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Hi, I Want To Meet (17.6% of) You!

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the there-is-someone-for-everyone-except-you dept.

The Internet 372

Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton wants to make online dating better. Here's how he wants to do it. "Suppose you're an entrepreneur who wants to break into the online personals business, but you face impossible odds because everybody wants to go where everybody else already is (basically, either Match.com or Yahoo Personals). Here is a suggestion that would give you an edge. In a nutshell: Each member lists the criteria for people that they are looking for. Then when people contact them, they choose whether or not to respond. After the system has been keeping track of who contacts you and who you respond to, the site lists your profile in other people's search results along with your criteria-specific response rate: "Lisa has responded to 56% of people who contacted her who meet her criteria." Read on for the rest of his thoughts.I realize that every time I write something along the lines of "They should do it this way instead of the way they do it now", whether for search engines, spam filters, content rating systems or whatever, I leave some people shrugging and wondering why anyone should switch to my idea. So let me try something new: I want to prove mathematically that this change would result in some (in fact, most) of the participants being better off, while nobody would be worse off (what economists call a Pareto improvement). I am not necessarily saying that it would lead to a good outcome for everybody; basically, it will lead to better outcomes for most users (although some of those will still be bad outcomes), and will do so in a lot less time.

If as soon as you read the phrase "I can prove mathematically" you thought, "Oh well no wonder he gets such a low response rate if he talks like that all the time", then I humbly submit that (1) while I like my Slashdot persona of a pedant banging people over the head with what I think is a brilliant idea, I do have other programmable settings, like conversation about movies, and (2) for once, it's not just me. Sites like eDateReview.com list hundreds of reviews for the most popular sites like Yahoo, Match.com and eHarmony, all of which got an average rating of about 2 out of 5. Another site hosting reviews of online personals services, DatingSitesReviews.com, posted a message urging people to take the predominantly negative reviews with a grain of salt, since users with a bad experience are much more likely to post a review than users with a positive one, but that only generated comments from the site's users reiterating, "No, they really do suck." Most of the complaints from men are not just about the number of obviously fake profiles (which led to lawsuits against Yahoo and Match.com), but about the low response rate even from women who are ostensibly real.

Not that I blame the women. Having watched over the shoulder of some female friends scrolling through their Yahoo Personals inboxes, some of them get far too many messages to reply to (and even if they had time to reply, they'd only be leading on most of the correspondents, since there would never be enough time to actually meet all of them). Yahoo Personals formats your inbox so that you see each person's picture along with the first few words of what they wrote, so if you have too many messages, all you can really do is scroll through the pictures (yes, women do care about that). In fact, Yahoo has a feature that lets you see the users who have viewed your profile -- which may have revealed more than Yahoo intended, since sometimes after writing to 20 or 30 people, I find out that none of them even clicked through to my profile anyway -- so if you're a guy, take Yahoo's advice about "polishing your profile" with a grain of salt. (In fact, many users with Yahoo Personals profiles are not paid members, which means they cannot reply to the messages you send them except with boilerplate like "I liked your message", and Yahoo blocks you from sending them your e-mail address. So Yahoo is listing them as people that you can contact through their service, even though Yahoo knows those people won't be able to write you back. If this strikes you as something between bad site design and actionable fraud, then you are not a Yahoo employee.)

So, yes, there is a problem worth solving. For the purpose of describing the response-rate system, I'm going to dispense with political correctness and refer to the people sending the messages as the "men" and to the people receiving messages as the "women". I hear from the pilot episode of Sex and the City that after the "mid-thirties power flip", the odds shift the other way (due to women getting older and the men accumulating more money, although the show doesn't put it quite so bluntly), so if you're in that age bracket, substitute the appropriate genders in the discussion below.

Note that I when I talk about listing women's response rates, I am talking about their response rates to men who meet their criteria. If you only want to meet men aged 28 to 29 who are interested in paddleboating, then your displayed response rate is only affected by the percentage of messages that you respond to from men in that group.

The mathematical argument commences: If you're a man writing to women on a site, for every women there are two essential variables: the probability P that she will reply to you, and how much value V you would place on getting a reply from her (say, on a scale of 1 to 10). For any woman that you write to, if P = (probability of getting a reply) and V = (value of getting a reply), then then probabilistic benefit of writing to her is P x V. (And I swear I didn't notice this until after I'd written the article, but I do not want to hear anything juvenile about framing a discussion of men meeting women in terms of the "P" and the "V".) If you have non-standard tastes, such as a preference for "Big Beautiful Women", that's great, since the women that you consider to be 9s and 10s may also be the ones that you have the highest chance of getting a reply from, since fewer other men are writing to them, and P x V for those women will be -- in a manner of speaking -- huge. Unfortunately, if your tastes are fairly typical, then the women you consider to be 9s and 10s are also getting lots of messages from other men, and have the lowest probability of replying to you. So as V = (value of getting a reply) goes up, P = (probability of getting a reply) goes down, and the product doesn't vary as much as you would like. There's nothing that the response-rate system can do about that.

In any case, if you're allocating your time rationally, you would first write to the members where you estimate P x V to be the highest, and then write to the members where P x V was the next highest, and then based on the cost-benefit principle, you'd continue writing until P x V of writing to the next person is exceeded by the value of the time it would take you to do it. (The incremental value of each additional minute of your time is not constant -- after a long time spent sending messages, you might get bored, and would require a larger incentive to spend an additional minute of your time doing it.) All of this is basically intuition and common sense, even if people don't think of it in terms of these equations (except me!).

But here's the advantage of the response-rating system: With a conventional personals site, you're only guessing the value of P x V -- to be precise, you know the value of V (at least as well as anyone can possibly know it from reading someone's profile), but you're only estimating P, based on how many messages you think she's probably getting from other people. Because of that randomness, that means some of the time you are sending messages without the best possible P x V value, and probably some of the time you are even sending messages where P x V would not even be worth the effort of sending the message, if you knew how low P was. Whereas with a system that shows a woman's response rate to people who meet her criteria, if you're someone who meets her criteria, you know roughly the probability P of getting a reply. (Actually, the probability P for you of getting a response, might not be the percentage-response-rate displayed by the site -- if you have an especially attractive or unattractive face, but there's no way for the woman to specify that in her criteria, then your chance of getting a reply might be higher or lower than the displayed percentage-response-rate. But, then you could just scale all of the displayed response rates upwards or downwards to gauge your probability P of getting a reply. It would still be better than making a total guess on a conventional personals site that didn't display percentage response rates at all.) So this is an unambiguous improvement from the point of view of the men. Another reason why men would be much better off is a specific case of this: they would avoid the time sink of writing to women who do not or cannot respond to most of the messages they're getting. With a response-rate system, those women's profiles would gradually display lower and lower response rates until the percentage was low enough to dissuade all but the most optimistic (or handsome) suitors. Without a display of the response rate, those users continue getting ridiculously large numbers of messages for as long as their profiles are active (as some of my female friends with profiles could attest).

