It's funny... doing all this 'hacking' to create profiles with awesome match %'s... is pretty pointless. In my personal experience, a match below 80% is a red flag (serious incompatibilities), but above 85% there aren't any big differences.
Like he said, he went on 55 dates, but only three second dates. The 55 dates really isn't too hard to do without the hacking, it's just a question of time. And the "three second dates" means his filter wasn't even that great -- he probably would have done better just simply browsing on the site, and only directly messaging the girls he found interesting in the first place.
But the real interesting thing here is the clustering into 7 types of women -- that's fantastic! I'd love to read more about that -- if he could write it up in a blog, OkTrends-style, I feel like it could get a huge number of hits. I think tons of people, including myself, would be interested in the details, especially if he did it for both men and women.
I spent about one year on OkC @ approx 40minutes/day on the site, and got about 20 first dates, 10 second dates, 2 third dates, and 2 fourth dates. They were almost all 85+% matches, and weren't that hard to find. However, I would say that my manual filtering probably took way less time than he spent implementing his models.
He probably learned more engineering and advanced math while I learned how to read subtle messages of profiles, project the right ones of my own and know what's worth talking about ahead of time by having conversation online first.
He probably got the satisfaction of 'hacking' the system, while I had more efficient expenditure of money (dates can get expensive on average for guys when you decide to at least offer to pay).
None of my OkC prospects looked like they would work out long-term, though I'm still good online friends with over half of them. I flippantly shut down my account 3 months before I would have to leave the country, because even if I met someone I didn't want to be in a long-distance relationship, so I decided to save myself the trouble.
And then met a girl the very next day (not kidding) that I really hit it off with when I wasn't looking, and we're planning to go traveling in Asia next month (it's been 7 months).
I'm a diehard hacker and nerd and all, but when things like this happen, it's hard to not wonder if the traditionalists do have a point when saying you can't figure these things out with numbers. At least not when people are gaming their numbers :)
The math is super-fascinating though, and I hope OkC team does some research into it and integrates some of the ideas: obviously they wouldn't want to support uber-profile optimization for multiple groups, but maybe help find the right groups, etc.
I do think his biggest win as a male on OkC was being able to generate all the inbound traffic he would want with no invested marketing on his part (besides writing his scripts). That's something even the most skilled male OkC connoisseurs find difficult to do.
One thing his hacking did accomplish was to generate leads/dates without him having to concoct tailored messages manually. I can see how that could be too much of a burden for many. OP managed to replace that psychological barrier with numbers and algorithm (with which he was much more comfortable) and got to the same end result.
IMO that's something worth pondering. We're all good/bad at different things, while the world typically sets us up with one "standard" way of going about things. Establishing secondary, albeit less efficient routes, may be a lifesaver for many.
"And then met a girl the very next day (not kidding) that I really hit it off with when I wasn't looking"
This, IMHO, is the best advice. I remember the Dalai Lama's advice about finding happiness. How do I find happiness? "Stop lookin, be happy", he said.
Same with dating. How do I find a date? Stop looking. More exactly, live life, and in time, you'll meet someone.
Part of the reason why is that someone sort of on the hunt isn't that attractive, because such a person isn't being totally natural, or themselves. The dating game becomes false. That is subtly there to see, and is a turn off. If not then what you get is potentially two false people under pressure to maintain something.
Yeah, I know, it can't work for all, circumstances, time, and all that. But so far, regardless of who I have passed this notion on to, regardless of their situation, in time, its worked. And worked solidly.
Unfortunately, this is something people do get fretful about, and then decide something has to be done.
> Same with dating. How do I find a date? Stop looking. More exactly, live life, and in time, you'll meet someone.
That is a rather good philosophy in general, but for an average guy like me, the key to finding a good partner was exposure. By that I mean being active in a larger group of people that includes both men and women in a reasonable ratio, and where people communicate with each other.
Most of my time is occupied by my PhD studies in CS and I spend my free time with a good book or a movie. If I "stopped looking" with these hobbies and didn't do anything else, I simply wouldn't meet any single potential partner at all.
"Stop looking" may just mean "act like you're not looking", which is generally a good advice -- people are put off by subtle signs of despair in your eyes. But consider increasing your odds by raising your exposure, ideally while doing something non-desperate.
Suggestions: Some martial art that appeals to both genders; Mountain climbing; being more active on some gender-balanced discussion group or fan scene.
It's true that happiness comes when you're settled with your lot in life. But you will instinctively rebel if you settle too early, on too little; this site is sort of dedicated to the art of not settling too early.
A thing I've been thinking about: you're not supposed to be "eager", at least not apparently eager, but still go on 50+ dates with random people? How do you make it not feel like work? I think I'd get depressed, sadly. In my mind, meeting someone should be all casual. But what do I know. I like the persistency though.
> The 55 dates really isn't too hard to do without the hacking, it's just a question of time.
That I disagree with, 4 years and hundreds upon hundreds of hours sunk into OKC, and I've had maybe 2 dozen dates from it.
Knowing how to optimize the site would be very useful. From pictures (OKC has MyBestFace that helps with that) to profile text. This guy obviously had good pictures (great pictures alone can make a profile, for either male or females), a decent profile, and the ability to write good opening messages.
Without at least 2 out of 3 of those, online dating becomes nearly impossible.
In 2008 I did something similar with OkCupid, but for totally different reasons (friends with benefits) but instead I would find a girl I liked, who was also not looking for LTR, then use fake profiles running scripts auto answering every question to find the answers to all the questions she had done since they are normally hidden. I filled out my real profile exactly the same so we would be a 97%+ match. I then would msg them hey we're a match, I'm going to go shopping for clothes at <insert hipster district with lot's of foot traffic> hey do you want to come with? What's your phone#? Never failed. Phone is important because it shows you are serious and have confidence. Messaging back and forth gives the girl time to reject you, or they think you're a time waster. I'd hang out, buy them a bunch of clothes, get a drink, laugh a lot and then have a bunch of sex.
Each girl I ended up dating anyways for about a month or so because I had to move so often for work back then, but after getting to know them I found their question answers were largely meaningless, since it's a public site with their identity on it they of course lied and faked almost every question or purposely kept answers conservative in case somebody they worked with spied on their account and discovered their secret fetish or something.
