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The Lie Hollywood Loves to Tell (jmtame.posthaven.com)
301 points by joshmattvander on March 29, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 249 comments

It was creepy the moment it wanted to authorize so much information from Facebook. Got creepier the moment the site asked me to start involving my friends without me knowing whether or not they wanted to be involved. Got super frustrating that my ability to even see how this site worked required me to drag my friends into this mess without their consent.

And from what I can see, there's no way for me to specify which genders I'm actually interested in meeting. (Yes, I know if I make profiles from my friends I can filter the people I'm looking for, but do you give me filters to let people know I'm not straight and therefore not interested in them?) If you're not straight, this type of thing is really critical. I'm not interested in messages from men and on OKC, I use the wonderful checkbox that makes it so that straight people can't even see my profile. That checkbox alone plays a big role in turning online dating from a lousy situation into a bearable one. Your writeup makes it sound like you only considered the dating patterns of straight people and your site doesn't appear to even bother to think about anything else. You appear to have mostly made a better dating site for you and people like you without realizing that dating is complicated and a bunch of people involved in a good dating ecosystem aren't going to be you, or anything like you.

I'll stick with OKC. (Which, by the way, I think is mostly great.)

Got super frustrating that my ability to even see how this site worked required me to drag my friends into this mess without their consent.

I'm going to add some explanations to the home page, I definitely agree with you here. It's a lot of trust to let someone access your Facebook, and we are not trying to abuse that trust. Your friend only finds out if someone is interested in talking to them, and if they want to delete their profile, it's easy to do.

Your friend will never find out unless you enter their e-mail address. We don't contact your friends on your behalf, ever. You must allow us to do that explicitly.

And from what I can see, there's no way for me to specify which genders I'm actually interested in meeting.

I don't want to exclude anyone from using this service. We're so early, which is why the feedback really helps me. There are two different things you mentioned here: one is the ability to wing your friends who are not straight. This requires a better filter. I can build that. The other part is creating a profile for your friend and indicating their sexual orientation so that other people on the site can indicate interest. That's a little tricky, but that can be added.

I'm going to e-mail you and see if you'd be open to helping me get this right, or if you know any friends who would be.

Sure. I think your social thing is going to need a lot of work to feel comfortable to people though, but I'd be happy to talk about it when I have time to spare.

Just sent an e-mail, no need to reply. I'll reach out again after we've built this.

> That's a little tricky

Ahh, the enthusiasm of a new startup. :)

Relationships are such a spectrum that this part is actually really, really hard. OKC gets it mostly correct, which is one of the reasons they're really popular with that crowd.

> Frankly, the most valuable antidote to schlep blindness is probably ignorance. Most successful founders would probably say that if they'd known when they were starting their company about the obstacles they'd have to overcome, they might never have started it. -pg

I know its considered a bit tacky to quote pg, but I am not as eloquent as he.

I've done multiple startups at this point, so I'm not as ignorant as you would suspect. Sometimes I wonder why I still do startups. I know exactly what I'm getting myself into, the only reason I'm willing to take it on is because I felt the pain from the end of my last relationship, followed by the pain of trying online dating. It's something I genuinely want to solve, and I know that it won't be easy.

"User growth" will flatline next week. Engagement will be low. But we're going to figure it out.

Thats the attitude, I wish you the best of luck!

So...90% of people, give or take, are straight.

Online dating is a clusterfuck of failure for straight people (ask anyone who's tried it, or the OP.)

Online dating mostly works for gays and lesbians (you say so, I've seen the same from others.)

And this guy is an idiot for trying to cater to the straight dating market? Precisely why?

> So...90% of people, give or take, are straight.

And a lot of those straight people may one day get involved with, have been involved with or may find themselves interested in someone who isn't straight. Many of whom are bi (or queer or whatever label) and most of whom do very very much care about being on a site that doesn't just serve straight people since they're open to dating both straight and non-straight folks.

So if a site is inclusive, the straight dating pool should be larger too. Even if you decide the only thing you care about is straight people.

> Online dating is a clusterfuck of failure for straight people (ask anyone who's tried it, or the OP.)

Funny enough, I can just ask myself, since I did use online dating to date plenty of straight people before coming to my senses.

Also, I have a fair number of straight friends, a lot of them appreciate OKC a lot and use it regularly with good results.

The people I hear complaining about it most often are usually people who are just angry about the fact that they can't get dates... online or offline. It turns out there's a lot of frustrated straight people out there, but there's also just a lot of straight people out there. Assuming that online dating works magically well for gay/lesbian folks but doesn't for straight people seems like a really large leap to make and also seems really untrue from what I've heard. (I've known LGBT folks who haven't found online dating to be that great and I should also note that in general offline dating can be harder for LGBT folks (especially in some parts of the world) than for straight folks and online dating looks pretty good by comparison.)

> And this guy is an idiot for trying to cater to the straight dating market? Precisely why?

Well first off, I never actually said that. What I did say was that the way the site felt it felt like it was designed with a pretty narrow frame of how dating worked and that narrow frame was likely going to be a problem in a bunch of ways. For me, it doesn't work at all for a bunch of reasons. For others, it'll likely be something else.

Look, if he was making a conscious design choice to only care about straight people, that's a thing you could do in a defensible way and you could probably design something pretty cool. But it didn't feel like a conscious decision, it felt like a decision that was made because someone didn't think through their problem well enough to even realize the things they didn't think about. And that's the real problem.

> Assuming that online dating works magically well for gay/lesbian folks but doesn't for straight people seems like a really large leap to make and also seems really untrue from what I've heard

Of course it isn't perfect for all of them, but it's a much less dysfunctional market than the straight one. Which means there's less of a business model in catering to gays and lesbians there (doubly true given that they're rare.)

And yes, in theory, straight people can date bi people, but again, by not perfectly serving that bi market you cut off a tiny fraction of your clientele. Screw up the straight market and your site is doomed. Which should he focus on?

> What I did say was that the way the site felt it felt like it was designed with a pretty narrow frame of how dating worked

Yes, that's called "targeting a particular market."

> Assuming that online dating works magically well for gay/lesbian folks but doesn't for straight people seems like a really large leap to make

Not if you live in an area with skewed gender ratios. The thing that makes gay dating in such an environment "easy" compared to straight, is that supply (gay men) and demand (people looking for gay men) is essentially the same (plus or minus a handful of bisexuals).

Whereas straight dating is fractured into two supplies and two demands, and

straight women = demand for straight men

straight men = demand for straight women

What you really want is for the diagonals (supply and matched demand) to be equal, but they aren't in a lot of places.

> Also, I have a fair number of straight friends, a lot of them appreciate OKC a lot and use it regularly with good results.

+1 for OkCupid working just fine for straight people.

I have had great success (just hit 1 year with someone I met on OkCupid, truly a great girl).

I know two marriages which were a result of OkCupid, one couple got married in France (not that it matters, they're just really cool). Most of the couples that met online that I know are quite good matches (IMHO quality > quantity anyway).

> The people I hear complaining about it most often are usually people who are just angry about the fact that they can't get dates... online or offline.

This is exactly it, in my opinion. OkCupid, and other dating sites, will help you meet more people. They will not magically improve your dating life. That's up to you, and it starts with improving yourself and your social skills outside of the dating world.

You need to be an attractive person before you expect someone to want to be with you, and you have complete control over that; it has nothing to do with your looks and predestined characteristics, and everything to do with your attitude and personality. That may sound hokey, but it's entirely true.

I think the site is a cool and fun way to meet people in a different way. I don't think it's ground-breaking or magically going to fix any dating problems, straight or gay. You might meet a few more people, but you'll still have to be actually interesting and good at dating if you want to go anywhere from there.

In other words, it's like someone complaining about not being able to get anywhere in a car because they don't have a map, and making a car with five wheels and a musical horn instead. If you still don't have a map, it ain't gonna help you.

There's a lot more to life than 'straight' or 'gay,' just so you know.

Beyond that, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_sexual_orientat... and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_demographics_of_the_United...

> According to a Williams Institute review conducted in April 2011, approximately 3.5% of American adults identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual, ... However, a significantly higher percentage acknowledge having same-sex attraction without identifying as LGB. This makes it difficult to accurately record the demographics of LGBT people in the U.S.

Yep, Grindr notoriously has had great success with their app for non-straight people. It's something unique to that market, but when you try to speed up the dating process for straight people, it has always failed. Why? Because you're missing identity. Girls are still scared to meet strangers off the Internet when you speed the process up. And that's totally legit. I even worry about it sometimes, and I'm a guy. If you meet someone from OkCupid, and something happens, you have no way of knowing who is on the other end. You just don't know their true identity. So it's a huge risk.

To clarify, this is just me and another guy working on this. We don't get to spend 100% of our time writing code. We have to put a lot of thought into what to build first, before we build it. Social dating is more of a psychology game than anything. You can throw features at people, but unless they make the user comfortable and are highly engaging, it's all a waste of time. We're not trying to target straight people, we just haven't had the bandwidth to accomodate everyone else. We'll get there eventually though.

Because he, as you are, is reasoning in terms of market which can only leads to failure to address the needs of the people using the service.

Remove the economist goggles, do without the gender distinction and start dealing with human beings and you'll be on the road for a successful dating service.

One thing I notice on Eharmony's website is that they have a different Eharmony site for blacks, asians, latinos, homosexuals, seniors, etc.

They don't really. It all goes into the same membership pool - the difference is only in branding and possibly some smart defaults. The unique branding for subcultures and subgroups is a conversion-increasing trick, it doesn't mean they're really running a bunch of parallel eHarmony's.

I kind of figured that's probably just what they did. Being none of those things, I didn't really check them out.

Exactly my thoughts reading the post, reeks and relents of heteronormativity and heterosexism. Using facebook for a dating site is plain wrong (what happens the day facebook opens a dating service and shuts your website access to facebook down ?) but only using facebook is definitely a tell to go away.

I think the thought process is that if you're going to be a wing person for your friend, you're going to know if they're interested in women or men. I the same idea of whether or not you would invite a friend that's in a relationships. I think the point is very valid though.

I mean the whole idea relying (solely?) on friends to find me dates thing already seems pretty bizarre, but even if you put that aside, the site has a browse functionality for a reason and presumably the intention of it existing is for people to be able to browse...

I mean I love my friends and when opportunities to set people up in good ways come along, I go ahead and make them happen... and I don't mind if a friend sets me up. But the whole feeling of a service where friends are setting up friends without having a dialogue about consent or you know, whether I'm even at all interested in them being involved in my dating life (god knows I have plenty of friends where I'm not interested in their suggestions) is just not really okay. And did I mention creepy? I did. But I should say it again for emphasis, because this doesn't feel like friends helping friends, it's just creepy.

I think adding a social aspect to dating is a great idea, but it's something that has to be done carefully and IMO this implementation seems radically bad.

It seems like a good possible solution for some people and it has a natural virility to it that shouldn't be underestimated. (Once your friends do it for you, they tell their other friends they did it for you and it should grow).

