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Sprecher, S. Relationship compatibility, compatible matches, and compatibility matching. Psychological Research Records , 1 2 , — Tierney, J. Hitting it off, thanks to algorithms of love. While his work hummed away, he whiled away time on online dating sites, but he didn't have a lot of luck — until one night, when he noted a connection between the two activities. One of his favourite sites, OkCupid , sorted people into matches using the answers to thousands of questions posed by other users on the site.
McKinlay started by creating fake profiles on OkCupid, and writing programs to answer questions that had also been answered by compatible users — the only way to see their answers, and thus work out how the system matched users. He managed to reduce some 20, other users to just seven groups, and figured he was closest to two of them. So he adjusted his real profile to match, and the messages started rolling in. McKinlay's operation was possible because OkCupid, and so many other sites like it, are much more than just simple social networks, where people post profiles, talk to their friends, and pick up new ones through common interest.
Instead, they seek to actively match up users using a range of techniques that have been developing for decades. Every site now makes its own claims to "intelligent" or "smart" technologies underlying their service. But for McKinlay, these algorithms weren't working well enough for him, so he wrote his own. McKinlay has since written a book Optimal Cupid about his technique, while last year Amy Webb , a technology CEO herself, published Data, a Love Story documenting how she applied her working skills to the tricky business of finding a partner online.
Two people, both unsatisfied by the programmes on offer, wrote their own; but what about the rest of us, less fluent in code? Years of contested research, and moral and philosophical assumptions, have gone into creating today's internet dating sites and their matching algorithms, but are we being well served by them? The idea that technology can make difficult, even painful tasks — including looking for love — is a pervasive and seductive one, but are their matchmaking powers overstated?
I n the summer of , a Harvard undergraduate named Jeff Tarr decided he was fed up with the university's limited social circle. As a maths student, Tarr had some experience of computers, and although he couldn't program them himself, he was sure they could be used to further his primary interest: meeting girls.
With a friend he wrote up a personality quiz for fellow students about their "ideal date" and distributed it to colleges across Boston. Sample questions included: "Is extensive sexual activity [in] preparation for marriage, part of 'growing up? Operation Match was born. Each questionnaire was transferred to a punch-card, fed into the machine, and out popped a list of six potential dates, complete with address, phone number and date of graduation, which was posted back to the applicant.
Each of those six numbers got the original number and five others in their response: the program only matched women with their ideal man if they fitted his ideal too. Even at the birth of the computer revolution, the machine seemed to have an aura about it, something which made its matches more credible than a blind date or a friend's recommendation.
Shalit quoted a freshman at Brown University who had dumped her boyfriend but started going out with him again when Operation Match sent her his number.
Shalit imbued it with even more weight, calling it "The Great God Computer". The computer-dating pioneers were happy to play up to the image of the omniscient machine — and were already wary of any potential stigma attached to their businesses. We supply everything but the spark. Contact, Match's greatest rival, was founded by MIT graduate student David DeWan and ran on a Honeywell computer, developed in response to IBM's and operating two to three times faster.
DeWan made the additional claim that Contact's questions were more sophisticated than Match's nationwide efforts, because they were restricted to elite college students. In essence, it was the first niche computer-dating service. Over the years since Tarr first starting sending out his questionnaires, computer dating has evolved. Most importantly, it has become online dating.
And with each of these developments — through the internet, home computing, broadband, smartphones, and location services — the turbulent business and the occasionally dubious science of computer-aided matching has evolved too.
Online dating continues to hold up a mirror not only to the mores of society, which it both reflects, and shapes, but to our attitudes to technology itself. The American National Academy of Sciences reported in that more than a third of people who married in the US between and met their partner online, and half of those met on dating sites. The rest met through chatrooms, online games, and elsewhere. Preliminary studies also showed that people who met online were slightly less likely to divorce and claimed to be happier in their marriages.
The latest figures from online analytics company Comscore show that the UK is not far behind, with 5. When online dating moves not only beyond stigma, but beyond the so-called "digital divide" to embrace older web users, it might be said to have truly arrived. It has taken a while to get there. com, founded in , was the first big player, is still the biggest worldwide, and epitomises the "online classifieds" model of internet dating.
com doesn't make any bold claims about who you will meet, it just promises there'll be loads of them. eHarmony, which followed in , was different, promising to guide its users towards long-term relationships — not just dating, but marriage.
It believed it could do this thanks to the research of its founder, Neil Clark Warren, a then old psychologist and divinity lecturer from rural Iowa. His three years of research on 5, married couples laid the basis for a truly algorithmic approach to matching: the results of a question survey of new members the "core personality traits" , together with their communication patterns which were revealed while using the site.
Whatever you may think of eHarmony's approach — and many contest whether it is scientifically possible to generalise from married people's experiences to the behaviour of single people — they are very serious about it. Since launch, they have surveyed another 50, couples worldwide, according to the current vice-president of matching, Steve Carter. When they launched in the UK, they partnered with Oxford University to research 1, British couples "to identify any cultural distinctions between the two markets that should be represented by the compatibility algorithms".
And when challenged by lawsuits for refusing to match gay and lesbian people, assumed by many to be a result of Warren's conservative Christian views his books were previously published in partnership with the conservative pressure group, Focus on the Family , they protested that it wasn't morality, but mathematics: they simply didn't have the data to back up the promise of long-term partnership for same-sex couples.
As part of a settlement in one such lawsuit, eHarmony launched Compatible Partners in Carter says: "The Compatible Partners system is now based on models developed using data collected from long-term same-sex couples.
It's the middle of peak season for the online dating industry. As the calendar inches closer to Valentine's Day, I know that you have many choices with the thousands of online dating sites that have popped up in recent years.
