I think it's one more example of when people's emotions and desires lead them to suboptimal outcomes. Most of the cues we associate with beauty and sexual desire evolved back in the savanna when health and fertility were very real risks; being able to pick up on which potential mates would be able to carry healthy offspring to term and nurture them until adulthood was very important then. Nowadays, the far greater risk is that you'll hate each other and fight all the time, but this has only been a concern since people started living long enough and in close enough proximity to care.
This is not what people mean when they say someone looks terrible in their pictures.
The point of the experiment is to withhold information about whether someone is physically attract, not about whether they have good photography skills. The only reason to avoid putting up grainy pictures is because people will assume you're not good looking and are trying to disguise this fact.
"The flash adds 7 years"
"The type and brand of camera you use has a huge effect on how good you look in your pictures."
"There are peak times of the day to take a good picture." ala you are more attractive in photos taken at sunrise and sunset.
Between that blog entry and the other ones on the topic the conclusion really is that how attractive you are in real life and how attractive you are in your photo can have very little correlation.
"For the hundreds of thousands of users searching for that special someone through one of the largest free online dating sites, the love fest may be coming to an end. OkCupid is putting users’ privacy in danger by failing to support secure access to its entire website through HTTPS. Every OkCupid email, chat session, search, clicked link, page viewed, and username is transmitted over the Internet in unencrypted plaintext, where it can be intercepted and read by anyone on the network."
The Heartbreaking Truth About Online Dating Privacy:
They haven't updated their blog since April 2011.
There were a number of factors (which I've explained elsewhere in my comment history). That's part of it, but another factor was that, in 2010, there were 2.5 people working full-time on doing research for OkTrends.
The blog posts took a lot of work. "The Real Stuff White People Like" took almost two months of my time, plus some from Max and Christian as well. (Much like the product design process, since we didn't start each post off with a clear end result in mind, not all the work was visible in the final product).
I left to go back to school. Max ended up taking on more responsibility for other data/stats work, which slowed the pace a bit, and he left at the beginning of 2012 to do his own stuff.
People asked me for the last three years whether the reason OkTrends hadn't posted since 2011 was because of the Match.com acquisition and whether Match shut them down and I had to tell everyone "No, trust me, they're still around! It's just a coincidence!". Thankfully I no longer have to. :)
 2.5 full-time means: Two of us full-time, as well as Christian, though he split his work time between OkTrends (the blog) and other stuff.
I think that's around the time they were bought out by Match.com .
When we started LALife.com, it was with the idea of making a real estate site with lots of great statistics and quantitative data. We gave grades for how safe things were, how good the schools were, multiple heatmaps, assessor data, census data, nearby amenities -- a buffet of data. And sure, people who also fit in the mold of trivia collectors thought this was amazing.
But the more we talked to people, the more we found out that they really didn't use this data, even when they said they appreciated it. We had really overshot the market -- users almost never delved into the statistics, yet took our grades as absolute authority. What people wanted first of all was just insight about whether it was a "nice place" or not, a maddeningly vague concept.
Ultimately, we trashed countless tables and statistics and scaled it back to one number. Yes, one 0-99 number that shows you, well, how "nice" a place is to live. We were so afraid of generalizing things like this because everyone is different and has different priorities and so on. But trying to make things custom for everyone is a losing game, and it turned out "is it nice?" is something everyone already knew intuitively.
So insanely, we went from having 50 extra data points on a home for sale to having one "superscore". But a funny thing happened, which is it became much more successful in the site's actual mission, to help people understand a home's neighborhood without having to visit in person. And now we're providing an insight that is compact enough that we can put it everywhere and people can digest it instantly.
So although we would ultimately like to give people a more data-conscious mindset, the tool and the user need to agree on that commitment. So we're accommodating the user's actual mental model while we work towards expanding it.
PS: We have our scoring model working nationwide, but as you have seen from the Zillow thread, it's hard to get nationwide home listings. We're working on getting homes for rent on http://www.padrank.com/ so you can sign up there if you want to see how it works throughout the US.
On the flip side (as an OKC user), I've also had moderate amounts of fun trying to figure out their algorithms by trial and error.
For a while, I discovered I could figure out who scored me highly on their Quickmatch  feature by visiting it repeatedly - the ones who gave me a high score always came up first. This doesn't seem to work anymore.
: If you haven't used OKC, the idea is: you score potential matches 1-5. You can tell if someone scored you highly (but not who) and if both of you give each other 4 or 5 you get a message "introducing" you both. If you're an A-list (paid) member, you get to see who scored you highly without scoring them.
Edit: tweaked phrasing as per comments.