I get that you are not straight and feel like services should always consider you, but less than 20%, (and by most estimates 10%) of the population is not straight. Spending 90% of your time to go after that market seems like a waste when it will be difficult enough to get the straight market. I'm sure the OP will grow in to gay/lesbian market if they have success in the straight market, you can be patient and relax until then.

Just a few thoughts:

But the whole feeling of a service where friends are setting up friends without having a dialogue about consent or you know, whether I'm even at all interested in them being involved in my dating life (god knows I have plenty of friends where I'm not interested in their suggestions) is just not really okay.

The service doesn't put a gun to your head and make you go on the date.

And did I mention creepy? I did. But I should say it again for emphasis, because this doesn't feel like friends helping friends, it's just creepy.

I like when people use the word "creepy" because it doesn't actually mean anything. It is simply a description they use when they don't like something. "That girl/guy is creepy" means, they don't like them. "that social service is creepy", well you get it.

I think adding a social aspect to dating is a great idea, but it's something that has to be done carefully and IMO this implementation seems radically bad.

Why does it have to be done carefully? Taking a bold approach might work here, and I applaud the OP for taking it. If it is over the top, it won't work.

I'm pretty sure if you don't think the word creepy has meaning attached to it and don't understand how it's applied, you're very unlikely to be able to build or design a dating site that people (particularly women) are going to find comfortable and will want to use, straight or otherwise.

You've written a lot of comments on this, but I'm reminded of a quote from Steve Jobs: "Do you create anything, or just criticize others work and belittle their motivations?"

philwelch, you hit the nail on the head, I couldn't figure out why I was so agitated by her comments, but I'm pretty sure this is it.

Her ratio of value to criticism is too low for me I think. Further agitating me is that she has the top comment. I just can't imagine why someone would upvote it.

It's one thing to offer a perspective and perhaps some constructive criticism, but at some point you have to realize you've stated your point and just step back a little. It's the repeated comments for me. Jobs said that in exchange to a long and tiresome email thread--he actually took the guy seriously at first and responded straightforwardly to his points.

"Creepy: Causing fear or unease"

Now, I understand it causes you fear or unease, probably more unease than fear, but just because it causes you those feelings does not mean it causes others to have those feelings.

If this guy has success getting 7,000 people using the site, and only 1,000 of them are actually using it, he is doing a lot right.

If the site had a stellar brand and it was really clear what it was doing, your creep factor would probably lower significantly.

IMO, he should ignore your opinion and keep building. It looks like he is on to something to me.

I'd like to point out that facebook friends are not the same as friends. And friends do not necessarily know the sexual preferences of each other, it's not only about straight or gay, there's a whole range of sexual preferences out there and you don't always tell your friends about yours if they tends to deviate from the traditional cultural norm.

I think you're right about a lot of the problems with dating websites - I wrote about this recently too here (http://www.zacharyalberico.net/blog/dating-websites/).

I remember checking your site out when you posted it and it's nice to see someone trying something actually new, but I feel like this concept doesn't solve the common problems and adds some new ones.

Women will still be over messaged and men are still under messaged. People still ignore profiles in favor of photos - what does this change?

Now you need your friends to create a profile for you (granted at least it's not of the essay variety) and you need your friends to try and find people for you? I have a hard time seeing anyone doing that considering it's a relatively boring process with little return (the problem with the current sites).

I also think women are even less likely to use it considering your own point about them not wanting to involve their own friends. I would think people would also want to play a role in the selection considering it's a pretty subjective/personal thing.

Definitely awesome to see something new though and hopefully you prove me wrong and it works better than I suspect.

I have to disagree that colleges are the best place to start, from your blog. We actually started all of this at Stanford, talking directly to fraternity and sorority presidents. They all sounded excited when we said we'd taken them out for drinks to get their thoughts, but when it came time to pull the trigger and sign up, they wouldn't do it.

Why? Because the Greeks have it perfectly. They're basically paying fees for students to put together their social life for them. So actually, I just caught myself here: college students might be a good starting point, but Greeks are the absolute worst starting point. They don't need what we're building. And most college students I think would be reluctant to sign up anyway, they have their classes and student clubs they can join. They have a lot of opportunities.

But the problem becomes very apparent as soon as you move and graduate. You don't know anyone. You can't date people from work because that's shitting where you eat. You avoid talking to girls at the gym for the same reason. You're left with the bar scene, which isn't too bad. It still feels a lot more natural for me to meet someone in a bar than online, even though I've met several girls from OkCupid.

Your point about mutual interest addresses the pain of rejection, and agree with you on that. Let's Date is a great mobile app that addresses this perfectly. I guess Tinder is in the same boat, but neither of those actually worked for me. How many people did you meet from using it? I only met one girl from Let's Date, the rest I assume are fake or ended up deleting the app shortly after downloading it.

How was the checkin experiment you ran?

Yeah I don't think greeks are a good place to start because they probably don't need it, but I'd imagine other college kids would use it especially because they're busy with classes and other things.

Definitely agree that college kids have more opportunities than new grads though to meet people. I think the matching idea (tinder/let's date) is a good one, but like you I noticed the problem seems to be that girls don't actually use it - which is critical since otherwise nothing happens.

Never got a chance to run the checkit experiment because I ended up graduated early to move out here for a job. I do think meeting people out (at bars and things) is critical and the dating sites now don't take advantage of that - the check into places idea.

Dating sites set the bar low for messaging which contributes to the over messaging problem, there is a high social barrier to go up and talk to someone or ask someone out in person. The social barrier is actually a good thing because it means that if you go and talk/ask you already have a large advantage since most people were already self selected out. I think something that helps break the ice or helps with this meeting process in a specific place would be valuable. Otherwise I think most dating websites are shitty for heterosexual men in their early to mid twenties.

I think most dating websites are shitty for heterosexual men in their early to mid twenties.

I think it is dating that is shitty for men in that range. They have a limited pool of women in an age range that most of them want to be involved with. Those women in turn have socially acceptable dating opportunities with men of a much wider age range, including many men with better financial means than most men in their early to mid twenties. The result is too many men chasing too few women.

It's common to blame it entirely on financial means.

I think older men also tend to know themselves better. After a few decades you've grown into your own personality; you have good enough friends that there's no mad hustle to be what other people want you to be.

So you're comfortable in your skin. And that shows.

I've had dates at the same sort of cafés I'd have gone to as a younger man, so it's not as though I'm using fancy French restaurants as a status signal. It's just that I know myself better and don't feel as much like I need to prove anything.

To younger self: ^this

I got a message on okcupid once from a woman saying only "you're so attractive, why does your age filter include me?"

One of my current partners is about the same age as her.

The 'man should ideally be at least slightly older' norm is counterproductive and I hope one day it goes away.

(I'm not saying there aren't underlying reasons why that norm often works ... just that I wish people would consider those underlying reasons and give up on age as a hard filter rather than a probability contributor)

I do think meeting people out (at bars and things) is critical and the dating sites now don't take advantage of that - the check into places idea.

Yep. We weren't sure at first, so we asked girls: would you rather meet a group of guys at an event or a venue, or would you rather just go to bars? They want to go to bars because there's alcohol and it acts as a social lubricant. Everyone becomes more sociable.

Meeting people with groups of friends is hands down the single best experience out there. Figuring out how to replicate the experience on CWF is going to be a real challenge. It might not even happen, we might leave that to Flock. But what we do still solves a vast majority of the problems with all online dating sites, mainly the identity problem.

There's a natural filter when you go out to bars. It takes some courage--probably some alcohol too--to go up and start talking to girls. But it also requires some degree of social proof to get friends to comment on your profile, so I think it carries a similar effect. You're right that most dating sites suck for men in their 20s, but that's what we're trying to fix.

What has always weirded me out about post-college life is that the density of things like clubs and activities is much, much lower. I would have thought people would be social about their hobbies post-college, but somehow... not so much, in many places.

Women will still be over messaged and men are still under messaged. People still ignore profiles in favor of photos - what does this change?

Aren't you more interested in reading what somebody's friend has to say about them rather than what they're saying about themselves? Also, we have Facebook accounts (100+ friends required to join) which are not easy to replicate and we can rate limit. On OkCupid, the worst that happens is they ban you for spamming, and then you come back under a different username. Sure, girls might recognize the same photos, but you're fundamentally a free radical in the system.

Now you need your friends to create a profile for you (granted at least it's not of the essay variety) and you need your friends to try and find people for you? I have a hard time seeing anyone doing that considering it's a relatively boring process with little return (the problem with the current sites).

It relies on reciprocity, and it's actually fun when you try it out. If you're commenting on your friends' profiles, they'll naturally want to comment on yours. All of the comments on my profile happened not because I asked my friends to do that, but because I started out by commenting on theirs.

With the stigma, it's largely an issue skewed by age. More women in their 30s using dating sites socially, the sites just aren't designed to be social.

100+ friends required to join?

I'd be reluctant to date anyone who has 100+ friends on Facebook, that seems to me to indicate a degree of shallowness. After 7 years I have 59 and I honestly need to pare that way down. (Wow pruning my friends list, amazing how many people have closed their FB account! A good 10% of past "friends" no longer have accounts)

But hey, thanks for excluding introverts! Really nice of you.

My primary issue is that I only have about 3 or 4 people on Facebook who actually know me well and who interact with me on a regular basis that I'd trust to help fill out my profile.

In addition to that, the entire "guys only look at pictures" thing is BS. Yes I look at pictures first, right after that I read the profile. If the woman in question doesn't have indicators that we are a match in ethics and values, then I am not going to bother sending a message.

Indeed the primary problem I suspect your dating site has is the same problem sites like match.com have, they really don't allow for filtering by value systems. This is OKCupid's single strength that nearly makes up for everything else that is wrong with it.

I really don't care if a woman's friends say she is fun to hang out with. I do care what books she reads and what her feelings on various social and political issues are.

You're probably not thinking about all the use cases.

My girlfriend has over 400 friends (and she aggresively culled). But she was secretary for a political party, and also has a lot of "friends" from an online game ("My Fishbowl").

It's odd to find a girl with LESS than 100 facebook friends. Men in my social sphere, OTOH, don't have as many facebook friends unless they're actively trying to date through facebook itself.

I'll grant you that, social networking site usage is well know to differ based on gender.

But a heterosexual dating site isn't of much use if members of predominantly of one gender!

Just as a point of reference, I have 28 facebook friends, and I've been thinking about trimming that number down... but I'm pretty sure I exist.

Yeah, I think there should perhaps also be a 'time' factor. Because I know plenty of people who've deleted facebook altogether, returned, and are in the same boat.

The facebook reputation barrier is a good idea - should set a bar for the low end of quality.

I see your point about the reciprocity, makes sense and I wouldn't worry about the stigma - if your site catches on the stigma will just die faster.

I'm not sure I'd be more receptive to what a friend has to say about someone, but that's generally because what anyone says doesn't matter when the sent/received message ratio is so bad (which is what I tried to fix with the marking idea).