This guy's method of mass visiting other accounts and never having to write opening messages is excellent though.
After I figured out OkCupid I had about a 30%-40% message to date success rate. I've shown friends and while they haven't had quite my success they've drastically increased the number of responses they receive. The key is to keep it simple, 3-4 sentences. First is a funny line about something in her profile to grab her attention, next comment on something shared, finally a funny open ended question. One or two messages later ask her out for drinks.
Don't just say "hi" or write a book, that just doesn't work.
Now I've been off the market for a couple years so things might have changed but more than likely they haven't.
Agreed, I've used other sites, not OkCupid, but ended up with the same result. I keep it dead simple, write a couple of lines, and if they respond with a hint of interest, I just ask them out for something casual. It works really well. Approaches that failed...
1. Short messages like you said, 'hi, how are you?'. They basically get deleted instantly.
2. Long, thoughtful messages. I'd write a few paragraphs trying to make some jokes, and talk about what we have in common, and then ask a handful of questions about their interests. First problem, it's a lot of time on my end. Secondly, they need to invest a lot of time to respond. It's like those e-mails that you'll get to tomorrow, and then the day after, because you know they're going to be time consuming. Same thing, and eventually, they just say forget it, and never reply. Meanwhile, ask one fun question, and they can reply within a few seconds, and you're more liking to get a response.
3. Trying to keep a conversation rolling before asking them out. It goes downhill fast, and with every message, you risk them disappearing, or someone else grabbing their attention. I've lost count at the number of people I was talking with, everything sounded great after a handful of messages, then they fell off the face of the earth. Once again, ask them out after the first reply, and you don't have to worry about that happening.
In short, simple message, ask them out fast, and don't try too hard. Easy for you to write, easy for them to respond.
Bad. Would you like to get a coffee together sometime?
Good. I'm heading into town on Saturday, do you want to grab a quick drink at XYZ cafe early afternoon? They make a mean espresso. Anyway, I need to run for now, but let me know!
Something along those lines usually works for me. I might be analyzing things too much, but with the second example...
1. You're already going into town, it doesn't sound like you just sit at home, but instead you actually get out. Also, this coffee isn't the focus of the day, it's just a quick get together, and not a big deal for anyone.
2. You make decisive plans, which sounds confident.
3. You said you need to run, once again showing you're a busy person, with a life.
Also, keep in mind you're going to get turned down. You can be Brat Pitt, and you'll still get turned down more times than you can count. Don't take it personally, just tweak up your profile, photos, and messages so you get a little better response rate, and that's all you can do.
Good advice, I don't mind beeing rejected as much as earlier first times are worst :) When I grew some confidence I got better response rate so for anyone reading this: break anxiety loop, don't mind that much.
Change your income to say "Greater than 1 million / year". The women will come to you. They might not be the women you want, but it's a much smarter attribute to lie about than say your height which she'll figure out right away.
I don't think the goal is to get any random women to talk to you. This can be achieved much easier. The goal here is get the specific kind of women - ones that you'd enjoy being with - to notice you and talk to you. It's like "I want to meet a person, any person" (just go out and you're done in about a minute unless you live in a desert) and "I want to find a friend" (that may be a bit harder and may not just work by stopping random strangers and asking them to be your friend, they'd probably think you're panhandling).
The generally accepted rule is 1) Be attractive and 2) Don't be unattractive. That's more than a bit reductionist, of course, but tweaking your profile text or message texts only helps at the margins, assuming you don't have deal breakers. com2kid isn't going to be getting dozens of inbound messages a month just by revising his profile (sorry, com2kid).
(On the other hand, updating your pictures genuinely can give you many, many more views, messages, and responses.)
Did I say a typical guy can't get dates on OkC? No. It's easy to--I'm somewhat below average in the looks department, but I had a steady stream of dates (probably averaging somewhere between 1 and 2 per week) on OkC while I was on it (until I met my current partner on it).
The point is that you're not suddenly going to triple or quadruple your inbound message rate or reply rate by improving your written profile. This much is clear, and the fact that your average guy profile gets nearly as much positive attention as your real profile indicates as much.
However, smartly choosing quality pictures is probably the one thing anyone should do, and you're going to get far more value back for the investment than putting hours writing a profile slightly more witty and more interesting than your previous profile. It triples, or quadruples, or quintuples your reply rates.
ETA: Another way to look at it is this: someone who writes a boring profile and sends stilted messages will, at best, only be able to write a slightly less boring profile and won't in general be able to improve their crappy messages (with the assumption that the profile or messages don't contain stupid dealbreakers in the first place), no matter how much effort they put into the rewrite. If writing is an area of weakness for you, then rewriting isn't going to do much good for you. On the other hand, crappy pictures can be replaced in a matter of hours with something that anyone can tell is much better, even if you're not generally considered attractive.
"The point is that you're not suddenly going to triple or quadruple your inbound message rate or reply rate by improving your written profile."
I strongly disagree.
I have A/B tested written profiles on okcupid and elsewhere, and found it matters a lot.
" This much is clear, and the fact that your average guy profile gets nearly as much positive attention as your real profile indicates as much."
Actually, the attention is mainly from women who think it's hilarious :)
"However, smartly choosing quality pictures is probably the one thing anyone should do, and you're going to get far more value back for the investment than putting hours writing a profile slightly more witty and more interesting than your previous profile. It triples, or quadruples, or quintuples your reply rates.
I don't disagree with this either.
Far too many people have profile pictures that they don't look comfortable or confident in. For example, too many people dress/etc based on what they think people think looks good, instead of what makes them feel actually confident and attractive. They look uncomfortable as hell, and it's completely obvious to the outside world.
In fact, if you have good pictures, okcupid will let you know.
Among other things, you will get an email that says "We just detected that you're now among the most attractive people on OkCupid. ...", once the clickthroughs on your profile increase.
But yeah. I have a good job, I go to the gym and workout, what the heck else am I expected to do? I'm working my ass off to make a positive impact on the world. Fuck if I am going to drop that so I can be a narcissistic asshole, quit my job, and fly around the world discovering myself.
