strongly held beliefs but no overlap, and we don’t want to waste their time. We push people into not just answering these questions but creating profiles that are more than just their photos. The real issue now is, how do we make that easy and enjoyable on a mobile phone?

We recently renamed our swiping product from Quickmatch to Doubletake, because we realized the name doesn’t support the values of our community: We don’t want people to be quick, we want them to be slow. We look at it proactively through the lens of product and marketing, so when you get to OkCupid it’s clear it’s the place for you.

Nice in theory but as I pointed out a few times, the days of when people would spend time filling in the questions; has kind of gone. Even OkCupid doesn’t really put any emphases on the questions. Instead they seem to be pushing for more implicit data collection. Which leads you to a place where swiping left and right works in favor of both parties I guess? Although I obviously have a total distaste for this mechanism.]

Ok Cupid's top bar in mid 2017

The mobile app and website are more similar but its interesting to see the questions pushed to the far right of the page now. Even the top menu now is just Browse Matches, Double Take and Purchase A-list.

So my take away thought especially with the recent changes around visitors is frankly this whole thing about creating a community around online dating, is just PR nonsense.

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…

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.

Delete that dating app ffs!

"Have Your Awkward Tinder Dates Here" Sign at Vaucluse Lounge - Hollywood, CA

Great piece by datingsitesreviews.

Online dating fatigue: it sounds silly, but it’s a real phenomenon. You can only spend so much time in cyberspace before your head starts to spin and arthritis sets in on your swiping hand. When burnout begins, it’s time to take a hiatus from the smartphone. Do yourself a favor and delete your dating app.

Absolutely… There is a cross over with what I saw in Tokyo, what I see when going out and read about in places. Today its dating and games tomorrow its who know what?

Its worth thinking about as technology defines the way we behave and live our lives. (Won’t even mention the issues with who is writing the software).

But back to dating for this one…

  • You’re logging in out of habit, not out of interest.
    Yes, if you are unlocking your phone just out of habit or you are bored… Find something else to do, but please not some pointless game.
  • You’ve resorted to stock messages.
    In the book Dataclysm by one of OkCupid’s founders Christian Rudder. I had to put the book down after reading that the response rate to stock messages actually works (depending on your success criteria). It might work to a degree, but it feels unhuman to me. If you are sending stock messages, its time reconsider your priorities.
  • You immediately look for what’s wrong instead of what’s right.
    Indeed, and maybe its time to take a break!
  • You’re desperate for a boyfriend or girlfriend.
    Never be desperate and enjoy your time being single.
  • You’re on there for a reason that isn’t dating.
    Enough said…!

Its worth remembering deleting the app won’t remove the account and the data is still held somewhere. Thats a whole different issue

I am going to explore stuff like this at the Manchester Royal Exchange as part of the Ragged Talks university series. Sunday 1st November, its going to be a free event and will be more of a conversation than a talk.

More details coming soon…

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

Did you see the Channel4 Tinder documentary?

Tinder

Did I see it, did you see it?

Well I finally saw it and I was not impressed. Sensational and stereotypical topics. What a load of rubbish I’m sorry to say. There was no depth whatsoever! The tinder title says it all… It was mainly about dating apps in general, but of course the secret life of dating apps wouldn’t have worked on TV.

To be fair it will make popular TV but I was just waiting for the catfish and danger aspects to come along. I mean who invites a date to their home on the first date? Seriously WTF! Thats dating 101!

They bumped against the paradox of choice but it was for about 5 secs. I far preferred Dawns guide online dating, which was also from Channel4.

Thanks Claire, Mr Brislr and others for highlighting it to me… but I say garbage!

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.

Automated your tindering

Tinderbox dashboard

This has got to be one of the most creepiest (and slightly impressive) things (I seen a lot of stuff, but nothing recently) I’ve seen recently in online dating news… Cheers Dave for the heads up on this project which is also available under a very free and easy licence on Github

While my friends were getting sucked into “swiping” all day on their phones with Tinder, I eventually got fed up and designed a piece of software that automates everything on Tinder.

Dubbed “Tinderbox”, the first version only took 3 weeks to build. It uses an existing Tinder account and taps into Tinder APIs, which is nice so you don’t have to create an entirely new account. Tinderbox recreates the Tinder app in your browser, including the inbox and discovery preferences. The workflow is simple:

  • The built-in bot builds facial models using your likes/dislike

  • Bot examines profile images, cropping faces

  • Faces are loaded into an “average” face representing choices

  • Eigenfaces are computed from average faces

  • Bot then makes future selections based on Eigenface comparison

  • Comparisons are essentially k-nearest neighbor selection

Yes its a Tinder bot which starts conversations with people based on profile pictures… I’m glad I’m off Tinder. But the author also had this to add.