Cool though - will definitely keep following it to see how it goes.

>The facebook reputation barrier is a good idea - should set a bar for the low end of quality.

Wait, are people with lots friend "high quality people" or "low quality people"?

I meant quality as a reference to spam and spam like accounts. If you can't easily just create a new account or create multiple accounts then that eliminates those kinds of issues.

Is there a way I can e-mail you? Don't see your contact info on your blog or HN profile.

I should probably fix that - sent an email your way.

Facebook only was stupid to start with, but 100+ facebook friends requirement is something else, it means the service is only open to a specific kind of profile, the one who add people without thinking.

Funny thing is in my online dating profile, I have a requirement similar to yours: that people getting in touch with me have no facebook account.

Maybe it's my social circle (busy pushing-30 professionals) but I think there is almost zero stigma among my friends over online dating. In fact, less so among women than among men. Men for some reason feel they have to play the bar scene even if they don't like it or aren't good at it, but women feel no such need. Indeed, for a lot of my women friends, online dating offers the very real advantage that it's socially acceptable for women to actively choose in an online context, while in meat space the social convention involves their waiting for the loudest, drunkest guy to come up and hit on them.

It's highly geographical. Cities with a dating "scene" are far friendlier towards online dating than otherwise.

From your past posts it looks like you're NYC-based. NYC is by far (IMO) the best place to set up an online dating shop, since this city is by a very long shot the most accepting of online dating in the US.

Disclaimer: I work for a NYC-area online dating shop.

In many other cities, and in many subcultures and scenes, online dating is still very much stigmatized. I can't help but think that author would've gotten a very different perspective if he didn't choose to interview people at a bar in the SF Marina of all places (read: notorious area for meathead jocks and their female counterparts).

Not only that, but NYC has more single women than men. Which explains the eagerness of women there to do the choosing, and their openness to new dating methods in general.

Silicon Valley is the opposite. Too many single men, not enough women, inevitably means a sucky online dating experience for guys (unless you're in the very top attractiveness percentiles). I don't think any dating site can fix that, unless it matches Silicon Valley men to New York women or something.

Stigma may exist for the young kids, but on-line dating stigma doesn't exist for older people.

I have several older divorced and single friends (mostly women) and they date on-line for one main reason: it's just too damn hard to have an active social life while you're raising kids.

I got married before the whole internet dating took off, but the 90s did have "date-lines." It was basically an voicemail system.

However, any dating-for-dating's sake does underplay the best way to meet compatible partners: meeting them while you're doing something you really enjoy. I met my spouse in a Jazz singing class.

I've always thought meeting people based on social skills (in person) or good photography (on-line) is fine, but I think it's inefficient because you're selecting the database on the least relevant criteria.

Meeting on-line doesn't have to be just about photography, it can also be based on shared interest. My wife and I were on the same law forum and exchanged messages (not romantic, more like "you're so wrong about x, y, z") a few times before we met in real life in a related context (she was at my law school interviewing for admission). Several other marriages and engagements came out of the same batch of people on the same site, from city group meet-ups. Alcohol + a group of people comfortable with each other because they at least vaguely know each other online + a group of people with shared interests is a great way to spark relationships.

I don't think online dating is perfect as it's currently structured, but it has a lot of potential. I'd picture something like a dating site where you couldn't search for people ad-hoc, but which interest-specific discussion forums could link into. You'd create a profile, but only be found by people who reached out through some interest-specific site. This serves two purposes: it prevents women from getting spammed as easily, and it provides some context (posting history) for them to evaluate.

Here's what I'm getting at: if we were all more social about online dating, it'd suck a lot less. A majority of problems go away with online dating sites when you make it social.

Trying to make this sound cool by using the word "social" doesn't stop this from being the classic awkward kid's lament: "If only people were straightforward about mating and romance! If only there wasn't this forest of doublespeak and taboos surrounding sex! If only people stopped being petty and competitive and just openly admitted their desires and insecurities! We'd all be so much better off (me especially.)"

Hmmm.... I want to voice a modified version of it.

The real trouble is not the forest of doublespeak and taboos surrounding sex. Sex is, so to speak, the easy part. Once you find a compatible partner with whom you can communicate solidly about your relationship (see below), your meatware substrates come pre-programmed for the sex act itself ;-).

The problem is the forest of doublespeak and taboos surrounding basic human fragility. There's almost a bizarre, hypocritical handshake protocol here: to meet someone and make friends with them, you generally need to appear well-put-together, sane, and just generally competent at life -- all without seeming smug or overconfident or douchey, either. This mostly involves scrubbing off the parts of your self-projection to others that don't fit what other people think of as "competent at life".

Problem is, deepening and maintaining a relationship, romantic or otherwise, consists precisely of letting your guard down and showing your baggage. Your positive baggage too, not just the negative.

Among more reticent social groups or cultures, people rarely manage it at all. They're never willing to let their guard down or exchange baggage, so they go through life with a series of shallow "friendships" and "relationships" that keep seeming Just Fine until they abruptly end because there wasn't a strong enough bond to take even a feather's new weight.

Then you hit some arbitrary "getting older" age, look back, and realize you spent your youth fucking around, have few friends, and no marriage. Whoops, time for the Biological and Parental Expectations Clocks and the sudden run to the altar! In another couple years, time for a divorce!

Source: I have fairly close ties to most of my friends and I've been with my fiancee for going on five years now.

I like the way you've characterized the awkward kid's lament -- I think you nailed it.

However, this seems more like making online dating (which generally includes many attempts at making things more straightforward) into something that more closely mirrors the way many people find dates offline, through being introduced and endorsed by friends.

As a former awkward kid, I can't imagine that making things more social would be seen as favorable by someone who struggles with socialization and maybe has fewer or less charming friends.

Interestingly though, most of the relationship advice I hear is "communicate honestly!"

Would you say that's a bad idea in general, or maybe good for long-term relationships but bad when you're in the earlier stages of dating?

You've written the awkward kid character to sound enlightened.

He is, in a useless kind of way. It's one thing to think this way and another thing to propose that everyone voluntarily adopt social mores that put them at a disadvantage relative to the people who continue to use the same old stratagems. For something like that you need a social movement organized around a moral cause, with constant moral vigilance against cheaters (who would otherwise prosper, and might prosper even in spite of such vigilance.) That's unlikely enough, but it gets worse. Skill at organizing and inspiring a social movement is, by my guess at least, highly correlated with skill at succeeding sexually under the current social conventions. The people who are highly motivated to change current social mores around dating are exactly the people who are least likely to inspire a following.

Take it from someone who wasted his first five years after puberty learning the hard way :-|

Being open and honest about my desires and insecurities has worked out very well for me; the trick was learning to present it as confidence in who I am rather than an apologia for what I am not. Attitude is often everything during early stage interactions when you're both rapidly trying to size the other person up.

Then again, my taste in partners' personalities probably selects for people where that -will- work out well for me. Which for me is obviously a feature, but means I in no way am suggesting that it would work well universally.

Brian from OkCupid Labs here...

This post contains some really interesting and spot on insights. Some of the data doesn't line up with our (match + okcupid, etc) internal estimates/figures. For example, our estimates are closer to 50% of US have tried online dating, and 50% havent; significantly lower than that in other geographies. The idea of serendipity is definitely a real issue, and a frustrating one, because just the concept in people's minds and expectations alone prevents them from trying solutions that might work for them.

The simple fact is that, for most people finding work is just like anything else: it takes a little bit of attention and work to find the best person for you. That's not romantic, but its real.

I'm not sold that the solution is having your friends help you create a profile, introduce you to their friends, or attest for you. It seems like a lot of work for them, to be honest, with very limited returns. At the labs, our minds are focused on finding the future of dating in mobile, big data, leveraging social networks, and discovering how to create serendipitous connections through the above.

To the OP -- if you want to chat, hit me up; would love to chat. We're in SoMa.

Agreed. I liked the article until he got to the proposed solution. Part of why I like online dating is that my friends are NOT involved. I can take as many shots at finding someone I like without the problematic repercussions of complex social networks (both online and off) where every swing and a miss could come back to haunt me. Whenever you date a friend of a friend, there is always the possibility of fallout. OKCupid without a social network allows me to break free of the constraints of involving my friends. Making OKCupid social turns it back into a burden. Your "friends" online (most of who are not friends, but acquaintances by the way) will feel obliged to say nice things about you. No one will say the bad things which may be true. And your romantic prospects will know this. I like the idea of an online wingman, whom I could exchange tips with, but the idea of a group date? No way. If I'm not into a girl I make a quick exit on the date. No harm, no foul.

> our minds are focused on finding the future of dating in mobile, big data, leveraging social networks, and discovering how to create serendipitous connections through the above.

You should make a "Netflix challenge" for online dating.

Please don't; the Netflix challenge was a a historically embarrassing privacy catastrophe.


One theory on why the author might be having a little trouble with OkCupid comes down to this sentence:

"Unless your parents are Jewish and they threaten to disown you for not having a Jewish boyfriend...yea, you may not want to message me in that case."

I mean, I laughed, it's a funny profile, but ultimately it implies bitterness over your last relationship, which, in my experience, is a turn off for both sexes. Don't get me wrong, everyone's bitter after getting dumped, but your next significant other doesn't want to know about it (at least not at first). In fact, they don't want to know anything about your previous relationship, good or bad, period.

EDIT: This actually adds some merit to his idea...his friends would be objective and wouldn't make the same mistake.

I'll second the confusion over people thinking there's a stigma to online dating. I thought that was a 90's thing.

It's at least reflective of his low-filter personality. I'm more surprised that his friend in the linked Grouper article posts a picture and labels one girl as the grenade.

OKCupid actually has a question that you could use to filter out non-Jewish people or people who want to date only Jewish people. But unfortunately it sounds like she decided it mattered only when the relationship was underway.

Religious differences can sometimes be a convenient excuse to end a relationship, speaking from experience.

That's actually a common problem, for Jewish people or other people in inward-focused culture X

X person meets a non-X, they get along, and then X's parents turn the screws, ruining the relationship.

And JDate, BlackPeopleMeet, et al don't solve these culture x problems?

The problem is not that you can't find someone who is x, the problem is that when you find someone who you want to be with, and you don't give a flying fuck if they are x or non-x, you still get your relationship ruined by other x being dicks to your non-x and to you by extension. That is the problem. And no, those sites do not solve it, if anything they might make it worse. (You should dump your non-x because look how many eligible x there are on xdate.com and xpeoplemeet.com)

This is the core problem of a dating site:

1. Forging connections between pairs of strangers where they will fall in love,

2. …under conditions of oppressive patriarchy.

Number 1 is a pretty easy numbers game. for each person, a subset of people match them algorithmically. Another subset will be good matches. If your algorithm doesn't suck, some of the first set overlaps the second.