Then consider from the women's point of view. Suppose you're a woman interested in meeting people who meet certain criteria, and you're sincerely interested in replying to at least a significant portion of people who fit those criteria. The problem is that of the men who meet those requirements, some of their attention is still going to be siphoned off by them writing to other women who only have a low chance of responding. Even if you have very specific criteria, so the men who meet your criteria have a great chance of getting a reply from you, on a conventional personals site they might not realize that. But if your response rate were displayed by your profile, then when men searched for women whose criteria they met (and who met their own criteria as well), you would be listed as one of the people with the highest chance of replying, and you'd have a greater chance of hearing from men who met your requirements. (This is not a huge benefit for women, because most women get enough messages that there will usually be some who meet their criteria anyway. The response-rate system would mainly be beneficial to men; I'm just saying it would not be worse for women and would in fact be a little better for some of them.)

Now there's one group of people who would not be better off: Women who create accounts mainly for the ego boost of getting huge numbers of messages and not replying to them. I talked with a few women who used the personals sites for this purpose; some I knew in person, some of them I talked to back when Yahoo Personals would display a woman's Yahoo Messenger screen name, and if you sent them an instant message they would sometimes reply out of sheer boredom and admit that that was what they were doing. These people would not be better off in a system that displayed response rates, since after their response rates dwindled low enough, so would the number of messages. So this would not be a true Pareto improvement, since the definition of a Pareto improvements insists on nobody being worse off, and doesn't make judgments as to people's reasons. Fine, but I submit that people who use the personals sites for the ego boost of ignoring messages are going against the site's purpose, and any improvement that pisses them off but improves things for everybody else, is still a good thing.

You might worry that the ego-trippers would continue to game the system by writing trivially short replies to all the messages they got, in order to keep their "response rate" high and keep the messages coming. I'm not sure, but I don't think that would be very common, because my impression from talking to the girls who do this is that the whole point of the ego boost is that the messages keep coming in without them having to do anything. If they had to exert themselves at all -- even long enough to reply to each message and say "yeah" -- then it wouldn't feel as much fun. Probably some would do this anyway. But of the men who kept getting responses like "yeah" and "I dunno", hopefully they would get the message quickly and stop wasting time. I could be wrong about some of these things, but my point is that it would not be any worse than the old system, where so many users already waste time writing to people who don't write back, and the new system would probably be better since it would eliminate some of the time-wasters.

There are some design decisions that I didn't specify here -- for example, do you display each user's response rate over their entire history on the site, or just over the last 24-72 hours, or both? A trickier question: Do you display the user's criteria that they have entered to specify what they're looking for, and which are used when the site calculates their response rate to all users who "meet their criteria"? Most sites do of course let users list what they are looking for. But suppose a woman is only interested in meeting men who make more than $75,000 per year, but she thinks it would be crass to list that on her profile. On the other hand, if she doesn't list it as a requirement, then her percentage response rate will be dragged down by all the men writing to her who make less than $75,000 but who she's not interested in replying to. One alternative would be that she could still have one set of public criteria displayed on her profile, and one set of "secret" criteria that included the $75,000 cutoff. Then men who made $75,000 or more would be steered toward her profile with the message, "You meet her criteria, and she responds to 50% of men who meet her requirements!" But you'd have the ticklish business of men who somehow find her profile, and meet all of her public criteria, but can't figure out why the system is telling them that they weren't a match for her -- and they contact the service to ask why, and tech support has to tactfully explain that sometimes you don't meet all of someone's secret requirements. In any case, a man would be able to reverse-engineer a woman's "secret" requirements by varying his own characteristics on his profile until the system said, "Ding! You're a match for her!" (But then what are you going to do, send her a message calling her a gold digger? Go ahead, it doesn't affect her percentage response rate anyway.)

In concluding that "everyone" would be better off under this system, I did make the type of assumptions that are common in mathematical/economic models, such as assuming that all participants are cold rationalists maximizing benefit to themselves. Such assumptions often do model human behavior pretty well, even in romantic pairings -- it explains why 10's usually end up with 10's, 9's usually end up with 9's, and so on. But these axioms may not take seemingly "irrational" preferences into account. For example, I've assumed that if it would be a waste of time for a user to write to 10 women who are not going to write back, then the new system is an improvement if it dissuades him from ever writing to those 10 women in the first place, because the end result is the same (nothing) and you've saved them the effort. But on a conventional personals site, after someone has written to 10 people and before they realize they're not getting any responses, they still have the hope that they might get answers, and that can be a good feeling. They'll be disappointed later on once they realize they're not getting any responses, but if they have a personality that is especially receptive to hope and especially resistant to disappointment, then it could average out to a better overall experience under the old system. Well, the old-style Match.com and Yahoo Personals would still be around for people who prefer to dream. I'm just saying the new-style system would better suit people looking for results.

The real problem with starting a competing personals site around this system (apart from pulling in enough users to reach "critical mass", but assume you had an ad campaign to do that), is that even if your system produced better matches for everybody in the long run, Yahoo Personals and Match.com would still be better at luring people in with the hope of getting a fabulous match-up. Even if Yahoo Personals got rid of all the fake profiles, and even if they gave anyone listed as a "member" a way to reply to people who send them messages (which among other things would bring them in line with laws against false advertising), their gallery would still be glittering with all the profiles of people who are getting too much mail to possibly reply to it all -- but as a new user, you wouldn't know that. On the other hand, with a personals site that listed criteria-specific response rates next to each profile, if you didn't have a good chance of getting a response from the most popular users, you'd know that from the beginning. You could then come back down to Earth and focus on the users whose criteria you met and who responded to most of their mail. But the site wouldn't be able to use its superstars to lure people in and string them along like Yahoo and Match.com can do.

So, to the business that launches a personals site around this system, this is what I'd propose to do: Since your system really does work better, contact a bunch of single reporters (I mean, higher up than me) and tell them to sign up for an account with Yahoo Personals, an account with Match.com, and an account with your new response-rating site, and spend twenty minutes on each site writing to users that they're interested in meeting. Or sponsor a controlled study where dozens of users try the same thing. Your site will be the only one where the participants can find and write to the members with the highest response rate for people meeting their criteria, and if the system really does result in more efficient matches, then the reporters and the study organizers ought to be able to verify that. Then you have your new ad campaign!