As for the messages I send, I try my best to be original and different, for example,
What does make you laugh? The silliness of life? Those who take themselves too seriously, or those who take themselves not seriously at all? Both are amusing in their own way, though I cannot understand why one would pain themselves by taking life seriously!
Not to say life is without value, life most certainly has value, and helping others is the noblest of callings.
But, well, I own a 5 foot long remote controlled floating dolphin. I gave up on being 100% sane long ago. Technically I am sane, but I do enjoy having fun toying around with things. I also drive a bright orange car!
What about yourself? What is your alarm clock set to? I once set my dad's cell phone ringer to a rooster crowing. He was not pleased, although my mother almost fell out of her chair laughing.
(My current alarm is Violin music, in all honesty, it is not that good at waking me up!)
That message apparently didn't go over very well!
Other messages are sent such as
Hmm, a good cup of coffee may be easy to find, but I have had to teach myself how to make a good cup of tea! I find the ritual itself can be fairly relaxing. (Depends on the culture of the tea of course, some teas are easier to prepare than others!)
Is your work in the heathcare industry on something like replacing old people with robots? Someone should get on that. I know for a fact that the day I turn 60, I want a super strong steel alloy robot body.
Actually I might take that offer a bit sooner than 60, it'd be hard to wait!
Your messages sound really stilted and like you're really nervous. They jump from one random topic to the next, without actually showing anything uniquely you.
> But, well, I own a 5 foot long remote controlled floating dolphin. I gave up on being 100% sane long ago. Technically I am sane, but I do enjoy having fun toying around with things. I also drive a bright orange car!
What this says: I own toys, you should know about them! Also, I think I'm "crazy!" And I have an awesome car, look at my success!
It makes you sound kind of like you're filling your life with things because you've been socially rejected. If that whole block of indented text was your entire first message, then it's incredibly rambly and full of similar flags.
One of my most successful stream of messages went something like this: noticing that my potential date lived in Cambridge, I asked if they had explored the area (they said they were adventurous in their profile). When they responded with "Yeah, I've found some cool stuff", I then asked if they'd found the secret staircase that led to the lair of angry geese on the river?
This establishes both that 1. I've actually read their profile, and 2. I have some knowledge they would be interested in, and that they can share in.
Here's how I'd rephrase your second message:
I noticed from your profile that you enjoy a good cup of tea. Do you make your own, or have you visited a lot of different tea houses?
You're not overwhelming the other person with information, just asking a question that, if they've shown an interest, they're generally really happy to expand on. Don't treat your messages like emails or letters, but more like instant messages. Keep them short and easy to respond to, and let the other person tell you some of their story.
Edit: Also, don't ask so many things! It's hard enough for someone to want to answer a single question you ask them. Answering 3 or more is too much effort: if they wanted to start answering your first one, but kept reading instead, you've failed to convert, and by the third one they've likely skipped on to someone else's message.
This is the right approach. Just ask a simple question that shows you read the person's profile and ask them to expand on something you would like to know more about (and it should be something you are genuinely curious about). Also, stay away from anything romantic/sexual, and you'll stick out way more compared to all the crazy/creepy guys that are messaging her.
The point about the orange car was meant to be self deprecating!
(The $10 inflatable dolphin is supposed to be cute, ends up being really freaky looking, go figure!)
The dolphin was actually something I brought into work for my team to play with, we had a good chunk of the building watching as we flew it around our atrium. The problem is, it is hard to capture that I am the sort of person who is always thinking of ways to help make his team happy without writing really lame sentences like this one!
I do write more sane messages, to a girl who had mentioned that she liked eating animals,
What is your favorite mammal to consume? I've been on a lamb kick lately, lamb burgers stuffed with basil and spinach are so good! Put some goat cheese in the very middle, and life is divine!
and in other food related messages!
There is a place in the ID that sells durian milkshakes. The shakes are a bit on the strong side. :)
What other sorts of weird things have you had? I think squid jerky was one of the more interesting foodstuffs I've tried.
Overall, after 4 years of trying I've yet to find a good way to write messages. :/
Try ending with the question, rather than leading it. For instance, taking your line about weird foods and flipping the sentences yields this:
I think squid jerky was one of the more interesting foodstuffs I've tried. What other sorts of weird things have you had?
The revised phrasing is more conversational. Ending with a question gives them something to go on. Otherwise they finish reading the message wondering what squid jerky is like and why you would say "foodstuffs" when you could use "foods" instead. And don't use weird language like that. Just say what you mean, simply. Your messages read as if you're trying to fill them with personality. ("Life is divine!" comes across as weird.) Stop using exclamation marks.
You don't want to put too much information into messages. When you say less the other person will fill the blanks with their imagination, and people tend to be optimistic. They'll see you as they want to see you. Whereas your messages are full of a subtext that makes you seem over-enthusiastic and a bit "quirky!" (in other words: annoying).
Sorry for being blunt, just calling it how I see it from the few messages you have posted.
IMNHO this whole (parent) message (less the quotes) sounds a lot more confident, sane and interesting than all those quotes put together (or taken separately). Perhaps you just need to relax and write as if you were talking to people here on hn. (I think the keyword in that sentence is people).
If the women you respond to aren't interested when you're being honest -- why bother sending them messages at all? (Lame, casual sex, I guess -- but there must be easier ways to go about finding that than hanging out on a web page?)
The north bank of the Charles, along the bike path, has all kinds of secret, discoverable places. I actually can't remember the exact location anymore, but I know it's where the path is about 30 feet above the bank.
The real rule is "be interested". Being interesting follows from that, but being interested is the part you can control.
I've found that when people have persistent difficulties finding a partner, it's almost always because they aren't actually interested in the women they date, but have some platonic ideal of a woman that they think they ought to date and so are dating the wrong people.
Depends on the context. One-sided interest that's fixated on one particular characteristic comes across as creepy - it's obvious when it's a physical characteristic, but it's also just as creepy to be particularly interested in someone's career, or house, or car, or any other thing. One-sided interest that's diffuse tends to become two-sided interest, because it makes you seem engaged with the world, and that's a very attractive quality for a lot of people. Basically, be interested in everyone and you'll find that everyone is interested in you, while if you're interested in only one person she probably won't be interested in you.