Number 2 is the problem. If you are asking why women are being swamped with textual street harassment such that the noise quite drowns the signal, why women need pseudonymity and ignorable messaging and no-appeal blocklists, why women get shamed for taking an active role in seeking a date (such as OKC) and don't want to admit it, why Mills & Boon nonsense holds so much cultural sway, and why social proof is the most effective way to get dates, the answer to all of the above is patriarchy. Rapey, commoditizing attitudes to sex are patriarchy. Passive, romance-movie, pedestal-putting, shaming, antisexual attitudes to love are patriarchy.

I honestly cannot tell if you are being sarcastic with regards to "Number 2", I hope you are.

Dead serious. Sarcasm set at 0.

I would respond to your comment on a point-by-point basis, but your comment pretty much consisted of one word: patriarchy. If you'd like to make a point, then make a point. Let's hear a solution to the problem. As it stands, you are simply throwing around politically loaded buzz words.

Right there with you. Patriarchy is placing all the burden of romance, shame, tenderness and gift-giving to us men, while women can get away with commoditizing us like sausages, then raping us. Cruel, cruel world for princes.

You are your own parody. You are living proof of Poe's Law. You are why feminism is now a dirty word and even successful women like Marissa Mayer don't want to be associated with it. Feel proud.

Heh. When feminism makes people - no lets not concede even that, when it makes MEN angry, it's doing its job. Having unearned, unequal power ripped away from you ought to hurt. But thankfully, as here with dating, there are things that will improve even for men when we've won.

Your claims are ridiculous and you're bigoted.

I think this may be solving a legitimate problem, but I think you are incorrect that the source of the problem is hollywood.

Online dating follows historically from personals classifieds. Personals ads contained very little information (in part because they had to be so short). This meant you were going on a date with someone you knew nothing about. It was worse than just a blind date... because you didn't even have any common friends to validate the person wasn't a psycho. People (esp. women) who valued their safety tended not to use personals ads, and there was a definite stigma that people who did use it likely had problems.

Though online dating is popular now, I think it was previously viewed as the high-tech version of printed personals ads. So the stigma carried over. It's certainly decreased over time, but I think that history is part of the stigma.

Again, I think you have a potentially viable solution to a problem people care about... even if I disagree on the source of them problem.

Hollywood helped to normalize the idea of online dating with Sleepless in Seattle - if it was good enough for tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, then sure, why not? OP comes off as slightly unhinged and blaming the world for his failure to find love.

Huh? The two characters met with Tom Hank's son called into a radio program. How is that online dating?

I'm sorry, I meant You've got mail. Both films star Hanks and Ryan.

It's OK. Most Hanks/Ryan movies are the same story with different set dressing.

Fair point! :)

Didn't they meet randomly in an AOL chatroom?

> Online dating sucks, thanks Hollywood

Also, I can't figure out why the alleged Hollywood lie would only impact online dating. Wouldn't all forms of dating affected? Certainly the "fate" aspect of true love isn't exactly new--Rom coms didn't usher in wave of zero dating.

If anything, it helps to have a link-bait title. You read it, didn't you?

Upon seeing the title I was expecting an article about movie piracy. I think this was ultimately more interesting.

The problem with online dating boils down to: guys have no idea what they are doing. I've helped my friends and the secret is to write a three sentence message: an intro about why the message, a funny sentence, and finally a light question. It's pretty simple.

I used it on OkCupid and got about a 30-50% response rate. Now I'm 6'8" and in shape which skewed the results but my friends copied what I did and their response rates skyrocketed. Then you only send 2-3 more messages before asking her out for drinks. Worked nearly 100% of the time.

I think that it comes down to, people spend way too much time trying to write the perfect message or profile. Be yourself. Think of it as a filter to get rid of the girls that you aren't compatible with.

Then when you're on the date, relax and just have fun. I've heard so many horror stories from my female friends of guys that are super awkward. The group setting is a great idea as it relaxes people and gives them support. That's why wingmen exist.

Yeah, just be tall, good looking, confident, and comfortable conversing in contrived situations like bar/cafe meetings with strangers.

Wonder why guys can't figure that out?

you can teach yourself to be confident and comfortable around women. I used to HORRIBLE back in the day.

Fake it 'til you make it. If you act like you know what you're doing for long enough, that will actually end up building confidence.

I bet your idea of a horrible dating life is most guys' idea of a Casanova style dating life, 6'8'', built, good looking guy.

no. do not be yourself if being yourself has not netted you success. men need to do the research and then put in the practice in what women actually want.

there are thousands of articles and dozens of discussion sites out there related to self-improvement and success with women. there is a huge spectrum from bad PUA stuff all the way to general fitness and nutrition focus, avoid the ones that turn you off and read the ones that appeal to your common sense.

i repeat - do NOT just "be yourself". tall fit white guy's advice does not apply to you if you are not tall and fit and white. you need to put in the work to improve yourself if you are not the hollywood marketed image of 'perfect guy'

ignore this guy and improve yourself in other more meaningful ways. attractive women do not exclusively go for good looking tall guys, not by FAR. women are not actually that shallow. it's more about personality and fitness.

The message pattern you describe sounds a lot like "the one-line hook"[1], and yes, it's very effective.


Good luck with the endeavour. Some thoughts:

Requiring 100+ Facebook "friends" to join may serve as decent "this is a real person" filter for college educated urban 20 somethings, but you are likely filtering out lots of potential customers older than 30, people who never left their small town, etc. Is there a better way you can accomplish the same goal?

Also, I'm not sure that one can ascertain that "men don't read profiles" from a study that 21 men in a coffee shop spent half the time looking at picture as 18 women similarly accosted by market researchers. That's a pretty thin read to make a decision on. Have you a/b tested how profiles might work for your users?

I'm wondering how the "I was looking on behalf of a friend, but stumbled across someone really appealing." thing plays out.

Again, good luck.

I'm honestly really surprised to hear that anybody thinks there is still stigma attached to online dating. I don't know what it's like for straight people, but online dating definitely has zero stigma for gay folks. I mean, compared to Grindr -- where all criteria for meeting somebody have been reduced to "I don't want to have to walk more than a couple of blocks" -- online dating like OKCupid is staid and respectable.

Grindr fixed the problem in the article about requiring lengthy descriptions, and it fixed the keywords/attributes/searching problem, by reducing profiles to an image and a geolocation. When I worked with online dating over a decade ago, we figured out that matchmaking is essentially worthless, and what you need to do is to throw profiles at people until they see something they like and can start messaging each other.

But what Grindr does, is it creates a virtual space of people around you, which makes it a lot more like real life bar dating, where you just have faces, and yet the straight version of it - I forgot what it's called - is not as respected as OKCupid, so there's still some way to go.

Not only does online dating have zero stigma for gay folks, it's one of the few viable routes for finding other gay people who don't appear flamboyant or effeminate. What I really wish existed was a way to find other nearby gay guys without the hookup overtones associated with Grindr.

Glory holes had zero stigma for gay folks. Gay folks aren't exactly picky when it comes to getting tail.

well, the stigma is that it outright tells me you don't have friends.

i never had to go out alone to find a significant other. Sure a few days i had to stay home because none of my friends wanted to go out. but that's life.

... you will probably not meet, and be happy with, someone you meet in a dive bar, or online dating. it's just common sense, or you may call it stigma.

That's a very "Hollywood" way to think. If you're looking for a compatible someone, why not increase your chances by searching among a group of people who are also looking for a compatible someone, instead of hoping you randomly happen upon people while out with your friends.

For an actual, sound reason: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Market_for_Lemons

Just as with employers looking for employees, some of the people who are looking just haven't found the right fit yet. The rest are people nobody wants. The former churn (or dwindle if the market isn't being replenished), while the latter remain constant.

The game-theoretic optimum in a market for lemons--whatever you might think of it--is to avoid "dating" to begin with, and instead just find someone desirable and seduce them away from whoever they're currently with. In employment, this is called "headhunting." :)

I don't think that's a particularly apt analogy, for the simple reason that people break up for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with one or the other person being a "lemon." Relationships are based on idiosyncratic compatibility, unlike cars where "lemon" is a well-defined, universal concept. E.g. it's rare that one person's lemon will be another person's dream car, but that's often the case for relationships.

A more apt economic analogy is that dating is a market where deals are hard to match up, transaction costs are high, and the repetition rate of testing compatibility to lead to a possible deal is low. Online dating reduces transaction costs, in the same way EBay does.

People break up with their cars for many idiosyncratic reasons as well. That just means there are good deals churning into the market; not that it's not a market for lemons. The requirement of a market for lemons is simply that it's very hard to discern the quality of a product, and that the people offering low-quality products are incentivized to hide the defects, so defective products "pile up" in the market, rather than being "flushed out" by some sort of spam-filtering process.


> a market where deals are hard to match up, transaction costs are high, and the repetition rate of testing compatibility to lead to a possible deal is low

This describes the housing market perfectly. It's also a market for lemons, or rather, it would be--homeowners are incentivized to hide defects in their homes--but we have house inspectors to remove this property from the system. There are no date inspectors.

"you will probably not meet, and be happy with, someone you meet in a dive bar, or online dating. it's just common sense"

Huh? Since OkCupid, and many others, work and are very popular, how can it be common sense that you won't meet someone you'll be happy with? Can you explain that?

You sound like you're 19. I'll take my downvotes just to point that out.

I picked my girlfriend[1] of four years up at a bar. After a few dates, she broke it off with a guy she'd been dating casually who she met through Match.com.

[1] Ivy-educated, Ph.D.-holding, tenured professor girlfriend.

Ivy educated and a two timer. How will you feel when she dates the next guy and after a few dates dumps you?

I don't see the need to brag about her education? Was that in some way relevant? It sounds like you might be feeling like you need to compensate for her to timing behavior.

> Ivy educated and a two timer.

Seriously? That's uncalled for. I hope you were just having a really shitty day, or something, and didn't actually mean to insult both me and my girlfriend.

Obviously, what I wrote wasn't clear enough. Read the other responses.

Do you not count that as her cheating on you?

She became a girlfriend after she broke it off with the guy from Match.

No, why would I? He and I both knew that she was going on dates with more than one person. There's no scandal. In fact, I'd be a bit worried about immediate overcommitment otherwise.

I wouldn't worry about those comments (I'm sure you aren't). A lot of people don't seem to make a firm distinction between dating and relationships.

The whole reason "becoming exclusive" is a thing/phrase, is because it's acceptable and expected to "date" multiple people.

> ... you will probably not meet, and be happy with, someone you meet in a dive bar, or online dating. it's just common sense, or you may call it stigma.

One of my best friends got married with a girl he met online dating. Another one met his wife on an online forum we both frequented. I met my last girlfriend (3 years) and my fiancée (getting married this summer) in bars/clubs.

That doesn't make any sense whatsoever. You're arguing that the only valid way to meet people is as part of a group.

About 40% of single people in the US have tried online dating. I would be very surprised if a majority of those people didn't have friends.

> well, the stigma is that it outright tells me you don't have friends.

That doesn't even make sense. Want to try again?

I think the lie told is not one of predestined love, but of perfect love. That you'll find the person of your dreams, they will sweep you off your feet, and you'll never have a negative feeling about them. It will all end storybook.