It's easy to list all the problems that would occur in this system: People could lie on their profiles, you can't always judge someone from a profile even if they're honest, people could waste your time starting a conversation and then bailing on you, just because people meet through the site doesn't mean they'll be a good match in person, etc. But these are problems with any personals site. This system only addresses the specific problem of efficiency; I haven't come up with an algorithmic solution to all of the problems of dating and love. It's only Tuesday.

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What do we call this service? (1)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475606)

Needy Nerds?
Nerds Needing Nelle?
Nerds R Us?

Re:What do we call this service? (1)

MoxFulder (159829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475878)

After the system has been keeping track of who contacts you and who you respond to, the site lists your profile in other people's search results along with your criteria-specific response rate: "Lisa has responded to 56% of people who contacted her who meet her criteria."
So.... basically this system advertises how *desperate* you are, right?

I mean, if it says "MoxFulder has responded to 100% of people who contacted him who meet his criteria", presumably MoxFulder is either (a) a slut, or (b) really desperate. Neither of which is something you want to advertise in general :-)

Thanks but no thanks. I don't think more statistics and numbers are going to help people get lucky. Last time I checked a little bit of mysteriousness went a long way...

Re:What do we call this service? (4, Insightful)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476528)

I mean, if it says "MoxFulder has responded to 100% of people who contacted him who meet his criteria", presumably MoxFulder is either (a) a slut, or (b) really desperate.
Or... (c) polite enough to turn down people with an email rather than ignoring them.

I know assuming promiscuity is fun and all, but one must make room for the possibility of good manners, however rare they may be. :)

Re:What do we call this service? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475958)

"Nerds R Us" will only result in a takedown demand from Toys R Us.
And they'll win.

Phormst post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475630)

Your past network traffic suggests that you would enjoy this first post!

Bought to you by Phorm.

How about slashdot personals? (5, Funny)

christurkel (520220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475656)

Okay, here's mine:

Divorced geek, uses Debian (and installed it with the original installer, natch), can code some perl, works as an IT geek for a small non-profit. Likes installing alternate OSes for fun and experimenting with various window managers. Cross platform and virus free.

Re:How about slashdot personals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475742)

uses Debian (and installed it with the original installer, natch)
Real geeks install Debian with debootstrap!

Re:How about slashdot personals? (2, Funny)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475988)

Cross platform? Is that an intersexual [wikipedia.org] person? And are you sure this person has _always_ been virus-free [wikipedia.org] ?

Who? (1)

PixelScuba (686633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476010)

Virus free? The individual or their computer?

Re:How about slashdot personals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476034)

Likes installing alternate OSes for fun and experimenting with various window managers. Cross platform and virus free.

So you're attracted to all sexes and even many species, and still single? You must be fugly.

Re:How about slashdot personals? (1)

tigress (48157) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476206)

User tigress has responded to 0% of geeks that fail to meet her criteria. ...ohwait! Darn!

Re:How about slashdot personals? (2, Interesting)

ArcadeX (866171) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476326)

You forgot to mention that all /. personal will be broken into two categories... VI or Emacs...

I for one (5, Funny)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475658)

Would rather meet 0% of you. No offense.

You beat me to it. (4, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475708)

Damn, I was going to say that. I gotta meet you now.

Re:You beat me to it. (3, Funny)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475818)

refer to my earlier post. just kidding. but seriously i'm not.

Re:You beat me to it. (3, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476266)

I knew you'd say that! Seriously. You're like my twin. We gotta meet. ;-)

Re:I for one (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476162)

Would rather meet 0% of you. No offense.

That's still too much for me.

Dear Bennet, (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475662)

I think I speak for many slashdotters when I say; "No one cares, get a blog"!

Guess I'm a lucky one (5, Funny)

alta (1263) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475684)

I met my wife of 8 years now on y! personals back in 98... We dated for a few years and got hitched. At this point, she's ready to sue them for it.

Re:Guess I'm a lucky one (2, Funny)

evilklown (1008863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475744)

Don't feel too bad. I met my wife the old fashioned way, and she'd be ready to sue someone too. The only difference is that she can only blame herself. :)

Me too! (2, Interesting)

thegameiam (671961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475956)

My wife and I met on usenet in 1995.

Do the rest of us a favour- just shoot yourself. (5, Insightful)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475700)

We don't need YAUDSBSWWTMAMBOOOPM (Yet Another Useless Dating Site by Someone Who Wants To Make A Million Bucks Off Of Other People's Misery).

Really, just admit that you don't know how to meet other people, and that you figure if you're running a dating site, you'll get to skim all the ads, etc., AND make money without having to really work. Its not going to happen.

Re:Do the rest of us a favour- just shoot yourself (-1, Flamebait)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475802)

Well, not only that, the idea of going for a Pareto improvement mathematical proof is flawed. It's an impossible and IMHO unnecessary step. Just show how your process is better, and let people decide if it's worth it. "Mathematical proofs" that people should assist in social changes ... well, it's a short road to sophistry.

Simple proof: Imagine there's (what I call) a "misanthrope", a person who is dissatisfied by the satisfaction of others and vice versa. The existence of one such person destroys possibility of Pareto improvement.

Plus, many things that are Pareto improvements in theory, are not in practice. As one of many examples, we could Pareto-improve trade policy: currently, we have tariffs to prop up inefficient domestic industries, functioning as a policy that hurts consumers and benefits workers and corporations making the tariffed goods, but does it very inefficiently because consumers here and abroad are all hurt in the process. A strict improvement would be to look at those same workers and corporations, make simple transfer payments to them[1], and then lift the tariffs and watch domestic capital rearrange to do what's truly efficient. Workers/corporations are better off, consumers are better off (because the gain is less than the payoff because the tariffs caused cascading inefficiencies.) Yet voters would balk at this (far more efficient!) cash payoff. Go fig.

So, in short, don't focus on these mathematical proofs. Isolate what's better, and ask what's really stopping people from switching. In the tariff example, I'd guess it's because voters want to prop up their own cherished beliefs. But who knows?

[1] For those with low IQs or were born before 1965, read this as "The government could cut some fresh checks to workers and corporations, courtesy of the ol' Treasury Department."