I don't think I'm ugly, but it is hard to be sure! ;)
I have a friend of mine who is short (generally considered a disadvantage) and who has one miserable picture, but his messages are good enough that he has a good success rate on OKC. (His messages also violate every guideline, they are at least 5 paragraphs long and very in depth!)
The problem is, it is disheartening in the extreme. Spending years going to the gym and getting in shape, get promotions at work, buy a house, all for naught.
Doing the math, I figured it'd take me a 3 or 4 dozen dates to get used to socializing with women in a dating environment. The problem is in the last 2 years my success rate at getting dates has plummeted, I used to be able get a date a week w/o issue, now, months upon months of work to get one date. Ugh. This obviously sets back progress of skill acquisition.
It is annoying, I am one of those people who is otherwise successful, but the amount of contact I had with women before joining my current team @ work was almost nil, so an entire skillset isn't there. OKC helps because it creates a way by which to meet women (for reference only one of my friends has any contact with women either!), but it involves what distinctly looks like black magic to be successful on it.
Recognizing non-verbal cross-gender communications. A subset of non-verbal communications in general of course, but there are (thankfully!) now good written resources on general purpose non-verbal communications.
Join a dance program. Your issue seems to be lack of confidence around women in general, not specifically in a dating environment. Get comfortable with your body in an environment where a lot of women are. And don't try to date the women you dance with, at least not initially.
Dance is just an easy thing to join: you could also go to underground music venues, join a co-ed softball/volleyball/tae kwon do team, take arts classes at a community college or join a book club at your library.
I second the dance idea -- I took up salsa dancing and similar styles years ago, for a couple years straight, and it made a huge difference. Your posture, your comfort around women, your confidence -- it'll do wonders.
Getting used to people touching is already sort of weird. It is odd because of how different it is even amongst Americans. Being born and raised in Seattle, guys never really hug (hah some days the handshake is even uncertain!), but I have recently made friends with groups from other areas of the countries and it is interesting seeing different standards of expected physical interaction.
But yeah, dance classes have been recommended to me. I'm doing improv right now, which is already helping a good deal, it is a different set of experiences.
Online dating is tilted much more in favour of women odds wise than "real life dating".
If you are at all able to approach a woman in real life and introduce yourself, do that instead. You'll get far more social interactions far faster (you don't even need to successfully ask anyone out to start improving).
As suggested elsewhere - joining a dance group or something is great for an easy environment for introductions. But even walking up to total strangers on the street and introducing yourself typically gets better responses than online dating. Where online dating beats "real life" is in using sheer volume to compensate.
Back in the day when chat rooms were filled with actual people rather bots, this was a great place to talk with the other gender without much fear. I actually meet my wife through a MSN Chat room.
I think that one big disadvantage for those who work in a highly technical field (engineer, scientist etc), contact with the ladies are quite few, this means opportunities for interaction will be significantly smaller.
I can't say this is advice, but more of personal anecdotes that may give you some insight you might be missing.
I started using OkC to prove to an unreasonably paranoid (male) friend who was somewhat desperate to get a girlfriend that he should try it. He was based in Boston, myself in San Francisco. I would check profiles out from both locations and link him ones that I thought he might like. I was mostly just enjoying poking around the first month. I seriously approached the first girl that I did only because she played StarCraft. Ironically, the most dates (5) with a single girl off OkC I went on was with that first girl!
What worked for me there was picking a characteristic to look for that isn't "the sum of all features that would make my ideal girlfriend/wife" to find a person. And not something generic like "games" or "math" or "music." In my experience, even a specific TV show or music taste is not something people really relate over (I tried following a TV show to get along better with a girl I had a huge crush on who raved about it). If there's something specific you spend a lot of time on that you care about, try to find that. Talk about that. Try to find someone you would just love to geek out with, not because you're lonely and/or in need of a partner.
A lot of my other approaches were very similar to your messages. Asking lots of questions, showing an interest, proving I read their profile. Even though girls always demand you show you read their profile, dont ask that much. Just one question TOPS in a single message. Don't be that ridiculously interested in knowing everything about her so quickly. Just imagine the progression you had with getting to know your closest friend you know. It didn't start with you sitting across a table bombarding each other with questions. Pick one thing that catches your interest that you think would roll well. Go from there.
It's all about playing on your interpersonal strengths (everyone has something here). Mine is in being ridiculously passionate about a few topics (eg: education, women in technology, cross-culture romances) fairly popular among women in my preferred demographic. I am also even more passionate about game design and experience design, but I try not to get into that unless the girl expresses interest. And I always lay the disclaimer of how much I'm going to geek out when we get there. I too am uncomfortable with people-touching (although I very much wanted to not be!), so it took a while to get over that. Your weakness seems to be general communication discomfort around women. Takes a little getting used to. Of course you will get frustrated, but if you let any frustration show, it will heavily backfire. So try to keep a check on it!
However, as you can probably gather from my comment above, I think OkC (and online dating in general) is a difficult medium to make more than a superficial connection via. Context is everything. "Met online" just doesn't spark the magic. You need to have a better genesis story to even put you and the partner in the right mood.
PS: You're most certainly not unattractive. There's definitely a significant segment of women which definitely intersects the set that you'd be interested in that would find you attractive, and that's all that matters.
I thought HN of all places would celebrate this - a growth hack by a down and out mathematician. He just increased his inbound funnel by many multiples. He's now "killing it" and has been acquihired by his target. ;)
Well, he did it the standard way but was only able to go on 6 first dates in 9 months of trying. By hacking the match % he was able to have more women view him and then message him and go on 55 dates. Article also states that when he messaged a woman it took 3-5 messages to get to where he could set up a date but when the women messaged him first it was as easy as a single reply to begin setting up a date.
"he probably would have done better just simply browsing on the site, and only directly messaging the girls he found interesting in the first place."