Of course the next 20 chapters are ones of compromise, empathy, regret, and apologies, with happiness and perfection in between.

ha! no shit. after almost two decades of marriage i laugh my ass off at this online dating stuff. what a farce. it's a perfect metaphor for the shallow cesspool our culture has become...

So you've never actually used any online dating service the past 20 years, but you still think you are qualified to dismiss it all as a farce?

I have several friends who met their significant others online, and are now happily married with children. But you just laugh...?

i'm happy for your friends, but as a practical matter they are very likely outliers in the statistical sense.

to put it in the perspective of this forum, all of my VC buddies put online dating plays in the category of domain specific search. that's a fairly sterile way to look at the process of finding a life partner, don't you think?

but beyond that, there is no credible statistical data, i.e. stats not produced by the companies themselves and peer reviewed, that would indicate these services produce anything like a non-niche impact on the occurrence of marriage in the US.

there are however numerous more deliberate commentaries on the topic of technology and its impact on the social fabric of culture. one of my personal favs is "Alone Together" by Sherry Turkle.

The more interesting question in all of this is why exactly online dating functions are even viable. IMHO the fact that people, particularly in the business we are in (i'm assuming you are in the software biz as well) spend so much time chained to a desk that they cannot go out and actually interact physically with other human beings is the point of my original response.

It's one tool of many. It's absolutely no shallower than any of the other methods to find a mate.

My 25+ year marriage is actually the product of "predestined love" and I think most people could end up with a love like that. The reality is that you have to keep your eyes open if you want to notice the person that's right for you ... and you have to meet enough people to find them.


As I thought a bit more about it, I also realized that you have to have some criteria for what you're looking for in a partner too. How will you know if you've found them? If all you can come up with is "a body like a swimsuit model", you deserve what you get. Looks might be one criteria, but maybe you'd be better off picking some other attributes to go with it? And perhaps weighting things like interests, life-goals, etc a bit higher.

I'd also recommend understanding your Myers-Briggs type and the types that are compatible (this is not your sign). Then learn the attributes that make up your compatible types and try to spot them in public.

It's not "predestined love" alone - it's also willingness to actually work on that relationship. I've got 23 years so far, and it's been awesome. But it required talking about things, occasionally compromising, being willing to listen, and paying attention to what's going on. And sometimes sticking it out, even when you thought "This really isn't fun right now".

And congrats on 25+ years - you're obviously doing it right :)

The issue I have with the soul mate theory is that people can and do change when they want to, when that happens your "soul mate" would also change, basically nullifying the entire concept.

Edit: I should say though I completely agree (about everything except the predestined part), people need to keep an eye out and know what they want, and not just physical qualities.

"I'd also recommend understanding your Myers-Briggs type and the types that are compatible (this is not your sign)"

You might as well recommend dowsing to find available mates.

Recently single, I took the bait.

Funny story, though: everyone above the fold (eight women) is someone I've either dated or wanted to. The first one? My best friend.

I am lucky my screen isn't any bigger though, because the next person on the list is my sister.

Nice idea. I've been saying this forever - getting friends involved in matching was the way forward for dating sites. But all glory to the person who executes.

This also removes the stigma of being on the site - you're not there for you, you're just there to help out your friend!

However I find it to be too creepy to sign up friends without their knowledge. You're asking me to reveal personal information about them to a third party site and an unknown audience of people. And there's a lot of potential for abuse, if I want to embarass a "friend".

Even if I find someone I think they'd like, how am I supposed to explain that I was pimping them out? I think there should be invitations first, like "hey, I made a profile for you on CupidWithFriends, check it out." Or ideally, do it with peer pressure, like "your 3 friends made this profile for you on CWF, they want you to accept." Then if the profiled person like it, they click a button to accept and only then does it go public.

EDIT: actually, what if you changed the focus to "stories about friends", where dating was a sort of side effect? I think I'd feel less creepy if I felt I was making a little tribute to a friend, rather than selling them.

This could work for any situation where you want to match people up. Even in matching jobs to people. LinkedIn sort of does this, but they ask for super boring testimonials like "implemented action items with diligence." Stories are so much more interesting, and they are what really sells you on somebody anyway.

Relevant discussion of the perfect mate myth, in hilarious song form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeZMIgheZro

I do wonder if he's still married to her.

20 years, 2 kids.

Another question is, of course, if straight dating can be fixed at all. After short stints on all the major dating websites, and of course trying to date in the real world, I've come to believe that the basic expectations people have can't really be satisfied, mostly by virtue of mathematics.

The following is a male perspective, but I think the observations should be on par for the other side as well:

First, there is supply and demand. There are not a lot of available women around (once you exclude the spam accounts), and that may very well be in large part due to Hollywood expectations. There are, however, a lot of men. That fact alone means that for most men, this won't work out at all. Once you get past a certain age (say 30), this mirrors the situation of the physical world exactly. At this point, it's a game of playing musical chairs that a lot of us simply can't win. But it only gets worse.

While most of the female profiles portray fundamentally damaged people, the men are overwhelmingly fit, handsome, and great in general. This could mean that women are just more honest in filling out these profiles, but it could also mean that women only join online dating sites if they have absolutely no other alternative left, whereas men create profiles as a matter of course.

So being me, I can't begin to compete with the other guys on attractiveness, or money, or general awesomeness. Not only that, I'm so vastly outnumbered it's not even funny. And the very limited resource we're competing on seems to be mostly reluctant, frustrated women who hate being on the site in the first place.

And in what I can only assume is a typical pattern, I meet exponentially more women AFK than online. Now if it continually isn't working out in meatspace, there is really no reason to assume it's going to be any different if the introduction was through a website. If anything, online-induced meetups are vastly more awkward. At least if you meet organically, it can always be in a friendly non-committal social context. When you meet online dates, it has to be about dating.

I don't think this is fixable. I'm not sure it should be fixable. There are plenty of people who still profit from online dating, but it doesn't really provide any discernable advantages for people who are already at a disadvantage. The perception that there must be someone out there for every single one of us is also a Hollywood myth.

In fact the only reason I can conceive where online dating makes sense is for attractive people who just don't get to meet a lot of potential partners in their daily lives. Now, that's not a small market. It may even be the majority of cases. But it took me a while to figure out that there is not a lot online dating can do for you if you don't belong to that group.

Having friends make your advertising for you doesn't change these mechanics. Of course it might improve the quality of the experience for the above-mentioned privileged group, but at the end of the day I'll have exactly the same odds as on any other dating site. To some degree, all dating sites (even those genuinely interested in making online dating not suck) capitalize on the Hollywood illusion that somewhere out there is my reasonably perfect match. They're playing on the assumption that everyone is dateable, and they in fact have to deceive you into thinking that the world of dating is not as depressing as it actually is.

Online dating works well for people who are already likely to be successful at dating AFK. For these people, online dating could probably be optimized. For others, probably not.

> the men are overwhelmingly fit, handsome, and great in general

I'm not ashamed to say I've used online dating with great success :) I'm by no means "fit", "handsome" or otherwise awesome - and my dating successes before OKCupid amount to very little.

However... I'm a pretty nice guy. And a lot of the guys on dating sites, especially those that actively message people, are jerks that no one wants to date. The secret is that many guys are on there because they have no alternative either!

As you say, there are many less women on these sites. But when you filter out the creepers and jerks it's probably about even.

Everyone I've dated from websites (~6 dates, 2 of which turned into relationships) has said something like "well, I was going to give up on it because everyone was a jerk, but then your message was so nice".

The key is to take an interest and be pleasant. It's ridiculous how many doors that opens in real life, let alone online dating!

> When you meet online dates, it has to be about dating.

Isn't that the appeal? There is none of the "are we on a date" mechanics. Both of you are there looking for something.

I agree. In the Boston area I've had great luck with online dating. (And personal ads before there was online dating). Well, I haven't yet met the love of my life, I suppose, but I've gone on what must be a few dozen dates over the decades via this route, had seven long term relationships from this, including one woman with whom I got married and divorced.

It's funny... here in New York City, I hear people saying the exact opposite. That guys are having a great time on a dating site, because there are tons of attractive and interesting women, and all the single girls seem to create profiles! And girls not having a lot of luck on a dating site, because a lot of guys don't create profiles, and sometimes it seems like all the "good" ones are taken.

However, this may also be a function of age -- I'm in my early thirties, as are my friends. And of course, New York City.

I do think you're right about "online dating works well for people who are already likely to be successful at dating" -- in my experience, whether it's online or offline is irrelevant. Online dating isn't any fundamentally different at all -- people are attracted to each other, or not. Online dating just vastly widens the pool of potential people you might meet. You might see 100 people in a bar one night, and 90% are immediately out of your age/gender range, leaving just 10. You could easily browse through 200 filtered candidates on a dating site in an evening.

Guys, seriously, spend a few years on the East coast. The girls are nice, down to earth, educated, and plentiful. And the winters will make you tough.

I dunno, man. I just wish they all could be Calfornia girls.

They are! Where do you think the smart California girls go to school? In Boston.

You bringing up things being different in New York City made me remember that if you compare the proportion of women and men of New York City and Los Angeles, you will notice that there are more women than men in New York and the opposite in Los Angeles. Now this fact alone may not be enough to conclude that based on these ratios that it is the cause of such a change in quality of women. But from another perspective it makes sense. In Los Angeles and in California, there are less women. This means that women have a much larger pool of men that they can choose, so they can afford to be picky. This means that the proportion of good looking, successful men using online dating increases since there aren't enough women in the local area to date. Now New York on the other hand, the advantage is for men as there are more women and they can be picky. This means that even attractive and interesting women now have to make themselves publicly available via online dating.

Of course this is just a hypothesis so of course this may not be the case.

Yeah, New York City has got to be the best place I've ever been single (and that includes Sydney, Oz). The women are pretty great here. As for the OKC thing, the general attitude is that it's good to ration your usage because it's _too easy_ to fill your schedule with online dates and not meet women offline.

Try Singapore, too.

That's just an extension of the "big city" effect. In general, attractive women gravitate toward big cities seeking successful men. I know that sounds sexist, but it really is a thing and it skews demographics. There are more dating women in NYC competing for fewer men. The situation in Nome, Alaska is reversed.

It sounds like a sexist comment because it is.

The reality is that in a place like New York educated women move to the city for their careers. So do men, however when men get married and have children they tend to continue to work, whereas it's more common for women to leave the workforce. Hence, the percentage of the men in the city that go home to their family in Connecticut (or Westchester, or whatever) is much higher than the percentage of women that do so. Far more of the men in the city are ineligible. Couple that with higher university graduation rates among women and the trend will only continue.

I've _never_ seen behaviour that would indicate that women move [to New York] in order to find successful men. Oy.