Perhaps you'll select one that you've viewed on television showing the happy success couples. Maybe your cousin's engaged to a guy she met online and you select that site to dip a digital toe in. But do you ever wonder what happens behind the scenes at the online dating sites? Did you know you could find a date or a mate based on medical issues, pets or ethnicity? Did you ever wonder why you were being asked so many questions while setting up your profile? These questions create the dating algorithms that some believe will increase your chances of finding a better match.
At the recent Internet Dating Conference iDate in Las Vegas, I had the chance to speak with writer Dan Slater about his new book, Love in the Time of Algorithms. As an online dating executive, I've read the book from cover-to-cover before interviewing Slater.
Here's his insight to the online dating industry. A: It certainly wasn't one thing, and I wasn't dying to write this book my entire life. Around the time that I lost my job at the Wall Street Journal , I also become single at the age of I started using online dating sites for the first time and saw how different the process was. A year later, I found out my parents met through a computer dating service in the '60s. I went to iDate in to learn about the business and wrote an article in GQ , which became a launching pad for the book idea.
Q: In The Atlantic article, " A Million First Dates ," you take the position that online dating threatens monogamy. Do you believe that people don't want to connect long-term or that they just don't want to get married? A: The Atlantic article was an excerpt of the book. The article framed monogamy in a way that made the meaning different from what the meaning was in the book itself. As far as the demise of monogamy, that was not the point I was making. I think monogamy and commitment are two different terms.
Monogamy is about loyalty; about fidelity to the person you are with. Commitment, in my mind, defines the level of engagement in a relationship and the speed that someone moves through relationships. People who are in relationships, which aren't fantastic, might have stayed together before. I think the new availability of meeting new people though online dating makes it easier to leave a relationship and find someone better. Q: Do you think the dating algorithms help to create better matches and better relationships?
A: I'm somewhere in between where the academics of the world say [on one hand] and eHarmony [on the other hand]. I don't believe a computer can predict long-term compatibility or long-term relationship success. If you interview online daters, you'll find many who are unhappy with the technology, but will find others who think it's kind of amazing. Online dating is getting better at predicting who would get along on a first date.
As the technology evolves, it's a good chance that it will get even better. Q: In your book, you referenced the U. census statistic that 39 percent believe marriage will become obsolete. Do you agree? A: No. I don't think that marriage will become obsolete.
I think that's absurd. You don't stomp out a business model. People who are in successful marriages will tell you that marriage is one of the best things that has ever happened in their lives.
A: It's hard to say. It would depend on what age I was and what period and time it would have happened. I would be influenced by the media and influenced by what people I know are doing. Generally, I'd look for the size of the population and a site with a certain degree of searching capability.
Q: With the announcement of Facebook's Graph Search, how do you think that will affect the traditional online dating sites? I don't think there's going to be an immediate impact on the online dating industry.
In the long-term, it can be helpful, as it will further erode whatever reluctance people have to meet and date new people online. Facebook is considered mainstream. Once people experience dating on Facebook, it sends society a huge message that any stigma attached to this is now gone.
That's how it could help the online dating industry. One of the ways that big sites make money is by having anonymous profiles. If people come to expect non-anonymity in dating, then what happens to those paid sites?
To me, that's a pretty interesting question, but that's a way off. I think it's very challenging to be forming relationships these days, especially online with Facebook around. In the old days, you'd meet someone, whether online or offline, and you'd gradually meet during phone calls and face-to-face meetings. Now you go home and friend each other on Facebook and you're suddenly exposed to all of this information on Google, Facebook and Linkedin. You don't know them, but you have all of this information.
It's hard to form the trust you need when you can see each other's lives play out online. There's a big disconnect between what you think you know and what you actually know. Q: Do you believe that singles can find love with mobile dating apps or will they remain predominantly for hook-ups?
I think mobile has a long way to go in terms of societal acceptance. It's such a radical departure from what online daters are used to. If you look at the history of online dating over the first 10 to 15 years, it's developed in terms of more efficiency.
What does mobile dating do? It's just one more step towards efficiency. My hunch is one day it will be the norm, once people learn to use it in a way that's more satisfying to them and not threatening. A: I'm a journalist and was a lawyer for a brief period of time. I want to write. I loved immersing myself in this subject for the two-plus years that I did. It was a fascinating subject to explore. I don't think I have much more to say. I will now be a lifetime follower of the industry and who the players are as well.
You can visit ByDanSlater. com for more information on Love in the Time of Algorithms. Julie Spira is a leading online dating expert and CEO of Cyber-Dating Expert. She creates irresistible profiles for singles on the dating scene. For online dating advice, follow JulieSpira on Twitter and at Facebook. Online Dating Expert, Bestselling Author, and CEO, Cyber-Dating Expert.
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Improving aggregate recommendation diversity using ranking-based techniques. What does mobile dating do? Years of contested research, and moral and philosophical assumptions, have gone into creating today's internet dating sites and their matching algorithms, but are we being well served by them? Go To Homepage. As part of a settlement in one such lawsuit, eHarmony launched Compatible Partners in The Funniest Tweets From Parents This Week. Special Projects Highline.The most important questions on OkCupid, matching algorithm online dating. Aspirational pursuit of mates matching algorithm online dating online dating markets. I n the Summer ofChris McKinlay was finishing his maths dissertation at the University of California in Los Angeles. In a classic example of choice overload, Iyengar and Lepper presented grocery store shoppers with a tasting booth containing either six or 24 flavors of gourmet jam. Information Systems Research, Ahead of Print. Two people, both unsatisfied by the programmes on offer, wrote their own; but what about the rest of us, less fluent in code? Instead, they seek to actively match up users using a range of techniques that have been developing for decades.