He'd already tried that, the article claimed. The problem is that he didn't know what was important to the women he was interested in, and so didn't know what parts of his life to mention in the OKC profile, to attract first dates from women he, as you note, might well have messaged anyway.
I think the main point here is that one has to enable his luck. I mean, meeting somebody you'd fall in love with is luck. You can not use data for that. However, you could use data to enable yourself to meet enough people so that the luck had chance to happen. Of course, it is not the only way - it's just one of the ways. And, I guess, a way that appeals to the HN crowd :)
Agreed that the clusters is interesting! Having bots visit girls with high match percentage and thereby direct in-bound messages from girls seems huge as well. Seems like girls are more likely to message you if you have such a high match. He definitely drove a ton of first-dates with minimal per-unit effort. Your point about the conversion rate of 2nd-date is still valid.
I've been off the site for many, many years now, but I could find a difference between 85% (which I would have considered low), 90% and 95% in most cases, but what I found worst was that I couldn't weight major red flags enough so even a 97-98 could have one or more.
I think you are missing the point of his strategy. Before this he had 6 dates in nine months, his primary problem was the top of the funnel. I don't think this strategy helped him improve quality, but it did lead to quantity which at the end of the day got him this result. And I think with online dating quantity matters as the signals you are using to select are so poor.
"First dates" in the context of this article sound more like "approaches" in real life, rather than actual dates. In real life dating, you'd go up to someone first, chat for a bit, then ask for an actual date. OKCupid removes the physical/verbal interaction and visual cues (along with body language), which are really important to most people.
I wonder if the next generation of dating sites will match people based on facial expressions and body language (captured by a Kinect, for example), instead of all these stupid quiz questions.
Friend of mine used to run a dating site. She said that on average it took people about 6 months of solid dating, usually 50-100 dates, before they found a good match.
There are some people that get into relationships much more quickly, but oftentimes those are the same people who get out of relationships really quickly, because they didn't choose a good match to begin with. There are also outliers who find someone great when they're not really looking, but they are outliers.
Think of it this way: someone who went on 90 dates before they found a match set their bar at the 99th percentile. Someone who went on 10 dates set their bar at the 90th percentile. Someone who went on 2 set their bar at the 50th percentile. These aren't exact figures - there's luck involved too - but they illustrate the trade-off involved.
It seems quite weird to me that 100 dates are needed before founding a "good match" (I guess that means something you date more than a couple times). Seems like an incredibly inefficient (and potentially emotionally complicated) process, even will all the "magic algorithm" part.
If this is truly a numbers game, not sure if speed dating or something similar is a much better approach...
I did something similar 4 years ago. My OkCupid profile was receiving about 3-10 visits/week from women, and I had only a small handful that I matched 90+% with. I deleted all my answers and answered just the minimum required with complete honesty but zero possibility of controversy. My match % was 95+% with everyone and my inbound views turned into 100+/week.
The match percentage was useless as a filter, but who cares? The new filter was my profile, and women who liked it messaged me.
Within a few weeks I'd been on several dates — I'm now married to the last woman I dated from then. She messaged me.
I'll give the guy credit for coming up with a creative idea , but for a guy who was overly concerned with efficiency, going on 55 first dates and only 3 second dates strikes me as absolutely insane and a waste of time. It would be similar to having 55 in-person interviews and only making 3 offers. Something is going wrong in the funnel.
I don't see how his system was better than just using the site as it is intended, nor do I think it should be romanticized as much as it is in this article.
: Though it fails the categorical imperative. If everybody did this okcupid would be much worse off.
Also, here's my .02 re-posted from the comments section:
Rather than answer the questions that were important to him he decided to find a set of people he thought he would like then only answer the questions they care about, and not even the way he would naturally answer them, rather he used an algorithm to determine the weight that would be best to get the highest match %. The fact of the matter is he could've spent a fraction of the time just answering all the questions honestly and with his honest weights and he would've found high matches too. Furthermore, he could've narrowed it down to just the kind of people he wanted through a normal search and then filter their questions based on what's important to them (which is a normal question filter on OkCupid).
So in fact what he did was pretty bad, violates OkCupid's TOS in numerous ways and at the end of the day wasn't honest to himself as he created specific profiles for his targets.
Honestly, we should not be celebrating this.
To recap what he did:
1. Didn't want to answer questions, so let's find all the questions that are important to everybody from the categories of people he thinks he likes based on clustering and then browsing a profile or two of people in that cluster. (He did this by creating numerous fake profiles and having those bots answer all the questions so he could scrape his targets question)
3. Create specific profile for his targeted group. With words and information that he knew they would like.
2. Answer ONLY the set of questions deemed important to those people. He answered these with weights determined by an algorithm that determined the best weight to achieve the highest match% rather than honestly.
3. WIth new found 99% matches go on dates with these people and follow normal dating process.
Now that we see the above broken down we can see that it's really not good. In fact, he was only answering what they wanted, and created profiles for them. But he wasn't being honest with himself or with his answers. If we're trying to match with everyone, which is essentially what he did, it's not that difficult to do. The fact that he eventually found someone is great, but the information used was faulty. Obviously there's no way he would be 99% with that many people normally.
I celebrate this. Two people found love and are getting married. I think it's great. He answered all questions truthfully but let the code determine the weight of each answer. It's not like he wasn't giving honest answers. And yes, he created two profiles, but then deleted one. He wasn't sure which group of women he'd match up with best. I guess you see this as fundamentally dishonest but I think the couple says it best:
“People are much more complicated than their profiles,” she says. “So the way we met was kind of superficial, but everything that happened after is not superficial at all. It’s been cultivated through a lot of work.”
“It’s not like, we matched and therefore we have a great relationship,” McKinlay agrees. “It was just a mechanism to put us in the same room."
Yes, but he ONLY answered those specific questions that were deemed important to his target audience. The fact that he answered these honestly is great, but he left out the set of questions that was important to him which would give him differing results and be more honest for his date. Also, weighting is somewhat important, by having an algorithm maximize this defeats the purpose.
Yes, if the point was to get two people in a room I could possibly go with that argument, but he could've spent a fraction of the time answering questions and then following up with people and end up in the same room. This feels like a rube golderberg machine for a date.