I'm not sure I understand your logic. Let's say 100 men and 100 women move to the Big Apple for their careers. Now let's say 50 of the men and 50 of the women hook up, get married, and move to Scarsdale. Let's say all of the women who have moved to Scarsdale buy a minivan and give up their jobs. Now, during the day, we have 100 men in the city and 50 women, giving a 2:1 ratio of men to women, but there are still 50 single men and 50 single women, giving a 1:1 ratio of single men to single women. And at night there are 50 men, all of whom are single, and 50 women, all of whom are single. Again, a 1:1 ratio.

So where does the demographic skew come from in your model?

Personally, I'm not so convinced that women move to the Big Apple merely search of successful men, though. There's all sorts of stuff going on in NYC that would appeal to women!

Ignoring the heteronormativity here, there are far more single women on the east coast (especially NYC) than men. It's the opposite on the west coast.

You're forgetting the job vacancies that are filled when the married women leave the workforce.

And these job vacancies are gender-specific? If the 50 job vacancies must then be filled by 50 single women, then yes we now have a lot more single women in the Big Apple. If they can be filled by 25 single women and 25 single men, then the single men:women ratio is still 1:1.

I guess I might buy the argument that the vacant jobs might go to 30 women and 20 men, which would back up your point.

Yeah, I probably should have expanded. Those jobs are often in fashion, journalism, and other fields that have a higher female to male ratio.

I see it as a sexist comment if you're incredibly sensitive to any claim that men or women might have trivial motivations. It's unfortunate, but stereotypes don't just come into existence with precedent.

No, it's sexist if it's presuming that more women than men have trivial motivations or that those have more influence among women than men. Particularly when there are other, far less condescending and far more likely reasons for the gender skew in NYC.

I think you're right that this is not the reason for the gender skew, but I feel obligated to point out that the men might just take different actions in response to the trivial motivations.

Are you on the West Coast of the USA? It could just be that your problem is that single-male and single-female populations have segregated themselves geographically, as in the US. Over there, the West Coast has a huge surplus of single males, the East Coast has a huge surplus of single females, and as you move towards the center of the country (where I think people are less geographically mobile, and thus less self-segregating) the surpluses disappear.

If I understand you and your parent correctly then what you're each implying about differences in numbers of single men seeking women and single women seeking men within a given area appears to violate at least one of a few basic and seemingly-reasonable assumptions:

1. The ratio of females to males is very close to 1 anywhere in the country.

2. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, etc. is about the same in males and females.

3. Almost everyone who does not identify as "single" is in an exclusive relationship with one person.

I don't live in the US so am quite probably missing something here that you know and I don't. Or my reasoning is mistaken. Could you clarify?

Which part of it is supposed to be incorrect? The map has basically the western half of the country blue and the eastern half red.

Is the contention the word "huge" because the disparity is only ~103:100 in a lot of places? Because that's actually pretty big when it comes to dating, because of the "available pool" problem: Most members of both genders are paired up already, and each pair removes one member from each pool. Those with a different sexual orientation from you or those not actively seeking a relationship come out of the pool too. So you go from 103:100 to something like 13:10, which is pretty huge.

I think you're a little confused. I'm replying to someone who stated an assumption that the male:female ratio is very close to 1:1 everywhere in the US. I said that is incorrect, and demonstrated with a map of gender ratios. Your apparently-disagreeing reply to me is actually saying what I'm saying.

Aha, I did not realise that. How interesting. Thanks!

The values on that map are a little frustrating, have we got anything which offers more precision for those enormous 1-91 and 108-205 ranges? I look at that and think "Across the country the ratio could only vary between about 9 men for every 10 women and 9 women for every 10 men and the diagram would still be totally correct - is that even really significant?".

("Is that even really significant?" is a whole other question that I'm sure someone can easily answer. I don't have any intuition about how skewed a gender ratio has to be for it to be noticeable to a member of that population, certainly if someone told me that there were only 9 women for every 10 men in a city I wouldn't immediately think my chances of hooking up would be hurt too much...would they?)

I think that the places covered by those enormous ranges can be fairly comfortably assumed to almost all be close to 91 and 108.

As for a 9:10 ratio, it all depends on the rate of committed relationships. Remember that this is all people, married, committed, and single. If they're all single, 9:10 is probably pretty good. If 95% of people are in a committed relationship (ignoring homosexuality, which probably cancels out) then you have no hope at all. If we pick a more sane number like, say, 75% (not sure how sane, but...) then that results in about the singles scene having about a 2:3 ratio, which is not so great for the people on the 3 side.

According to the statistics site that the OP used, 54 million Americans are single. [1] Ignoring the 62 million Americans that are under fifteen, we find that only 21% of American adults are available. [2] So if your area's ratio is 9:10 and ~80% of the people are taken, you end up with a 7:12 ratio among the singles (ignoring homosexuality).

[1] http://www.statisticbrain.com/online-dating-statistics/

[2] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/...

Great explanation! I have a much clearer understanding of it now. Cheers :)

I think the reason for the difference is pretty clear. By the West Coast the parent really means Silicon Valley and Washington, the major tech hubs. In Silicon Valley in particular, that is the industry. And, of course, plenty of the employees are imported from other areas, and the professional gender balance in this industry skews overwhelmingly male. So it creates a corresponding gender imbalance in the surrounding geography.

And those non-native employees come from somewhere, which is predominantly the East Coast, because companies can pick up employees from there who are U.S. citizens and have attended good universities. So it makes those populations skew slightly female.

Right, I see. My instincts about the US are non-existent, but your explanation combined with some googling of the populations and land sizes of those areas has made it much clearer. Thanks!

I find that the current society (for the lack of a better name) have a HUGE problem with finding a partner (online or otherwise), as what we perceive as the "common" ways are terrible.

The "Hollywood myth" that we all have our soul mate is the one that gets into everywhere, but there are more. The idea that attraction is always at first sight, for example. That going to bars and huge parties is a good way of finding someone (they are highly inconvenient places to talk to strangers) The pressure that makes that a rejection is a tremendous deal. The whole male / female "expected behaviour". Tons of behaviour that can be misinterpreted as good or bad, for almost random reasons...

From my point of view, is almost like if we don't want people to be engaged! I feel that, some time ago, there were channels where your family or others try to help in (or force) the process, including things like arranged marriages, balls or strong courtship rules... Of course, that's all extreme from our point of view, but right now we are basically getting a teenager influenced by tons of books, TV and movies that are not-exactly-telling-the-truth and creating unrealistic expectations, and push them out of the door, saying "there you go, go figure out for yourself!"

I don't know what is the solution (if there is one), but right now the whole process of searching someone feels like extremely inefficient to me...

The situation you describe here has been fixed a couple times to my knowledge, then the monetization part kicked in and the service became broken for males who don't pay, then for pretty much everyone. The service got worst but the money keeps coming in so it will probably never be fixed.

The point is if you design your dating service with those issues in mind they can be efficiently addressed.

As much as I agree with what you pointed out, it still doesn't address the attrition rate that occurs mostly for women that I pointed out below. Take any account and look any inbox over time and the attrition rate becomes obvious. If you look at my inbox on OkC, and you go to the last page of messages (about ~2 years ago) and most of the avatars next to the message are the default avatar, which usually indicates that the accounted is deleted or turned off. If you look at the account of a heterosexual woman that has been on OkC as long and look at a page of messages that are equivalently old, you'll see that most messages have a photograph avatar next to the messages.

It may be fundamentally unfixable, but it doesn't mean that the ratio of hetero women to hetero men can't be far more equal than it is now.

Message exchanging liquidity can also be improved, possibly via the methods I outlined below.

Why would there be a lot more single men than women around? That don't really match the statistics (assuming you are from the US or Europe at least).

What's the incentive for my friends to do all this work for me for free? Why would I bother setting up a profile for a friend? It seems like a lot of work for no benefit.

The OkCupid profiles make more sense: you make them so that you look good and you get dates. Work -> reward.

The article was tl;dr for me, but is there a gamification angle?

Like can me and my buds set up a fantasy football league and see how our team scores against other teams (or against women teams??)

Because gamification, social media, that's money in the bank right there.

At first I thought this had to be a parody comment, but I think you're actually for real. Amazing.

Because they're your friend and you want them to meet someone that's right for them...? I have a friend whose roommate made an OkCupid profile for her because she wanted her to meet more people.

Actually there are plenty of people who would do something like that for their friends. I don't know much about the dating scene but I have a number of friends who do dedicate time and money to arrange dates for their friends. I'd say the benefit you get is the satisfaction you gain from helping out a friend.

As someone who is recently married, my incentive is for them to get hitched and hopefully knocked-up so my wife and I aren't awkwardly the only married/baby-ed people in our friends' circle!

I'd find it more than a little creepy if my friends were setting up a dating profile for me without my consent.

I remember times when online dating was not broken.

Times where it was not organized by a third party trying to make a profit out of it.

It happened on IRC which was quite different: it happened in real time, it was text based (no pictures until you had proven yourself worthy). Though it already featured the too many messages towards women issue but it was easy enough to put the offenders on ignore and as once disconnected there was no way of messaging you they didn't pile up in your absence.

Online dating sucks but to me the main reason is that online dating is mostly governed by businesses trying to build a profitable business model for them, putting their own interest before those of the people using the service.

First comes the somewhat innovative idea, then the launch of the service with the accompanying marketing in order to gather a comfortable bunch of profiles and it's monetizing time in a stupid way usually by putting artificial barriers effectively killing its usefulness. From there it is inertia for a while, then the cycle starts again.

Hollywood may have some responsibility in shaping some people expectation of love but I don't think this is much related to online dating being broken. Actually I failed to find any link in your article which seemed to be a shameless marketing attempt at driving more people to your dating profile service, as is expected during the launch phase.

Then I would not touch anything facebook related with a 10 foot pole, let alone a dating profiles website where facebook friends, a.k.a. not actual friends, are in control without me knowing about it.

IANAL but I wonder about the legality of this, I'm not sure one is entitled to fill an online profile for someone else, it may be considered a form of identity theft.

I don't know where the author gets his statistics from, but I am skeptical that 75% of the population in the US uses online dating. It often takes decades for social and sexual mores to change (if you don't believe me, take a look at the ample evidence from history). I suppose I fail to grasp the value proposition of a service such as this, though it is certainly an interesting experiment.

agree, i'd like citations as well.

It has a flaw of requiring a person to have friends.

There's always mechanical turk.

100 "friends"? I've been on the facebook for seven years and I don't have that many, because I only fried my actual, uh, friends.

I fried my friends too :(

With some fava beans.

Don't forget the chianti.

Wait, what? My friends might be setting up a profile for me without even knowing it? I sure hope that's qualified by "if I'm signed up", because otherwise I might need to engage in some rage.

I have heard quite a few cases of people setting up profiles on dating sites to "prank" or "actively slander" a person. Trying to get stuff like this resolved is difficult.

They can already matchmake you without you knowing it offline; what's the difference if it's online?

Presumably they wouldn't be allowed to use your real name or super-identifying photos or anything, so this "dating persona" they set up from you is divorced from the rest of your identity, and nobody will find it by looking for you.

> ... what's the difference if it's online?