What do girls think of the bot? I’ve gone on at least 10 dates with the help of the bot and I’ve shown my partners the bot in its entirety. One date literally didn’t believe me and thought I was pulling her leg. Another person thought it was really cool and wanted the full tour. All were in agreement that it is not creepy, though some felt it was borderline.

Enough said really? This has got to be on this weeks Lovegrumps!

Breaking the rules of online dating with bristlr

At Silicon Drinkabout last night, I was introduced to John Kershaw who created a social network/dating site for people with and like beards – Bristlr. (yes this is the uniform dating style thing, basically for anybody)

  • Tell us where you are, and if you have a bear
  • Got a beard? We find people looking for beards
  • Want a beard? We find people with beards worth looking for
  • Send messages to people you match with
  • Your life now contains more beard love, you’re welcome

John seems to have got quite a few people on-board with no advertising or promotion. Its a interesting site and hits a niche really well.

How does it make money? Well funny enough me and John talked about this at length. Unlike most dating sites, he won’t be collecting and selling the data  of the users. His privacy policy seems to follow through on this

Bristlr

We take your privacy seriously. We won’t sell your data. That’s a dick thing to do.

When you use Bristlr, we collect a fair chunk of data about you, but it’s the bare minimum required for the website to function. All of the information is collected explicitly from you.

As this is the internet, our servers collect loads of info like your IP address and some browser details. We do use standard internet tracking and monitoring software, namely Google Analytics, to tell us about who is using the website.

If ever we need to use your personal information for any reason which isn’t essential to the running of Bristlr, we will ask for your consent.

We may disclose your personal information if we are required by law. But we would be super fucking unhappy if this happened.

There is a premium option (there always is!) which shows you the people you’ve yet to match with who have “liked” you.  But realistically, its the price of a coffee or theres the pyramid approach with a referrals..

Bristlr Matches screen

I’m signed up, giving it a try and of course you can give it a try too for free. Theres a referral if you like to enable me premium for a bit  http://www.bristlr.com/?referral=cubicgarden

Blame tinder or the sick people

Killer Prom Date - Dig The Grave Black & White

Jody sent me a link on Facebook, to this horrible story of a women who was gang raped after meeting a guy on Tinder.

This is horrible and shows the sick and twisted people who hopefully nobody will ever come across. However I do find the advice the detective says a little difficult to take in one go.

Detective inspector Haddow said: ‘It’s absolutely vital that people using dating websites and apps remember that how a person portrays themselves on the internet can be very different from their real life persona.

‘With this in mind, we strongly advise people that if they decide to meet a person they have been introduced to via the internet, then ensure the meeting is in a public place and take a friend along with you.’

I have been on dates with women who have brought a friend along and its been a slightly surreal experience. Now to be fair one was sitting on the same table as us and another one in the next booth. If you are going to bring a friend, for goodness sake don’t bring them to the table!

The story is so horrible and I can’t imagine much worst but its really hard to give advice on what to do before going on a date besides the usual stuff like meet in a public place, text your friend to say you’re ok, get them to call you at a set time. Most of these things the lady in question did and she still ended up meeting these sick people.

I guess the point I’m making is, its not great to put hard rules down, they may help but its not bulletproof advice. Its a matter of judgement,  if you feel somethings not right, get up and go. Heck climb through the toilet window if you have to. But the only person who really knows what to do at the moment is yourself, which is another reason not to drink too much on dates.

Its too easy to say she should have done this, she should have done that (blaming the victim for something so horrible is also a stupid thing to do – don’t look at the comments!). Frankly love and dating are very risky, you can do much to minimise the risk but at some point you need to open yourself up or you never will know.

Online dating? Why so serious?

Why so serious?

In passing I also found the hierarchy of seriousness in the Guardian’s post, interesting following the last post

At the top is something like Guardian Soulmates or Match – the ones you pay for. At the lower end are the likes of OKCupid or PlentyOfFish (POF) which are free, more casual and less “Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?”

Although I do agree about the statement, I think of it as more like a spectrum. You have your Match and Guardian Soulmates on one end and your Social dating apps like Tinder at the other end. Around the middle is something like OKCupid.

The more serious end of the spectrum is full of people wanting kids and marriage quickly. Theres also a certain amount of desperation you can feel coming from that end. Its very much what people use to make jokes about when they thought of online dating.

The other end is less serious and more casual. Yes you get casual hookups that end too but also you get people who are more laid back and less pushy about being in a relationship. Right now my circumstances would favor somebody from this end.