Re:Do the rest of us a favour- just shoot yourself (5, Interesting)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476462)

"Wants To Make A Million Bucks"

Aha, but there is the reason why nobody uses his system. His system is designed to reduce effort and increase results. This means that the users will have to visit the site less, and stop using it earlier. This means fewer page hits, fewer users, fewer subscribers. This means less profit. The dating services are not in the business of hooking people up, they are in the business of selling subscriptions and advertisements. You get more page hits (more ads) and more subscription fees by _not_ doing a good job of hooking people up.

Re:Do the rest of us a favour- just shoot yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476580)

Dibs on yaudsbswwtmamboopm.com!

Here is the problem (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475704)

Women are afraid men on the internet are going to kill them.

Men are marginalized by men who only want sex.

Fix that and you're rich.

Re:Here is the problem (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475766)

Damnit I guess that second point is partially my fault. Here's what I was originally gonna post:

After the system has been keeping track of who contacts you and who you respond to, the site lists your profile in other people's search results along with your criteria-specific response rate: "Lisa has responded to 56% of people who contacted her who meet her criteria."
The criteria specific response rate would maybe be better if it was changed to "Lisa is pretty easy". Less thinking about numbers, more of what you really want to know!

Re:Here is the problem (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475964)

I don't know about that first comment. I have run across a good number of women who like the anonyminity the internet gives them but don't seem to fear any of the men they chat with... especially after they get into any type of voice chat...

I would tend to think there are more stupid ones than scared ones.

Women are marginalized by too many seeking money so it works out both ways.

Re:Here is the problem (0, Troll)

STrinity (723872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476322)

Men are marginalized by men who only want sex.

Fix that and you're rich.


Have a link that says, "Click here if you want women who'll put out on the first date." When they click that, they're taken to a directory of prostitutes in their area.

Alternatives (5, Informative)

Saxophonist (937341) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475722)

First off, if you want to get rid of the stupid membership fee structure of Yahoo! et al., try Plenty of Fish [plentyoffish.com] . I met my girlfriend on there.

Second, it is fairly trivial to work around your correspondent not being a member of Yahoo! Personals so long as you are. What I did was put up a web page with a captcha-ish image of my e-mail address and give them the link. Maybe they've closed that loophole by now, but just as with DRM, people will keep finding ways to break the system.

One site that has made it easier to get responses (because someone has to look at your profile and at least click reject if they don't like it) is chemistry.com. However, it's rather expensive, and you can run into the same problem where if your correspondent is not a member, you cannot communicate.

I agree, though, that it is depressing how many more messages the ladies get than the guys (or at least this guy).

Re:Alternatives (4, Interesting)

Stonent1 (594886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476120)

My first go-around trying online dating I met someone on the free site OKCupid.com. It is interesting because they have over 3000 questions you can answer and your matches are based on your answers and the answers that you'd like to get from the other person. And then filtered by your requirements (25 to 30, slim-average, non-smoker) etc. I've also met three girls off of match, two of which I dated. That's more frustrating because of what was mentioned earlier, the majority of people on match are not paid members. So you're left to try to google their name and see if you can find a myspace page or something for them if you suspect they are not a paid member. Though honestly, I never got a response from anyone that way. One girl actually removed her pictures off of myspace after I had found her profile just while browsing myspace and recognized the picture from Match.

Re:Alternatives (2, Interesting)

Inda (580031) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476154)

This is probably a get-off-my-lawn moment but this whole online dating thing amazes me.

I was chatting with an old mate a month or so back. Face to face chatting. You know? He was telling me about his son who I'd not seen in ten years and I was asking questions, as you do. - Where is he? - Out with his new girlfriend in Leeds - Leeds? How did he meet her then? - Same place he meets all his girlfriends; the internet.

Is it really that easy these days?

Re:Alternatives (1)

kudokatz (1110689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476320)

One alternative that has popped up is DatingDNA that aims to be a free service that allows for easy integration with various social apps: http://www.datingdna.com/ [datingdna.com] , but it still has to reach critical mass before being useful and it doesn't yet allow for matching by proximity all that well.

One can also look for places with a "free trial", and only activate it once it says somebody's interested.

Re:Alternatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476552)

try Plenty of Fish. I met my girlfriend on there.
Did she look all squished or stretched like all the pics on that site?

Aspect ratio...they might want to look it up sometime.

Men Hunt, Women Gather (2, Insightful)

Electrawn (321224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475726)

You can't apply Math to Sexual Attraction.

Obligatory: http://www.xkcd.com/55/ [xkcd.com]

What hasn't been thought out is the solution question: Will this complex system result in a resolution to loneliness/compatibility faster? Nutshell: More hookups?

I doubt it.

Re:Men Hunt, Women Gather (1)

celle (906675) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476456)

It may not but at least people will be talking to each other more and that often can increase the odds.

Tedious in the extreme (5, Insightful)

pigiron (104729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475732)

Has anyone actually read the entire article? No wonder they can't get any dates!

Re:Tedious in the extreme (3, Insightful)

GlobalColding (1239712) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475832)

Agreed, another example of Those who Can - DO, Those who Can't - Teach. I remember growing up, those of my friends who couldnt score kept talking about alternate realities and improbable multidimentional sexual scenarios. The rest of us were just having sex.

OKCupid (4, Insightful)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475734)

OKCupid! [okcupid.com] has a much better implementation. Users post questions, users answer them, and a percent match is calculated. Wow!

Re:OKCupid (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475894)

I really liked OKCupid's methodology, in fact I think it's the best and most unique "dating" site out there (and it's free). However, for me it had one major problem, there weren't very many women local to my area on it. I met my soon-to-be wife off eharmony.

Re:OKCupid (4, Interesting)

i love pineapples (742841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475984)

Having used Match, eHarmony, and Yahoo! personals in the past, I'd have to say that OKCupid! (un: aloriainspring) is the best of the bunch. It doesn't hurt that it's free, either. As a female on these dating sites (zomg I know,) I can attest to the fact that I get more messages than I can go through in a reasonable amount, which makes singling out the people I'd like to talk to pretty difficult. I've even gotten some hurt messages to the tune of "I messaged you twice last week and you never responded, you could at least say no thanks." One simple way of solving this problem is allowing users to set some simple filters to restrict who can send messages directly. If you want to hear from everyone, great. I, for one, don't really want to date someone who lives four hours away from me who is older than my father. Just putting those messages in another folder would be a great help. It would also be great if there was a higher demand for girl nerds (outside of Slashdot, that is.)

Re:OKCupid (0)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476158)

Are there any questions on your penchant for pineapples?