The difference is that if it's not online, then it's purely interpersonal; a social, private, ephemeral (as in not recorded) sort of activity. But if it's online it's like publishing something in public; it's broadcast to a large number of strangers and it's recorded for a long time. Big difference, I would say.

How would you disallow them to use your name or identifying pictures ?

Funny thing is IINM this is probably illegal in several countries around the world, both setting up an online profile for someone else, without his/her knowledge being aggravating, and not providing exact personal information.

If my friends did this to me, it would probably put a definitive end to that friendship.

> How would you disallow them to use your name or identifying pictures ?

By making it against the TOS of the site, and banning profiles that do it.

> probably illegal ... not providing exact personal information.

Presumably it's a profile about you, but it's not a profile impersonating you. They don't sign up using your name/birthdate/et al; they have their own account, which they use to fill in the details of your profile.

To be clearer: the concept isn't really that you're filling out someone else's profile. Instead, it's more like (exactly like) a "review" site--friends giving "product reviews" of friends, talking about how you should "buy" this friend or that. They just appear without attribution, conglomerated into a "consensus profile" of "what others think about this person." I imagine it's very clear that the person themselves didn't make the profile, any more than hockeyfan3392 on Amazon made the Macbook his review is attached to.

So what happens if you don't have a lot of friends, or in my case, if all your friends are engaged or married and have no reason to be on a dating site?

I think what happens is, this model falls flat on its face. It's a good idea though, for a group of single friends.

Sign Up is broken.

http://www.cupidwithfriends.com/sorry : Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.

The same issue with Chrome: The webpage at http://www.cupidwithfriends.com/sorry has resulted in too many redirects. Clearing your cookies for this site or allowing third-party cookies may fix the problem. If not, it is possibly a server configuration issue and not a problem with your computer.

I've tried to sign up under different fb accounts.

Do you have >50 Facebook friends when you try to join?

You're completely right, people are lazy, but online dating is also way more work than it has to be.

Women receive so many messages that it becomes overwhelming and too much work and men try sending earnest messages for a little while and then concede that it's basically a numbers game. These two phenomena are self-reinforcing. The more messages women receive, the less likely they are to respond. The more messages a man doesn't get a response to the more likely they are to put less effort into their messages. If you solve this problem, you effectively solve attrition rate in dating sites.

If you look at an old inbox full of sent of received messages for a man versus a women, you'll notice something interesting. The woman's inbox will be full of avatars next to almost all the messages. Men don't delete or suspend accounts. Now if you look at the inbox of the men on the other hand you'll notice that more and more of the messages have the default avatar next to the name as you move back in time in the inbox. This is because many women become totally overwhelmed by the number of messages, the quantity of them that are vulgar, etc.

I've talked to a bunch of people about this (because I'm one of those few people that has no problem talking about online dating because like you I think it is the future) and the conclusion I've come to that many people agree with is that online dating needs the equivalent of the spam button in many email inboxes. However instead of saying the words "Mark as spam", there should be two buttons, one that says "Mark as did not read my profile" and one that says "Flag as vulgar or offensive". The first button is to be used every time a women (or a man) receives a message where someone sends a one line message with no content specific to the recipient or any message which is obviously cookie cutter (cut & paste job)[0] and the second should be used whenever the sender is overtly sexual or mean.

Every time these buttons are used it should impact a score on both the sender and the recipient. For the sender, they're "doesn't read profiles" score should go up and for the recipient that used the button, their "cares that senders don't read and consider their profile" score should go up. The same goes for vulgarity/offensive content. The balance of these two numbers should determine if the message makes it through to the recipients email inboxes at all in the future. You could even warn senders when their score starts getting too bad, like "This message will not be delivered to this user because you've been flagged as someone who doesn't consider the content of user's profiles when crafting a message" or "This user only receives messages from people who take time to craft a personal message". If the sender then goes back and significantly modifies their message before sending again (verified via a text diff and possibly the passage of time), then send it through. This time however, if that message gets flagged by the recipient, then it counts very negatively towards their score.

If you use an approach like this you should be able to keep the inboxes of females (and desirable males) with a high signal to noise ratio. This will greatly improve their experience and lead them to respond to more messages and not get so fed up with the bullshit messages that they either quit responding or quit the site entirely.

[0] The only counterpoint to this are messages that achieve the Forer Effect[1]. One of my friends has crafted some particularly generic messages (his own admission) that presses all the right buttons just like horoscopes texts do and he gets a pretty solid response rate despite the fact that those messages are just cut and pasted. He's even frustrated that his well thought out personal messages often perform worse than his generic ones that play to a recipients own positive self image. TBH, I'd like to take Forer's original text, and modify it for OkCupid to see how it performs. Besides crafting the message, I'd need to figure out how to produce an acceptably generic profile that still conveys enough authority for the recipient to think the fake profile has the authority to make those statements/judgements.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forer_effect

Your proposed solution seems really awful. Don't you know that such a power structure (see consumerium wiki about sysop power structure) will inevitably be abused. Also the recent Pycon incident should put some light on the usefulness of a "flag as offensive" button.

Your solution is Hard Security when Soft Security is way enough (refer to meatball wiki for more on these notions).

Not only that but this problem has already been solved a few times, a simple and effective but not perfect solution: a man cannot message a woman until explicitly allowed by the woman. a man can notify a woman her profile caught his interest with a poke-like of which he gets a limited amount per day. There goes the message overload for women issue.

Now remove the heterosexism component and make it so no one can message anyone until explicitly allowed by the recipient and not only you got the message overload issue under control but you get an incentive for people to put some care into writing their profile and reading other's.

There's probably a better way, but this one is IMHO at least an order of magnitude better than your proposition.

The solution is in challenging how we suppose this should work and not in trying to fix those broken assumption by placing additional layers on top of something defective by design.

The solution is even easier. There is no need to have messages individually marked, the system knows what is being sent and can handle it automatically.

Auto detect spam messages. If a guy keeps sending out the same copy and paste, after 2 or 3 sends, just forward future copies to /dev/null.

Now this has to be personalized! If a women responds to those types of messages above some certain threshold, then hey, let her receive them, no problem.

I was thinking of adapting xkcd's robot9000 to dating sites on the other day. Instead of searching duplicate messages from 1 user, you search for duplicates across the entire database, with exponentially increasing ban periods if your message is not original. It would definitely force men and women to write meaningful messages.

I guess I will have to introduce random spelling errors into my messages then.

Spam filters can already detect this. :) Sorry!

These points are good, esp. the aided detection of spammers. But what you are proposing is basically some amendments to classic dating sites, nothing about the very premise of this startup helps.

And honestly, I believe the idea of having friends writing your profile is very flawed. Maybe it's my own personality, but I cannot see that happening to me or any of my friends.

Online dating is never going to be perfect because no dating is ever going to be perfect. But roughly speaking, everything is already invented. Dare I say, pay sites do the bulk of the filtering by having people pay (mostly us males), and that just works and finances the site. As simple as it is. And this is why they still exist.

So yeah, you can add a few elements, maybe some enhancements to traditional dating sites but the basic mechanics are just that: everybody self-promoting and looking for other people, following their basic instincts. How much can you direct that to be more effective? probably not that much more.

Completely agree. I only read the post. I didn't check out the guy's dating site because I'm in a relationship and I'm still working on trying to make it more open.

The one habit I think still needs to be taught to people on dating sites is the value of publicness and openness. About two years ago I got my mom to sign up for OkCupid (a few years after her divorce) and the biggest problem I encountered was her reluctance to be open. People are afraid to put any identifying information or any information that deviates from the public image they maintain at work and in social circles. This basically sets themselves up for failure because connecting with the right people for you really is dependent on both parties being open enough to find real connections. Jeff Jarvis I think has given one of the best talks on the value of openness. If you've never seen it, definitely check it out.

[0] http://buzzmachine.com/2010/04/22/privacy-publicness-penises...

While your point is valid, I'm left wondering if too much openness becomes a problem. When I was single, I made an OkCupid profile and decided to, for better or worse, be as open and honest as possible (a principle I adhere to in meat space as well). I had over 1200 questions (this is a lot) answered and never tried to make myself seem like something I wasn't.

I figured I was doing everything right, and I was optimistic (a good handful of my friends had great success on OkC), but I barely got any dates, and the ones that I did ended up being duds. I did this for maybe 8 months.

Contrast that to the couple of months I signed up for a paid match.com account (pro tip: paying for a service and looking for someone else who has paid for a service shows a mutual seriousness about the service; OkC's barrier to entry is practically zero so many people don't end up taking it seriously) and here I am with a going-on-three-years-now happy relationship. Match barely has any information to fill out and it makes me wonder if that ends up being a more successful model, as it pushes much of the "screening" process to meat space, where it's a lot easier to discern people's idiosyncrasies.

Of course, being open once you're offline is absolutely key. I'm just not sure how well it works for the first online impression.

Edit: I don't mean to attribute my relationship success to my choice of service, that was pure luck. I just wanted to point out that it'd be interesting to see more data about openness' influence on dating site success rates.

I'd firmly advice against being open about your personal information on the internet, especially on a dating site.

I understand every big internet corporation is pushing the idea that privacy is dead and that you ought to put every thing about you online for every one to see. But what made the internet great is its pseudonymous nature.

Don't lie on your profile, but don't put up identifying personal info either.

You mean, like a picture?

Like a face picture, or stupid myspace/facebook picture.

You'll never thank me for this because you probably won't have to face the worst of identity theft thanks to it.

Wow. I'm going to e-mail you this weekend. You've really thought about this stuff, and I think you've got some great ideas. Would love to chat with you some more.

No problem. If I don't reply immediately, just ping me again. Emails tend to get lost when I'm overwhelmed.

I always love this article about what it's like to be a woman on an online dating site: http://www.esquire.com/features/hotwoman0507

My experience is mainly with OKCupid. I presume most other dating websites are variations on the same theme.

The problem is that OKCupid is a geek's worldview distilled. Whether a girl is visible to you is largely based upon algorithmic analysis of a questionnaire, which in turn is based on nothing more than pseudoscience.

So you have a questionnaire written by a team of computer programmers acting as gatekeeper to you contacting someone? Do you see the potential problem here? Who says the questionnaire is relevant?

Add to this fact that the quality of women on these sites is low on average, and it doesn't bode well for guys. Lots of guys will of course chime in and say it works for them. My interpretation of this is that given the sheer number of users, there will always be people who "luck out".

Cupid Plc (another online dating company, unrelated to OKCupid) is under heavy suspicion in the UK for faking high quality female profiles. I don't know if OKCupid does this, but the site really has no built-in mechanism to give you much trust in the profiles you see.

Overall, I think the problem with online dating websites is that they are not actually solving any of the difficult problems of dating. Online profiles are useless because they are 90% equivalent. Oh, so you like tall, athletic men? And you enjoy movies and wine, music, art and watching Game of Thrones? You are mainly good, but have a wild side? You are unique?

Given this, why the focus on these profiles? Guys are only interested in the photos (having put the effort into reading through fifty identikit profiles already).