In any case I'm of course happy for him, but it rubs me the wrong way that this lying, manipulation, and outright disregard for the other users is being celebrated.
The article did not mention anything about skipping questions that were important to him; it specifically said that he had originally been picking questions "more or less" at random.
You're also assuming that the set of questions he had algorithmically selected did not overlap with the questions that were important to him. This seems unlikely.
The only dishonesty here is that by (presumably) determining the breadth and detail of his answers by order of importance to the cluster, he is in effect answering the questions /as if/ they are as important to him as they are to the average representative of that cluster. But if everyone else was also answering the questions "more or less" at random anyway ("He’d been approaching online matchmaking like any other user"), this doesn't seem so bad (and is probably why his algorithm gave him so many failed dates, since the relevant questions wouldn't have been answered).
Honestly all he did was make himself way more visible. You'd probably get a good amount of dates by making a sign and sitting in Central Park too. Sure, it's a bit distateful, but no less manipulative than that (and much more clever).
Well, he did answer questions before but with thousands upon thousands to choose from it would be pure chance that he would answer the same ones as the type of women he was interested in. Is it wrong when a person does something they wouldn't normally do to get noticed? For example, is asking for directions when you're not really lost to strike up a conversation "lying and manipulation"? Literally, I suppose it is but I hope dating sites learn from him. The point should be to get more people together to have more chances for "success".
Not completely true. You can find someone you're interested in and then click on "She cares about" and that will list all her public questions that she cares about, he can then answer those.
My general concern is that manipulating of the data in this way essentially lowers the value of the data in general and thus becomes a cycle resulting in the actual features of the site being no longer useful.
Oh, my take was that he exposed how the data keeps people apart. The number of matches is greatly determined by which questions you answer instead of the actual content of the responses. I suppose I understand why they do it though, since the system would feel useless if you had hundreds of people (in a big city) that were a 99% match. It provides people with a sort of false selectivity.
That's the part that burns me. There could be people you have matching answers for 1000 of the 3000 questions, but the way OKC sets its system up, the system would never surface them. Considering that this is a site conceived by mathematicians, I think that they have set this system to provide people with a false sense of fine-tuning but in reality, it keeps most of the matches you could find away from you. Sounds like a scheme to keep people use your dating site rather than helping people actually find a date.
I agree, but it's nice to have something real to filter on to save yourself from having to be in the room with the other person in the first place. I don't know if I'm angry, so much as concerned that tactics like these will spread and further erode the OkCupid data set essentially making it less useful for everybody.
There is nothing particularly deep about the OkCupid data set. It is a representation of one slice, one instance, of culture. At most, it shows how a certain subset of people represent themselves to potential dates.
And, on that note, exploiting the game has a strong tradition elsewhere too. Expecting that the data set is not already corrupted beyond recognition by people trying to manipulate their data to get ahead is silly.
You're right that under the assumption that the OkCupid algorithms actually work, the best strategy is to just answer the questions honestly. If they don't really work all that well, just gaming it to give good results would be a rational strategy.
Yeah, I feel like all he did in the end is find a way of getting a lot of people interested in his profile (by tweaking the score so that it would be as close as 100% as possible) and then go on a lot of dates.The real issue here is probably the asymmetry in male/female messages and requests rates on OkCupid...
I always thought that the messaging asymmetry on dating sites was purely a reflection of the real-world asymmetry of dating, where females will almost never initiate a flirt sequence themselves. The universal expectation is that it is the role of the male to manifest interest in, and worthiness of, the female. Not that I agree with this, but it would be difficult not to observe it.
I remember reading somewhere that there were actually more female users of these dating sites. So the difference would be purely one of behavioral habits.
Thinking about it, I can't think of a single animal species where the female is the one seeking out the males. Then again, evolutionary analogies are very un-PC around here.
I agree with you, I probably shouldn't have said "on OkCupid". This is far from the root issue, but it's also hard not to fall into uninteresting generalizations, like
"the real issue here is the objectification of women in the western civilization" or "the real issue here is the place of woman in society".
Thinking about it, I can't think of a single animal species where the female is the one seeking out the males.
I couldn't find anything either after a (quick) Google search, so you might be right about that. But it doesn't mean that we are bound to act forever the same, and I think that it's not the case in some (nordic?) countries (although it might be an urban legend, maybe someone can chime in with real world data / observations).
As for females initiating courtship in human populations -- I don't think it's just a nordic thing, I think it's an equality thing. I'm sure you'll find (sub)cultures most places where women are more active -- and I'm guessing that on balance those are (sub)cultures that are in general more gender-equal.
But, as I've lived (and dated, pitiful as my exploits are) mostly in Norway -- I might be biased :-)
As a general rule, women don't "hit on" men here in Sweden either. Like everywhere else, they indicate interest in more subtle ways - sometimes unconsciously. The male who is able to pick up on (and then follow up on) these cues is the male who scores.
Also, the "slutty northern European women" stereotype just comes from the way they behave abroad, when they lose some inhibitions since nobody from back home is around to pass judgment on them.
except for intentionally visiting their profile multiple times until they notice and message you first which works in pretty much the same way as glancing, only with added bit of creepiness compound but hey. works anyway! might have learned this from personal experience, can't confirm.
He said that he answered the questions honestly and didn't lie on his profile. It was merely a matter of exploiting OKCupid's algorithms to get himself recommended to women he liked. And he was quite successful; How many men get 20 unsolicited messages a day or easily get 88 dates with attractive women.
You suggest he should just trust OKCupid's algorithms to find people, but that's assuming that their algorithms are good in the first place, and that there isn't much competition from other men doing the same thing.
What's wrong with managing questions? Sure, there are maybe 5-10 questions I would actually care about, and 10-20 questions that might be somewhat helpful to define my personality, but the rest are quite optional.
And when you don't care much, you can near-randomly pick an answer that turns out to be disliked by someone, and turn noise into a negative signal. So why answer that at all?
Though unrelated to this post in particular, I figured I would post a method of finding dates that worked particularly well for me.