Re:OKCupid (1)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476234)

I can attest to the fact that I get more messages than I can go through in a reasonable amount, which makes singling out the people I'd like to talk to pretty difficult...It would also be great if there was a higher demand for girl nerds


I guess my mind is trying to wrap around this seeming contradiction. Or am I being overly optimistic in assuming the people writing you have bothered to read your nerdy profile?

But I agree with you 100% on the mail filtering, it would cut down on 90% of the useless messages my sister and friends get on OKCupid (as a guy of course I only get 3-4 messages on a good day :P ).

Re: Mod parent up! (1)

Spril (524430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476138)

Dating doesn't need more numerical analysis, it needs better analysis, which okCupid provides. Instead of providing an endless directory of unsorted profiles where members say things like "I can't be summarized in a paragraph" and "I like to have fun", okCupid lets people create, answer, and rank multiple-choice questions that are important to them. Then okCupid assigns percentage matches that lets you see the people who are most compatible, and read just those profiles. It works great, and is how I met my fiancee.

Re:OKCupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476200)

OKCupid is garbage. All dating sites are garbage. I'm not sure if the girls are fake, or if they're waiting for their one-in-a-billion guy. I contacted around 12 girls who I found attractive, matched me over 60%, were active within the past week, and a whopping 0% replied. I have more luck in real life.

Re:OKCupid (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476324)

Amen to that. Met my girlfriend on OkCupid, and we're both very happy. Also, it's free. And contrasting with eHarmony, you have control of who you search for and contact, rather than just being given a bunch of matches by a mysterious, closed system. OkCupid explains their system pretty well in their FAAAQ [okcupid.com] .

(No, I'm not an employee of them, though I wouldn't mind being one.)

What proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475736)

"...as soon as [I] read the phrase 'I can prove mathematically' [I] thought" I would then read a proof. It never materialized.

Interesting premise (1)

altoz (653655) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475738)

You could combine this system with a hot-or-not like rating system for the profile pictures. That way, women could screen for men that scored in the top 20% or something similar and the same for men. Maybe scoring a bunch of people could be a way to pay down your monthly rate to make people want to do it.

Of course, this gives people incentive to game the system, but once you look at the profile picture, it's easy to see if they were lying.

Re:Interesting premise (4, Interesting)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475932)

You meant meeting the person in real life, not looking at the profile picture.

The existence of Adobe Photoshop [youtube.com] (I would say NSFW) is one of many reasons why I won't do online dating.

Re:Interesting premise (1)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476248)

You could combine this system with a hot-or-not like rating system for the profile pictures. That way, women could screen for men that scored in the top 20% or something similar and the same for men.
The problem with that is 80% of the population assumes they are in the top 20%. To make it work if searching by looks, you could allow only searches for your score + or - 10%.

However, what women really want is to see a pic of the guy's tax return, not his face.

Re:Interesting premise (1)

celle (906675) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476510)

God, you're an idiot! All it would do is turn it into a pretty people site for the self-serving brat pack where 99% of us real humans need not apply.

tl;dr (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475748)

tl;dr

Just make it like ebay (4, Funny)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475752)

and let 'buyers' & 'sellers' leave feedback on each others' profiles... what could possibly go wrong!

Good dater. A+++ (2, Funny)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476166)

Feedback from: hotguy12234:
Great date!!! Recommended. A++++

Feedback from: geeky763:
Never returned phone calls after expensive dinner. Beware!




...because 70 characters of feedback is used so intuitively.

(yes, I caught your sarcasm, and I agree completely)

Re:Just make it like ebay (1)

middlemen (765373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476282)

and let 'buyers' & 'sellers' leave feedback on each others' profiles... what could possibly go wrong!

Feminists and Lesbians will also bid !

Re:Just make it like ebay (5, Funny)

Blice (1208832) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476372)

Comment: Instead of attractive woman package contained bobcat. would not buy again.

Obligatory (0)

GlobalColding (1239712) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475754)

93.473% of Internet statistics are made up on the spot.

Not A Good Target Demo (1)

Real World Stuff (561780) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475768)

Reinventing the wheel. I also think the methods used reflect a self selecting group.

Should have just bought a /. poll "Do you use online dating services?"

I have a better idea (4, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475806)

Go out, socialize, have friends, and meet the person of your dreams au naturale.

I met my girlfriend at a game night another friend invited me to. Believe me, this method gives you all of the advantages of these silly social networking and dating sites, but without having to do any of the work. This is because this is how human socialization works anyway. You meet people through people, and the more well adapted you are socially, the more people you meet and befriend, and the more you value your interpersonal relationships.

So, P and V (RTFA if you haven't already) both get much bigger, which is always more fun.

Sure, and irrigate the Sahara while you're at it (1, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476030)

That's good advice, kind of, but it doesn't really address the problem. Yes, if you're already

more well adapted ... socially
you can do $PLAN and you'll have lots of fulfilling relationships, including romantic. In other news, I have this AWESOME plan for how to get women to be attracted to you. Oh, but it only works if you're Brad Pitt.

The question is, HOW? This seems easy for you, because you don't *notice* the hard parts, because they already come naturally to you.

You already have tons of friends who know tons of girls, who will be more open to you because they've already "screened" you, and getting dates is merely a matter of inviting one of a trillion invitations and letting the magic happen.

Any advice for the rest of us, who, say, are living in a city where they don't have trillions of friends? No? Okay then. Try again, and this time, don't suggest something where the problem is already solved.

Yes, I'll probably get modded down for this, but I'm willing to bet there are thousands of you in a similar position that don't want to admit it.

And no, it's not a simple matter of joining some organization. Every one that I've tried to join has been extremely suspicious of people who don't already come in with a recommendation from someone in the group. And then, one group that I tried to join was a total disaster. It was going well, and then one girl just suddenly flipped out and got a bunch of them to start giving me the cold treatment, and then invented a bunch of wild accusations to get them to ban me from the (large, great-for-meeting-women) group. Fun, fun.

You think the problem is easy because it's easy for you. What's obvious for you, is not obvious for others. One man's redundant is another man's insightful. Remember that.

(Before one of you says it, no, I don't act IRL like I did on the Ubuntu forums, think of another ad hoc rationalization.)

Re:Sure, and irrigate the Sahara while you're at i (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476334)

(Before one of you says it, no, I don't act IRL like I did on the Ubuntu forums, think of another ad hoc rationalization.)
Are you sure about this? I have seen quite a few people who say, "Oh, I don't act like this in real life," and then you meet them and realize they are as big, if not bigger, asshats in person. The issue is we are who we are and acting like an idiot online means you are prone to doing it in person.