Facebook is already making the decision as to whether to show you a post or not, and they make that decision based on what they think you will want to see and what you will engage with, all of which is fuzzy and subjective. They already manipulate things you see to encourage engagement; for example, if their algorithm shows that your engagement is dropping and you're about to leave, they'll show other people your profile and say 'do you know this person?', because someone adding you as a friend boosts your engagement.
So if you think that showing you posts which are happy or sad is manipulative, be aware that Facebook is already filtering your potential-friends list and showing you people solely to boost engagement (either yours or theirs). Looked at another way, this means that it's possible their algorithm isn't currently showing you people you might know because it's not as beneficial for them to make that connection for you yet.
So the purpose of Facebook's site is to get people to interact and generate behaviour, and now they're experimenting with that; which posts do we show? which do we hide? They haven't shown them all for ages, so this is just a tweak to their algorithm that they were testing.
What's really interesting here is how this could actually be used for good. Someone feeling crappy? Show them fewer negative posts and more positive posts. Maybe that will help. Show negative posts less often, and make society in general a little more positive.
Facebook did theorize that the changes it was making would affect people's moods in a certain way. That might make it sound like intentional mood manipulation.
But OKC's changes also affected people's moods. More than Facebook's, I would guess.
All these sites are constantly experimenting on humans. That's what changing the site content means. Everything that affects us affects our moods and everything else.
All the FB experiment actually shows is that by manipulating the mood of content seen, you can affect the mood of content produced.
Here's a couple of contrarian hypotheses: "when some users see more 'happy' content, they feel worse about themselves in comparison, but post more 'happy' content to pretend that isn't so." Or, "when some already-sad users see more 'sad' content, this does not affect their mood directly, but does give them tacit permission to share how they are already feeling. Subsequently, their mood actually improves."
If your bank experimented with not completing transactions or your email provider experimented with not delivering emails, the problem wouldn't be that they experimented.
And they're doing it to fight against users being hideously misrepresentative, which is hilarious.
I often endure rage fits from one of my buddies who shows me example after example of cases where, for example, he answered "often" to a question a lady answered "usually," resulting in a mismatch.
The only good thing about it are key individual questions that let you judge someone's intelligence and determine if they're racist. The scalar number is a crock.
Some years ago randomly I met a girl online, that most of men (based on her picture) would wife up. I was living abroad at the time and we were only able to meet in person some months later. After few minutes in the date I could see that we would not go anywhere. There was a lack of "real-time" empathy and I hated some details in her personality that I couldn't realise before meeting her (not her look, surprisingly she was even more beautiful in person than at photos). If I had met her in person instead of online, I would have saved months of my life.. I will not do it ever again.
Because of her I met my gf of 5 years, but that was just serendipity working, not because of a dating site.
But I guess there's a lot of matches, and you can't talk to everyone, which would explain the low numbers. Still a bit surprising to me.
Edit: What you guys said makes sense, thanks. My lack of knowledge of dating sites lead to a bad intuition.
One-liners and no picture are instant 'don't bother replying', and most people with more details tend to get weeded out for other reasons.
Be brief, be funny, and always as a question. That's how you do it folks.
Thinking about it now, it seems like the numbers game recruiters play. Send out a lot of semi-decent introductions and hope for a response or two. Your best bet is getting out there and "networking", but in lieu of that, sending out a deluge of messages is the next best, albeit shitty, thing.
I'd be interested in hearing how women deal with the deluge of introductions and what makes them decide to respond to someone. Is it the intro? The profile picture? Do they read the person's bio or use that compatibility meter?
I've done this, and the profile picture is what matters. Text matters a bit--empty hurt, but the half-assed one, if anything, outperformed the one with effort, though they were basically the same.
As computer types, we like to focus on the text, because the text is all and controllable. Good pictures are more difficult, because they take soft skills. Note that, contrary to expectations, it's probably easier to get great pictures of an average looking person than a great profile from an average writer: just using a well-constructed photograph taken with a decent camera as your main photo puts you ahead of most people, even those significantly more attractive than you.
If it does to other people, then I should put more effort into my photographs...
It turns out photo quality, and even which camera you used, matters a lot.
1. Generic one-liners get rejected out of hand. Especially generic one-liners with no icon.
2. Message + picture. Did the message amuse me? What's the massively parallel snarkbeast in the back of my brain tell me about you based on your picture? Or preferably, what's she tell me about you based on the multiple pictures you've uploaded? If you only have one you're probably winnowed out here unless it is one hell of a good picture.
3. Skim profile, consider OKC's match estimate, then I start reading the questions you've answered. Some answer conflicts are instant dealbreakers, some are not - someone who's aggressively monogamous has no chance with my poly self, for instance.
4. Consider my current workload: does this candidate feel worth a couple hours at a coffee shop, or more, to experiment with? This is the hardest filter to pass: are you more interesting than "working on my comic" or "getting other art out of the way so I can work on my comic".