Post a "Blind Date" message in the M4W section of CL. In the message describe your self as honestly as you can, while still being interesting and flattering to yourself. Ask the women to describe themselves to you in the reply. Say one or two interesting things about your self, and what you are looking for. Request that the responding girl does NOT send you a picture, and wait for the messages to roll in :)
I picked up quite a few dates that way, all the girls were beautiful, smart, and very interesting to talk to. Because we weren't a "100%" match, we actually had some different points of view, which lead to fun conversations.
You might think this would lead to you perhaps going out with girls who are not very good looking. First of all, you can have lot's of fun with a girl, even if you are not sexually attracted to her. But in reality, only girls who are very beautiful and confident in their appearance would actually reply to this message.
In any case, it worked great for me. I met lot's of cool girls, and eventually found the love of my life.
"Amy Webb was having no luck with online dating. The dates she liked didn't write her back, and her own profile attracted crickets (and worse). So, as any fan of data would do: she started making a spreadsheet. Hear the story of how she went on to hack her online dating life -- with frustrating, funny and life-changing results."
OkCupid is how my wife and I met. She was one of two women I exchanged messages with, and the only one I met in person. We've been married for 5 years and have had two children.
I have no idea what our match percentage was, and there were a few things in my profile that were turn-offs for her, all of which appeared in my only picture on the site: Me, with a fresh buzz-cut, jogging up a hill with my dog. She's allergic to dogs, doesn't run because of her asthma, and prefers long hair.
All of that was superficial, and she was able to look past it. She engaged me mainly because of the descriptive content in my profile. I just went nuts explaining who I was, in a chatty, stream of consciousness manner.
In the end, I re-homed my dog with her own parents, and let my hair grow to 21", which I started growing out again after we'd been married for a year. That wasn't all her; I had hair that length in high school and chopped it off to help me stay employed.
What's my point? The content matters most. You can optimize your approach to searching for matches, and you can go on lots of dates, but you can't force a good real-world match. If it's there, you'll know. No mathematical model of searching, nor red-pill-esque approach to building self confidence will be more effective than an open exchange of ideas between a couple. Get to the messaging. Give her a chance to be disinterested, because that's a hurdle you'll need to cross at some point in the relationship... assuming, that is, that you're looking for love.
What's interesting to me is how this guy inverted the gender roles on OkCupid. Normally (says OkTrends data) men take the initiative, and women filter incoming messages. In the later stages of this setup, the guy set up bots to get himself in the "inboxes" (list of profile views) of lots of women, getting enough incoming messages that he could take the normally female role in this online dating dance.
At least one useful take-away: k-modes clustering. I initially thought it was a typo/miscommunication, but the soybean reference seemed bizarrely specific. It apparently actually exists, and is an extension of k-means to categorical data, using Hamming distance instead of Euclidean distance.
i did something like it 6-7 years ago with friendster when it got 'who looked at me' new feature then. i scrapped million ids of teenagers to below-age-30 women. my friend list went from below hundred to full 3000 (the max at the time) in a week or two. facebook was not popular in my country (not usa)
the scrapper was written in newlisp (save search result pages with curl, use regex to match and collect the ids). it's probably easier to write in other languages, but that's what i knew.
i used wget and curl to loop over the ids but it's too slow because they download the whole page. later i found out about 'curl -i' (header only) and a million ids was done in about hour or two (i moved my operation from my home's 64kbps to my colo datacenter mbps internet).
my account is no longer exist (probably banned); however, i do still have a screenshot of me having 3000 female-only-friends and 70000 non-hidden-females 'look back at my profile'
initially, i talked to any interesting woman; however, later i made a strict rule to only respond to women who wrote at me. there were just too many fake female-accounts.
i got a couple of dates from this feat; however, i met my wife in a traditional catholic youth retreat. when i let her know about this friendster thingy, she just laughed. now i'm happily married with a 15-months-old boy.
I am feeling sorry for all the women subjected to all that spam, not only by this guy. And talking about this guy, let's be honest, he was different from other "spam" contacts by implementing a bot-assisted spamming, nothing he should be praised for.
Math genius? More a spambot writer, but not for money, for an advantage.
I think the most interesting part of this is that an algorithm told people they are 99% compatible and that changed their behavior enough to make it easy for them to go on a date. Funny that an artificially high number on a computer screen completely changed people's behavior and perception of the world.
I've dated around on OKC since the early days. His lack of success on first dates points to a problem with him; maybe he was too picky or had some other issues which turned women off. If he was looking for that Hollywood-style instant spark, he was mistaken; that doesn't always happen.
When I was on OKC, about 1 in 20 messages would result in a first date; but you bet that more than 50% of first dates turned into second dates.
When women first meet you, it's almost like they're going through a checklist in their heads: is this guy a creep? A rapist? A jerk? etc. etc. (this is just the impression I got). If you don't trigger any of the alerts, you're golden.
One of the biggest mistakes nerds (like myself) make on their profiles and on dates is that we try to impress the woman with our encyclopedic knowledge of some esoteric subject. That's a sure turnoff.
Maybe we should have an "ask HN" on dating ... :-)
Once upon a time, I was seeking a Filipina gf. At the time, DateInAsia didn't have any good search interface but it was a good place to meet people if you weeded out the scammers.
I was looking for very specific things (Catholic, educated, no kids, 25 or older, etc). I scrapped (slowly) the site content and threw all the fields in a database so I could query it locally :)
I filled out my profile as complete as possible about myself and who I was looking for. DateInAsia lets people know when you viewed their profile... so my Python script automatically viewed all the profiles that matched my search queries. Many of them viewed my profile in return and those who were interested messaged me. I met some nice ladies that way but it turned out to be a Filipina lady I met in an unrelated chatroom who I fell in love with.
My own more humble attempt at mixing geekdom with love :) but love comes in unexpected places not ruled by math
My current girlfriend is Cambodian, and we met via OkCupid. I noticed that of the ~1000 Cambodian girls using the site, none of them matched above 80% with me. I disregarded this and I'm really glad I did. Personally, I was searching for someone who seemed sweet, adventurous, and spoke English well.
I think I read through just about every one of those 1000 profiles, but my girlfriend's stood out... in a way that I could not have discerned computationally. Our match percentage was around 60%, for instance. She was the first/only girl I messaged. Things are still going great!