There is a common trend in both situations though. It is "someone else's" fault. Step back and look at what happened again, in both situations. Tell me, whose fault is it really? You obviously have some traits of an abrasive personality, so you should think about how that might affect your social interaction with people.

Re:I have a better idea (2, Interesting)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476364)

Go out, socialize, have friends, and meet the person of your dreams au naturale.


I think it's great that this works for you, but I don't understand why you assume that your method would be best for everyone.

I have a lot of friends. I'm pretty good in social situations. And I do very well in relationships. But it is agony for me to make the leap from introduction to date. I could go out tonight and easily meet ten women. Easily. Asking one of them out would be the hardest thing I'd do all week.

Online match-making allowed me to clear this hurdle, and get to the parts that I'm good at. (I.e. connecting with someone.) I don't do this anymore, however, because of the amount of bald dishonesty I encountered.

Anyway, I don't know what the solution for me is, but I'm pretty sure there isn't any universal one.

-Peter

Re:I have a better idea (for me, anyway) (2, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476466)

Or, y'know, seek out what you're looking for in a system specifically designed for it. I get annoyed when people say "just go out and meet someone" like it's so incredibly easy. Some of us do socialize, quite a lot, in the real world, and yet all our preferred-sex friends are either with someone already or engaged or what-have-you. Not to mention that a well-designed matching system can make the whole process much quicker and find you someone who will love you for who you are, with less risk of finding out you're incompatible later than a random meeting.

Different strokes for different folks. If meeting people through people works for you, great. It doesn't mean we're wrong for using a more scientific system for finding happiness.

Re:I have a better idea (1)

celle (906675) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476566)

Not everyone is that way though. Au naturale doesn't work for everyone, remember high school?

dating chat bot strikes back (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475812)

in soviet russia, the dating chat bot wants 96% of you (but will settle for your bank details)

for those who have not been following this story, look here..
http://www.betanews.com/article/Seductive_Russian_chat_bot_tries_to_steal_your_private_data/1197588297 [betanews.com]

sounds like this idea would make the malicious cyber bot more effective and being your perfect match.

some ideas are already in place (4, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475828)

One is a free dating site OKCUPID [okcaupid.com] that uses extensive testing to create match percentages. I've been out of the dating game for years and years, but I find how people represent themselves interesting: personal mythologies are truly bizarre. So I look at these sites as exercises in digital anthropology. In any case, I've taken bunchies and bunchies of tests and quizzes and questions on the okcupid site, and I have to say, when I search by Match %, I do end up with people I think are rather interesting, and if (god forbid, as it would require a tragedy of epic proportions...) I were single I'd probably contact them once I had recovered from whatever epic tragedy caused my single-ness.

My interest in those sites isn't in the math and machinery, more in the myth and fiction, the vagaries of self perception.

What I have found is Match.com is useless. Being an avant garde atheist three steps to the left of Rosa Luxembourg always makes me "matchless" on Match.com. Yahoo is better, but I find it oddly untrustworthy - there is something really brittle about it, like it's all fake. That they were sued for leading people on that way doesn't help the atmosphere. Also, on Yahoo, I find the self mythologies more dreary than most. It's all "I want someone from a class rung above me who is in perfect shape to go on long walks on the beach with me." Bleaaah. How. Fucking. Boring. Yahoo seems to have more of that drear than anywhere else.

Okcupid.com though seems to have much more imaginative people on it, and matches are by percentage and run by a variety of tests and systems that are devised by the users themselves. And the self-descriptions re better than Yahoo, for the most part.

Back to work.

RS

Much simpler solution (2, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475836)

While I like to see computer systems help in solving problems, there's a much simpler solution. Use a niche personals site. The smaller the niche, the less people will be on it, the less bombarded the women are with initial messages, and the higher the response rate. The larger and more diverse a site, of course the less likely you are to see a response.

Also avoid the sites that are completely ad supported or ones with obvious fake postings.

Just as I was starting to feel good about myself.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475858)

..here come stories about D&D marketing and computer dating. Damn.

Of course! (1)

Thwomp (773873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475876)

  1. Have an idea
  2. Post idea to Slashdot
  3. ???
  4. Profit!
Don't worry the Slashdot hive-mind with have this done in couple of days!

Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475884)

Hookers.

I'll answer this... (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475888)

I leave some people shrugging and wondering why anyone should switch to my idea.

Because your ideas suck? Seriously, you needed 20k to explain yourself? People aren't "shrugging", they're fighting off a coma.

Having watched over the shoulder of some female friends scrolling through their Yahoo Personals inboxes.

And stop stalking your "female friends".

Facebook app coming up in 1 2 3 . . . (1)

ani23 (899493) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475896)

Facebooks platform is probably teh best place to experiment with this idea. Unless someone has done it already.

"I can prove mathematically" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22475900)

If as soon as you read the phrase "I can prove mathematically" you thought, "Oh well no wonder he gets such a low response rate if he talks like that all the time"...

Actually, that's indeed along the lines of what I thought. Scanning the rest of your article, including your "mathematical proof", only strengthened my "no wonder he gets such a low response rate"-belief. Please, just let it go.

This is the digital equivalent (1)

ephemeralspecter (990286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475926)

of a slut-o-meter! is 85% likely to put out (textically), says yourbestbuddyknows.com

Re:This is the digital equivalent (1)

ephemeralspecter (990286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476062)

{Woman} is 85% likely to put out (textically), says yourbestbuddyknows.com

No mathematical proof needed (1)

drouse (34156) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475934)

You don't need to mathematically prove anything you are trying to sell. Think about it, does Match.com try to mathematically prove that their site is the best? Does Apple show the equations to prove that the iTouch is right mp3 player to buy? Yeah, they provide "statistics" -- but if you study the advertising, that isn't what they focus on.

You sell things through emotion and personality (which means a math heavy dating site might be a hit with math geeks, so maybe there you go).

Criteria, schmiteria (1)

temcat (873475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475940)

Have not used dating sites for a while, but anyway: with online dating, what matters most is photos and the stuff a person writes about him/herself in a free form. Also, it is stupid not to try to contact a person you like if he or she happened to reject 82.5 percent of people with your criteria.

Suppose you're an entrepreneur (1)

Udo Schmitz (738216) | more than 6 years ago | (#22475970)

1.: Post business idea on /.
2.: ???
3.: Profit!