Note that a reply is no guarantee of me actually having a desire to do anything; when I checked OKC after this essay reminded me I have an account there, I found a message from a 60% match who turned out to give me a much more conservative vibe than I like, so I did a probe for my own amusement: he said I seemed adventurous and like someone who has 'a whole lot of soul', so I replied with 'Actually I don't have a soul; one dark night in Los Angeles I went to a certain crossroads and traded it to the Devil for serious drawing skills.'. Which is at once a joke, an ironic metaphor about what it was like to work in the animation industry, and a test to see if the conservative vibe I got was correct.
I know that my method for sifting through the hundreds of profiles given by the matching algorithm is to first discriminate based on the profile pic.
From there, I'll go on to read the profile text to see if she's someone I'd want to be around. After that, it's the compatibility list which can show any major areas where we would have a difference of opinion (stuff like kids vs no kids, for example).
If those three hurdles are cleared, I'll write a message. I wouldn't be surprised if she's using a similar mechanism to decide whether to respond or not (thus, the low response rate).
If you ever figure this out go ahead and write a book. It will be the most successful, widely read book in human history.
I've always gone with 'minor perturbations in the local electromagnetic field'. I've found this hypothesis about as successful at predictions of how women choose mates as anything else I have ever read or heard or thought of, ever.
This is why kstenerud's approach is the correct one.
Anyway it takes a few minutes per user to check them out and write them a quick message.
Read the profile, find something they mention you don't know about, ask about it, make a joke.
You can even use the same shitty joke over and over--all told, shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
It's like starting up a conversation at a bar or wherever with a stranger: listen for a second, ask nicely about whatever they're talking about or bring up a random thing, and go from there. Practice on people in elevators if you need to overcome your anxiety. :)
"hey! you like icecream?"--
The key word is "think", but I guess most people don't use "think" to actually mean "think".
So, the women (naturally) fall back to a heuristic of "Well, does the profile pic at least look attractive?", in turn reinforcing the idea that they are shallow people only caring about looks at the end of the day (somewhat true given the context). It's just not good for anyone.
I'd thought about requiring a proof-of-work to enable sending of messages--failing that, maybe some kind of system whereby you get a token every time you message and get a message back which you can then use to send additional messages.
Think flow-control for dating sites.
The bar is set really rather low. :(
Either that or they're usually rare and I'm just so generic I get along with everyone.
I'm not saying you have to find these experiments upsetting just that when people are upset it tends to be about treating users like honorable guests and not about whether or not we should be allowed to tinker with services to find the right solution.
I'm all for the expectations of privacy, but if you type something into a search box on a website owned by somebody else, well, you get what you pay for.
Hm, that is unexpected. Wonder how long it will last.
George swipes right for every woman on Tinder. E:"What if you're not attracted to her?" G:"If she's attracted to me, I might be!"
I'm skeptical it was similar, at least if you were to measure the thing that actually matters: whether or not the person wants to go on a second date. ("Did you have a good time" is probably equating to "Did the person avoid doing something terrible" in the survey.)
It's ludicrous on its face to think that men, if they choose a blind date partner based on conversations and profiles, will want to go on a second date just as often with a beautiful woman as with a plain woman.
Just a quote that resonates ... The design and architecture of our online environments will affect our happiness as much as anything else.
That to me is a distinct difference, both in practicality and morality.
Obviously, sustained interest and the development of romance is more complicated and involves aspects of personality, shared interests, &c. However, that doesn't change the fact that if they weren't good looking enough for you in the first place, you never would have made the effort to find out about the stuff you actually care about.
Will be interesting to observe the sociological takedowns of this post.
Also who the hell though it was a good idea to have a dating site without pictures (even for 24 hours?)
It may have in fact turned out that what we intuitively think as bad data results in better matches or better experiences. I think experimenting is worthwhile, so long as it is done in the open as they have been doing.
"We evaluated some of the new methods offline but the additional accuracy gains that we measured did not seem to justify the engineering effort needed to bring them into a production environment." - https://www.techdirt.com/blog/innovation/articles/20120409/0...
I wouldn't say that this makes you wrong, but I'd say you are partially right.
I actually find this reassuring. It means they're sanity checking their algorithm to make sure that it works better than random pairings, or isn't outright wrong.
Also, Facebook didn't 'hide it from their users' so much as 'not tell anyone they were doing it'. And for the average OkCupid user, I'm willing to bet that 99% of them have no idea this sort of thing happens. They log onto the site, do some stuff, and then leave.
Personally, I was as surprised by the idea that OkCupid outright lied about compatibility scores to see what was up as I was about the results, but it doesn't bother me, and I'm the type of person who's read all their blog posts anyway.