...and then there's the transition to meeting up. This is fraught with difficulty because you have know way of gauging how to approach the issue. For some people "let's meet" will be enough and looked upon positively as decisive and confident. For others it is seen as completely inappropriate. The site gives you, the guy - it will usually be the guy - no way of knowing which strategy to use and so you lose 50% (or more) of the time on the basis of not having enough information to make a good decision. Given already low probability of finding someone who "suits" you on these sites, this is incredibly wasteful and not addressed.

So... good luck to anyone trying to improve things.

This post is very, very strange.

I agree. The whole post made for some rather uncomfortable reading, with an undertones of desperation and bitterness all the way through.

I feel that the path he's gone down is quite an eccentric and possibly misguided way to deal with the feelings of loss stemming from an unpleasant break-up.

I didn't find it strange; the fact that you do is surprising, and therefore potentially interesting. Would you care to elaborate?

It covers a lot of subject matter, and all of it seems to be from ways of interacting with the world that are alien to me. Public complaining about your ex? Pick up artistry? Inteviewing cliques of women in bars? Bizzare charactures of the idea of romance? Weird superiority/inferiority posturing? Trying to reduce a first impression to one-liners?

It feels more like cable television than real life.

The one-liners thing really put me off too. I couldn't tell if they were being sarcastic. Works 10% of the time because 10% have a bar low enough for empty flattery? A friend of mine dated one of the more prolific figures in that realm (don't know his name, it was just a big deal among the group) and she said he was ultimately just making money off of his Narcissistic Personality Disorder and she never wanted to see the guy again.

I think a lot of people on dating sites are going about it the wrong way and making themselves feel worse in the process when they don't have to.

Find a forum or a chatroom about topics that interest you or that you want to know more about (for your benefit, in communities where the gender of your choosing makes up to 30-70% of the userbase). Get invested in the topic, meet people, learn some stuff and see if any connections arise. You meet people in the real world in situations that you have in common, and that's how finding relationships online should be too. Some people may want the instant-gratification of going out to a bar to meet this person or maybe they're just gunning for a one-night-stand, which is fine too. But if my friends are anything to base things off of, distance is no longer an issue for people looking for serious, long-term relationships. I've seen lots of people fly over oceans to be together, many end up staying that way.

Yeah, the PUA discussion and "ha ha only serious" sour grapes are definite distractions.

Wait isn't this selling the same lie?

The Hollywood angle was a weak lead-in for the post, IMO, but I like the idea. Getting your friends to talk you up has some interesting potential.

That said, it will of course be gamed and manipulated and still have many of the problems of current online dating models, but that's just the nature of marketing; when there are a lot of products out there, the way to sell yours is to make it stand out, and a site that imposes a handicap just gives the cheaters an advantage.

Yeah the idea is... no worse than any other dating site I guess but the pitch here is absolutely "stop looking for love. Join our site and love will happen to you" it's just it's supposed "happen to you" because ¡friends! instead of lazy scriptwriters.

The difference here is that you're objectively more likely to find it by seeking, rather than passively waiting for it to happen to you.

I can't help but comment on my experience here. While I do sense the stigma to online dating, I don't personally care. My best interpretation of it though is that it's hard work going out and meeting people. So online dating attempts to make it easier by pre-screening potential candidates. Hearing your friend met someone online makes them sound lazy I guess right?

I've tried online dating but it never works out for me. People put their best face forward online, but are quite different in real life.

Honestly, regardless of Hollywood, the best relationships I've been in have come from friends introducing us at events or just randomly meeting at a bar.

There's a site similar to this in the UK called My Single Friend which you might be interested in looking at: http://www.mysinglefriend.com/

OKC is pretty predictive, due to quality questions such as: "STALE is to STEAL as 89475 is to..."

The depressing thing is jt2005 got it wrong :( It's the single most predictive question I've found on OKC.

Hey @joshmattvander, I started Mojo in 2009, (http://staging.mojo.co). I agree with many of the points you make in your post. I am now working with groceries self-checkout space but dating remain something that I am now very passionate to solve. Perhaps we could share some insight, shoot me an email my_username@gmail.com.

Have to say while reddit for me has been great for most things, /r/startups is pretty bad. I can relate to the author's frustration

It's interesting that I've never seriously encountered "you have zero control over who you end up with in life, and any attempt you make at dating is futile" in the wild where I live.

Online dating is still shunned upon, but for the opposite reason that you're not working hard enough on finding your match if you're "just" tapping buttons in the internet.

"That might be partially true, but that's like deciding not to swing for fear of getting a strike."

Hmm, not quite. It is more like not trying to swing for the fence, and trying to hit a double or single. Every once and a while you connect right in the "sweet spot" and the ball flys over the fence.

The on-boarding flow needs some work -- I got a "FBCDN image is not allowed in stream" error in both the ask friends to comment and share with <friend> pop-ups.


Thanks, just fixed this

Good idea for a site but there is no way Im signing up on Facebook. :)

What's up with that Cetaphil and the tissues? Was that on purpose?

This lie is OK, so long as this startup takes off. Right?

The stigma of online dating is such rubbish. I am as much of a stranger as the guy on the barstool next to you.

Fantastic post. Thanks for the great breakdown :)

"Put your money where your mouth is" Paying online dating will always have better results because of this.

Also you take under consideration almost exclusively OkCupid.

OkCupid != Online Dating.

Because of how it works, OkCupid is full of needy girls (and starving guys).

They go there, put three pics, play the dumb-ass matching game (understand answer 30 questions) and then enjoy receiving 4000 messages the first day. Deep down, they feel "woa I'm that good!" and they wine about guys being lame (and their pick up lines).

But here is the cold truth (from what I saw in the silicon valley) 1/ most girls are gold diggers OR what-have-you-done-for-me-lately (Eddie Murphy-style) - including your ex. 2/ most guys just want to hook up.

You can't sort this out with friends or anything. Even if people have a tendency to protect themselves from bad-people by closing their circles that is a negative reflex when trying to do online dating.

And online dating, especially when free, is the perfect fuckable-meat-supermarket. (excuse my french, I am... French) So you can come up with any pickup line, as long as the quality stays the same, it's the looks that matters. With the few exceptions based on luck OR coincidences.

This is also why a lot of people have a negative image of online-dating. There is of course the geeky-desperate, you're-not-capable-otherwise image.

For at least some time, people will still have this image. If you try to educate the world about online-dating, you're screwed. You should try to kick ass at your website, and make it feel like it's _not_ online dating. Take distance from this image.

And it won't work if it is free or if you try to involve friends. It will work by solving the question: "how to raise the quality of the members commitment to the idea".

I think good leads could be: 1/ pure and guaranteed balance in girls/guys (for straight websites) - It can be extremely repulsive. 2/ remove un-active accounts. 3/ Push people to open themselves - more privacy, different layers, many technical ways. 4/ force them out of the website. (you provide the first contact, but try setting up the date, suggestions is a great step already) 5/ limited amount of members (increased by periods, without some elitist bs)

The issue is, it's all about quantity not quality. The big problem I foresee is that might go against a juicy business plan - at least at first, and definitely when raising money. (better have 200M people poking each-others virtual a-holes than 10k people doing something and paying for it).

As for Hollywood's lie, it's always the same bitching. Hollywood's lie is only as valuable as the number of people who believes it. The truth is, people want to believe in Hollywood-dreamy-love but they tend to take everything too seriously to actually catch it. But hopefully, they will one day get tired of it and get down to earth.

Good luck in your adventure.

Two years and counting. I hope it lasts :)

did you hear about mycutefriend.com? it was recently "unveiled" at Launch2013.

How about you lie to us too buddy?

  The problem is men don't read online dating profiles,
  they only look at the pictures. It's not just a difficult
  and repetitive task, but it's wasted time.
I am a man, and I read every word of ~90% of the profiles I'm interested in enough to visit, and 100% of the profiles I send a message to. So what does that say about your statement? The study you linked to didn't even use OKC, it used two other sites that are structurally very different.

I really like OKC. I thought it was way better than any other dating site I looked at. I also found a wonderful woman on it whom I love dearly and who loves me, so I'm perfectly happy.

From your post, it sounds to me like you have a rather narrow viewpoint of what people think about online dating. There are many points of view, and if you want to focus on a niche of people who believe what you believe, that's perfectly fine. But don't go making objective statements like "men don't read online dating profiles" when that's simply not true. "A study that used X number of men and Y number women, looked at eHarmony and match.com and found that ... blah blah blah" is way better and way closer to the truth.

(I'm not a shill for OKC btw, I don't work for them, or know anyone who works for them. I'm just really really happy with their site and the results.)

More like use a generality than lie. I know, while I read some profiles, I don't read any until I am physically attracted to the person.

If he knew he was making a generality (and, for his sake, I hope so), and yet still made that statement, then that's lying (at least, using boolean, and not fuzzy logic) because his statement was absolute and unqualified. Absolute, unqualified statements are not generalities.

"People are dumb" (absolute, unqualified) vs "Most people are dumb" (absolute, qualified) vs "Most people I've met are dumb" (relative, qualified).

A comment like "people are dumb" is usually assumed not to be taken literally, but when you quote a study and say something like "men don't read online dating profiles", you're now in a very different territory, and the misuse of language could give the impression of a deliberate false statement (i.e., a lie).

You do make a good argument. When I read blog posts and they make a statement like that I tend to just read it as "Most X do Y" instead of "All X do Y." It's like the word literally. Everyone that uses the word literally use it instead of figuratively, even though they mean the latter (jokes I make are bad).

I can't imagine that anyone's friends are as invested as they themselves are (or would put an equivalent amount of energy) in their dating success, but maybe I just have lousy friends. It's an experiment worth conducting.

I don't know how you figured "most of us use it". Most of us have probably created a dummy account and quickly said "to hell with this." I won't go near those things, not because of "predestined love" but because 90% of the girls on there aren't attractive and the ones who are I assume are screwed up in some way. And if it makes you uncomfortable reading something so cold and dismissive as what I just said it's just as uncomfortable thinking it, so to hell with it.

I can go up to the bar, have a beer, see a live band, talk to a pretty girl and know in 30 seconds if I like her and if she thinks I'm grotesque. Mother Nature is very efficient. No need to over-complicate things.

here's a novel idea dude. go interact with real people. in person.

I'm in my 50s. Online dating is the ONLY way I'll meet eligible men. And trust me, the pool of eligible men is much smaller than when you're young. That said, the innovation I'd most like to see is crowdsourcing of the online dater's social signals. Not only would that prove they're real humans, but what better way to capture who they really are personally.

Online dating sites are, in fact, aimed at setting up dates.

Well... the destined love trope came from a lot heavier, and older forms of literature than Hollywood. It's just one of the things that people have fantasized, experienced, and encouraged for ages.

Really, the article didn't convince me a bit. The stigma comes because the idea is quite distinct from what we've all been doing for several thousand years...

"the idea is quite distinct from what we've all been doing for several thousand years..."

Lonely hearts adverts are hardly new, though.

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