Would Mr. Haselton please elaborate on step 2?

Already been done (4, Interesting)

stevey (64018) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476016)

The idea you're suggesting; namely listing response rate has already been implemented.

I'm a Debian developer, who is interested in kink. There are three big dating sites for that kind of audience:

  • alt.com
  • bondage.com
  • collarme.com

These are the biggies. There are smaller ones in particular geographical locations, and focussed upon particular kinks.

I think all three suck. Alt.com & Bondage.com are commercial and hard to use unless you pay. Collarme is ful of trolls and fakes.

So, to experiment with different things I setup my own site. I put together a kink-themed website, with a geeky name, ctrl-alt-date [ctrl-alt-date.com] .

Unfortunately I'm spoilt by the problem you note, and I didn't expect. Everybody goes to the big three. Sure they suck, but they are (undeniably) where the audience is. More audience == more chance of sex/hookups/relationship.

(I guess there is also something you don't mention. The audience for a dating site is very random. If you get a partner you never return - so you end up with millions of orphan accounts interfering with search results. Its a numbers game to a certain extent too - if site A has 10million members listed you go there over site B with 5 million members. Regardless of whether both have actually only got 3 million active users.)

My site is tiny <1000 users. But it does have some novel ideas coded, and more which I'd like to test if I had the numbers. For example you can simply mark your profile as unavailiable to Straight Men, and that way you never even show up on the search results for a man - perfect if you're a lesbian,for example.

It seems to me that if you're wanting to be found by a new partner you want to do two things:

  • Make it impossible for bad matches to find you.
  • Make it easy for good matches to find you.

I'm aiming more at the first point, but the second is interesting too. One idea is allowing random strangers to edit your profile, or leave suggestions on improving it in exchange for perks. THat ups the quality of the profiles at minimal cost.

I could write more about the subject, but I might be boring people - so I'll stop for now.

Won't trump Metcalfe (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476064)

The Metcalfe Effect "Value increases as the square of the size (number of nodes)" is extremely powerful and explains why Y! and Match predominate. One might die, and your idea might help one kill the other.

But it still is blind dating. No matter how your refine the online selection process, it cannot carry vital data. Refining the selection process may just lead to more false expectations and disappointment when you cannot explain why there is no chemistry on otherwise perfect matches. Which probably the limiting factor.

LISA Is (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476078)


a whore.

For whore, see Military-Industrial-CONGRESSIONAL Complex [whitehouse.org] .

I hope I have contributed to your revolutionary predisposition.

PatRIOTically,
Kilgore Trout

Three flaws come to mind (4, Insightful)

Lanoitarus (732808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476084)

- Your system disincentiveizes (yeah, its not a word, deal with it) women from joining in the first place. By effectively telling women that they will be publicly graded and judged on their reply rate, you remove the ability to "just see". While this was kindof your goal, knowing that they cant "just see" will have a very negative effect on women joining the service in the first place. After all, as a woman, would you join the service that you can just watch passively and see if something great comes up, or would you join the one that makes it your job to reply to everyone or you fail?

- The system fails to address new members. What percentage is shown for women who haven't had anyone meeting their criteria reply yet? If the default is zero noone will message them in the first place. If the default is 100, see the next point. If the default is blank, how many messages do you require before it becomes a percentage (see next point).

- It provides major incentive for women to set artificially high secret criteria in order to boost their percentage. If they require someone who makes 500k a year and who is Jewish but was born in the Vatican, they can effectively expect to maintain a 100% listed response rate while only being "required" to respond to a handful of people a year, and can continue to be spectators on the sideline for everyone else.

OkCupid.com (2, Informative)

Dan Posluns (794424) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476126)

I used to work for OkCupid [okcupid.com] , and they tabulate all of those kinds of stats and more. Only they get used behind the scenes in things like match calculations... the guys over there are all math grads and take a very scientific approach, but it mostly happens behind the scenes for the sake of usability. I remember coding their "Stranger Arranger" as something of a brute-force approach to the stable marriage problem, taking into account people's compatibility, some other minor stats, and yes, their likelihood of both initiating a conversation and responding to an initiation based on their messaging history.

(I'll take this opportunity to plug the fellas... they work hard to make what's just about the most awesome free dating site supported entirely through ad revenues... don't be stupid, use OkCupid! [okcupid.com] )

Dan.

Halfway decent idea (3, Interesting)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476172)

The problem with his idea is it is too complicated.

This is what I think we should do to fix the problem.

First identify the problems: 1. Mass mailings. Some guys just send out a ton of emails. Not that hard to fix. Limit each guy to no more than 10 emails/week to people that have written an email response to you already. These are called 'first contacts'.

2. Non-responses. Most women never reply. Sure, they often get a ton of emails (see #1 above). So what? It is just as rude to not reply as it is to send out thousands of email. Again, Not hard to fix: If you have more than 5 unreplied emails 'first contact' emails, you get no additional emails (of ANY kind), all are blocked with an auto-reply saying "not currently replying to emails". Offer a set of standard replies including "Not interested", "I may get back to you in the future.". Using thses does not count as a 'real reply', any emails he sends to you still counts as 'first contact'.

3. Lieing. Everyone lies on the sites. People lie about their age, their weight, their height, their job, their money, how shallow they are, everything. When you actually meet a person, you can click a "met, but rejected" when you do that, you can click one of several reasons for rejecting them, worded to be as polite as possible, but honest. They also get the same form (for you) which must be filled out to get any additional emails. Possible options would include things like "Not ambitious enough", "Physically did not live up to my high standards", "Did not click, but was really nice", etc. etc.

These third party verifications do not become visible until at least 3 people have filled them out for you. Then they become visible with TO YOU you with NO NAMES attached. You have the right to either delete all current feeback results, or make all current feedback results visible to other people, if you so choose.

This gives you personal feedback about what your dates truly did not like. If you get really nice feedback, you can let others see it, so they KNOW you are honest. If you don't, you simply have the issue of not having feedback availble on you.

It had to be done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476188)

"If you have non-standard tastes, such as a preference for "Big Beautiful Women", that's great, since the women that you consider to be 9s and 10s ... P x V for those women will be -- in a manner of speaking -- huge."

I know you wanted to have an intelligent discussion regarding your idea, but taking that one sentence out of context was just too good to pass up.

It's not the site, it's the users (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476292)

I find it hard to believe that Haselton has ever had a date, much less any experience with dating sites. The value that you get from such sites is entirely proportional to the effort that you put in to pictures, profiles, and interactions. Hey, it's where I met the love of my life.