The mistake people make, is thinking all the quality is at the non-casual end of the spectrum. I’m not economist but dating is a bit of a numbers game. I guarantee the number of people you meet at the social dating end is far greater, even if its to meet and think never again. I would also contest that you will get more tech savvy young professionals and geeks than the other end.

Game mechanics in online dating

Josh sent me this

Not quite sure why he sent it my way except to say I’ve had very little success with Tinder myself. I have theories and to be fair the article hints at the same conclusions.

It’s playful. You put in your pictures and add some information if you can be bothered. I started with one line “Single Canadian girl in London”. It’s superficial, based purely on physical attraction, but that’s what I was looking for. You go through what’s there, if you see someone you like, you swipe right. If he swipes you too, it lights up like a game, then asks if you want to keep playing….But Tinder is addictive. You find yourself browsing and swiping and playing on.

On Tinder everything’s disposable, there’s always more, you move on fast.

A game, addictive, disposable… Like a casual game? Candy crush, angry birds, cut the rope anybody?  Somewhere on my blog I wrote about how the application affects the mindset of the user. Sure Sherry Turkle talks about this too.

Funny enough Sarah a while ago sent me a post about Tinder from Buzzfeed.

Once again, the application has an effect on the user behavior. Tinder is simply too game like. I mean I would contest that most social dating sites are using game mechanics across their sites and apps.

There seems to be much debate about if “Love is a game?” but this simply isn’t sustainable…

Little social test, how men on tinder react to makeup?

graffiti, Shoreditch
Tim is once again on a roll with this  little test of the effect of makeup on profile pictures in the domain of online dating. Or how men on tinder reacted to three different levels of makeup.

As many of you know, on Tinder you cannot view any reciprocated likes (matches) until you indicate your interest in that person by swiping to the right. So, when planning my experiment, I decided to swipe right for the first 100 suggested matches per account, then allow one hour afterward to see what kind of messages and matches it turned up. I then counted the reciprocated likes, messages and ages of my matches to see any general trends when it came to my level of cosmetic “enhancement.”

To be clear this isn’t a scientific in anyway… but the results did surprise me and the conclusions were slightly interesting… I say slightly…

Despite my reservations about the entire concept, however, the guys on Tinder surprised me. More men flocked to a bare-faced girl than a heavily made up one, yet they seemed most aggressively interested in a face adorned in average levels of makeup. Their language seemed to reflect what they thought of the woman behind the makeup, treating my bare-faced account as a friend before a hook-up. While it’s unfortunate to me that many of these men treated a woman as more sexualized because of her cosmetics, their cordiality in most of the messages was refreshing.

Part of this could be the out of your league thing? Or maybe its a good thing for once…? Because heck nothing else good seems to come from Tinder 🙂

When will social networking dethrone online dating?

Year of making love professionals

On the plane I read a number of posts including, Could Instagram Dethrone Online Dating?

The latest word is that online dating may be on its way out – and that even includes explosively popular mobile apps like Tinder – and that social networks may be on their way in.

Which leads to a post from the same people asking… Is Facebook Becoming an Alternative to Online Dating?

…over 19,000 people who had been married between 2005 and 2012, and asked them how they’d met. Those who met on social networking sites were more likely to be younger and married more recently compared to those who met online in other ways. He was surprised to find that those who met via social networking sites were just as happy as those who met online, and those who met online in general were happier than those couples who met in more traditional ways, such as through friends.

I’ve been banging on about this for yonks

No matter what the online dating sites think or even say (and I’m surprised how short sighted OKcupid and PoF CEOs are on this). They should be worrying about facebook.

So rather than go on about the obvious, I did spot something interesting in another related posted, Why Mobile Dating Is So Popular?

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of psychology at University College London, told The Times: “[Using a dating website] is almost like booking a holiday or a job application, as you try to customize your partners. Mobile dating – and Tinder is a good example – is different. It is more linked to impulse and emotions and focuses on attractiveness and looks, which is more realistic, even if it is a bit more lazy. It replicates the traditional version of dating more closely than Match.com or eHarmony as it allows for more serendipity.”

Now you may already noticed Tomas’s name from the Year of Making Love that crazy show I was involved in (well somewhat…). Anyway passing over that, its a interesting point. I don’t think its necessarily true but who knows, the behavior of people on Tinder and Grindr is questionable and addictive. Not far off a night on the town? Or at least the last part of the night when you look around for someone to hook up with?

The browsing and snap judgments are somewhat part of Tinder and Grindr. If they happen to have something in common, thats a bonus. If a friend of a friend, then thats certainly a +1.