I'm a white dude. Why is that creepy? Because I'm dating someone of a different race/culture? She's exactly my age, college educated, speaks excellent English, makes more money than me, etc. I was explicitly trying to minimize any sort of power differential (which is part of why I looked online in the first place, the subset of women who are computer literate tend to be more affluent / socially mobile).
By the way, I live in Cambodia... what the fuck am I supposed to do? Not date anyone? I guarantee you I would be more likely to end up with a mismatch of power if I stuck strictly to IRL dating.
I happened to have made hundreds of Filipino friends online beforehand, the Philippines speaks English, there's a large % of Catholics, and I find Asians attractive in general. I don't live near a big city and I was looking for someone who's a devout Catholic, educated, reasonably attractive, without excess baggage (kids, prior marriage, etc) so it seemed like a reasonable choice.
Is there anything actually wrong with dating specifically because they're Cambodian? Anymore than dating someone specifically because they have a certain body type, or certain hair color, or certain sports team affiliation?
Limiting your dating pool to just Cambodians is just as stupid as limiting the pool to just blondes or just Yankees fans. Because in the long run, these things don't matter. Unless you're a special little snowflake who just can bare to sleep with a Mets fan.
I can see body type making a difference, because it's important to find your mate attractive. But even then, don't harp on it too much. I know a guy who refuses to date any girl who isn't a size zero. Unsurprisingly he gets no dates. If he just gave other girls a chance, he might discover that he's attracted to a wider variety of body types than he thinks he is.
I agree with everything you said, but it seems as though dating someone because they're Cambodian is often judged more harshly than dating someone because they're blonde. Yet, from my uninformed guess, I'd speculate that people from a specific country have more specific cultural or personality traits than people of a certain hair color or sports fandom. For example, despite millions of exceptions on each side, Australians are more extroverted and gregarious than Swiss. I can imagine an extremely extroverted Swiss person trying to find a similar companion saying, "I'd like to date an Australian person" instead of the much more complicated process of finding similar personality types among their compatriots.
It's a happy story, and I'm sad to see all the naysayers in this thread. I really don't see what's unethical about his behavior. He never lied about his views and his fiancee knows the whole story.
It seems like a totally rational response to the insanities of online dating. Especially as a guy, you have to message hundreds of women to even get a handful of replies. Through automation, he's equalized the playing field so that, like women, he has the opportunity to filter only amongst those who have already expressed interested in him. No more time/effort wasted on women who never reply.
I actually was working on an automated framework for batch messaging and a/b testing on OKCupid (https://github.com/morgante/abcupid) before realizing I don't have time for a relationship.
r Read the foreword to his book. Something I should have done before buying the book. It is not about the statistical methods he used and how he collected the web data. It's more of an online dating manual. If Christopher is on HN, an article on your site about your methodology would be great.m
There are other ways to hack dating sites that use other means completely.
Have several friends on the site, all with their real profiles. When you like a girl, have a friend with the most compatibility message her, and introduce you two. If such a "cool" guy vouches for you, how great must you be? She is intrigued. She hasnt gotten messages like this. And you go out w her. Not only that but you start w a warm introduction and something to talk about.
And if she doesn't respond to him, you can message her yourself, and bam - double your chances.
> (I believe most people could find an interesting match even just by randomly selecting 88 people that fit their criteria)
Sure, but it's a lot easier to meet those 88 people if you can get them to message you. For most guys to meet 88 women via OkCupid they'd have to send thousands of messages, which would probably take years.
From the looks of it the reason she wasn't offered in the first place is that he didn't really answer many questions at first. You have to answer at least a few hundred for it to be useful.
It sounds like rather than actually trying to use the service he didn't feel it was worth the time and rather spent enormous effort to figure out what questions he should answer and how best to fill out the profile.
He would have had better luck finding a partner by getting away from the computer, sleeping in a real bed, improving his lifestyle and learning to be a better conversationalist. Sounds like he was a recluse "Sleeping at his computer cubicle" and spending no time actually going out and enjoying life.
It might be nice if people put down their dating apps for a little while and went out into the actual physical world to meet people by chance i.e. at line in a Starbucks, on a flight back home, or dare I say it: a bar - preferably during happy hour. Level of attraction in these real world situations is instantly assessed and doesn't take days or weeks of back & forth messaging before even meeting up.
Also, anecdotally I believe men far outnumber women on these sites so that clearly skews the ratio in women's favor which means by law of supply and demand women choose on these sites and not men in most cases. I've gone on dates with women I met online and many of them told me it was not uncommon for them to receive hundreds of messages a day and here we have a brilliant PhD student happy with 20. Just sayin
I couldn't imagine 55 "What do you do?"--Ugh. I look back
at all the women whom I would drop everything for and marry,
and there was just one; I met her on fourth street, and regret not saying yes to a request in 2007. She had beautiful green eyes and dirty cuticles(don't ask). I hope
you are doing well, and I have always felt bad for not doing
more(I did refer to Mills Street). I couldn't do more because I was a pussy at the time. I still think about
you and hope you are doing well. She was beautiful on the
outside and inside. She was not jaded, and seemed like
her own version of "Zooey and Fran" with Sylvia Plath mixed
"McKinlay had popped up in her search for 6-foot guys with blue eyes", I'm completely out of touch with dating but is it normal or accepted nowadays to search for narrow physical attributes? to me this is an example of shallowness.
I have a feeling that approach is no better when compared with going on dates with a random sample of 88 women (within some range of compatible age/attractiveness), but I don't have the data to prove it.
The questions are an excellent initial filter if you've flagged a few obvious deal breakers. It's the FizzBuzz of dating. Then you move on to personally examining the profiles of people who have passed that test, contact them, and so on.
It's certainly not an optimal system for casual sex, but it does a reasonable job of finding candidates for any relationship more serious than that.
I think something better already exists - it's called speed dating. It was invented by a rabbi as a Jewish matchmaking event where you meet many people over a short space of time (maximising the chance of finding mutual attraction). But most cities have very few events which are consequently overpriced due to lack of competition.