I have been told though that the experience is entirely different for women, and that even an empty profile will be bombarded with not so subtle messages from guys looking to get their rocks off.

A lot of people, esp. boomers are using these sites, [lavalife.com] and there could be refinements, but overall they tend to beat hanging out in bars or joining random clubs looking for companionship. Or reading dating advice on Slashdot...

ROFL! (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476318)

Ten kilobytes of ``how to improve online dating so I will finally have a girlfriend''.

Uh huh, inadequate online dating software is what is standing in your way.

Math is helpful... (1)

icejai (214906) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476328)

... but you can't ignore the human element.

"Criteria-cheaters".

What is suggested will seem to only work if there are lots and lots and lots and lots of parameters/criteria, so the system can attribute that rejection to some other criteria instead of that criteria. ie. If someone whose criteria was "goth" were rejected by someone who selected "bouncy", then the "goth-and-bouncy" pair's probability should be lowered. However if you don't have enough criteria, you'll end up lowering "bouncy-and-bouncy"'s probability, which doesn't make much sense since we're hoping that people with similar criteria match. This is sort of what Hebbian learning is.

If I were to create a system for matching people, I would pose a number of questions to everyone that would require at least a 500-word response. "What are some of the things you enjoy at work?", "What do you enjoy doing in your free time?", "How did you come to like the kind of music you listen to?", "What are your favourite types of food?", "Do you lead an active lifestyle and how does it make you feel?", etc etc. These responses would be visible to nobody except their authors.

Applying some fancy math and matching based on what they type, you'll get many more higher-quality matches, and fewer "criteria cheaters" who purposely try to match criteria with people they like. When the system spots a match, invitations are sent to both to invite them to talk with each other. It is then they are allowed to look at each others responses and have something common to talk about. If you have a "criteria cheater" who just pasted random keywords into their responses, the other person can flag them as a "criteria cheater" or something. Then, his responses will be automatically erased, and the probability of that person participating in a future match will be lowered.

This isn't perfect, but I would say it would be a significant head start and offer much more than what's out there now. Obviously, this type of system encourages big and long responses to the questions by offering a much larger set of criteria to be extracted from each response by the match-making part of the system. And the best thing is, these criteria are naturally user-supplied and not confined to the limited set like all those other dating sites use.

To keep things fresh, you can reset your system and regroup everyone on response-similarity one a week or month or whatever, because inevitably... more people would have joined and added responses of their own.

This type of system would pretty much work the way Google's "similar pages" link works. Clustering pages (in your case, people) together that share similar text. There are a number of different algorithms you can use for clustering. My personal favourite is "Stochastic Proximity Embedding" http://www.dimitris-agrafiotis.com/Papers/jcc20078.pdf [dimitris-agrafiotis.com] for its simplicity and relative speed. You won't need the "absolute bestest zomg!" clustering algorithm because matchmaking itself is very subjective and non-exact.

Heck, you can even do some fancy things with the results and have people browse everyone else on a huge huge map!
Here are some visuals from little tests I did using grouping blogs on Xanga:

Xanga Galaxy [google.com]
Zoom in [google.com]
Zoom in some more [google.com]
And even more [google.com]
And yes, even more [google.com]

In your case, each dot would represent a person instead of a blog entry.

Anyway, that's how I would do things if I were starting a matchmaking site that had the potential to offer higher-quality matches, reduce criteria-cheaters, and displayed it in a way that was unique to all matchmaking sites currently out there.

Dude, seriously... (1)

Peet42 (904274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476384)

...you need a girlfriend.

Another mathematical flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476390)

I think the mathematical model has (at least) one flaw:

Woman A gets too many mails and responds only to few (=>small response rate P)
=> because of low P you expect less men talk to A to not waste their time
=> indeed less men now talk to her
=> A can now reply more, P increases again
=> more men write her (GOTO start)

the system oscillates (the period depends on the update interval P)

Dating sites are all but worthless.... (1)

TheBigDuck (938776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476394)

I tried them all; eHarmony, SinglesNET, Plenty of Fish.. they all suck. The women you meet there are women that cannot meet a man in real life. I was on there because I have an uberbusy schedule, and I am not a bar hopper. Fortunately, I met a gal the old fashioned way.... by accident. Good luck out there, since dating is hell!

Other bigger problems (1)

lsw (95027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476410)

everybody wants to go where everybody else already is
err no. the big problem is that there is an inbalance between supply and demand in gender in dating websites between 1:3 to 1:10 not in absolute size of a dating database (*). Find a solution to fix that (such as piggybacking on a non dating system, or as a reputational system on a social network, or on an image rating website like hotornot **). In general a technology solution that is not transparent to the user will attract a lot of unix developers but not many pretty girls in their 20s or 30s. (Personal safety is also cited as a concern but thats a different problem).

(*) you're looking for the perfect partner so you don't care if you have 1 million choices or 20 choices, you are only
interested in how relevant those are to you.

(**) Also you have to deal with the economic model of virality for dating websites. You want your users to tell their friends about your site.. but probably they are single and their friends are the same gender and if they join the site it will reduce the available pool of opportunities.

I am an entrepreneur and looked at the dating problem, it's big and there is definitively a market for it, but so far haven't seen anything disruptive.
-lsw

Too bad human nature ruins this (2, Informative)

b96miata (620163) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476450)

-People lie. Spend a month on an online dating site and you'll figure out how to spot most of them.

-Fuck secret criteria. Listing an income requirement *is* somewhat crass. It's also completely legitimate, but be upfront about it. There's nothing in the world worse than a gold digger who thinks he/she isn't.

-A lot of these problems are trying to solve a problem (low response) the wrong way. People don't respond for a reason, and trying to give someone a poor rating because they didn't respond to someone who matched them on abstract criteria is silly. According to every female I've ever talked to who used an online dating site, most of the guys come on *way* too strong. Are you going to count every email someone gets against their rating, when the person who emailed 3 hours ago emails again to ask why you haven't responded? And then again tomorrow to say it's rude to ignore people? And then the next day to say if you don't respond soon you risk losing them?

-All the boilerplate stuff is just to try and narrow the field. There are plenty of times when someone who meets it isn't a good match, and plenty of times when someone who might fail on 2 or 3 items is a great match.

-Trying to apply scientific formulas to dating is a recipe for failure. The *only* one that works is: the more contacts you send out, the more you get back. However, if you're an asshole, illiterate, contact people who you blatantly aren't right for (if someone lists a desired age range as 25-30, and you're 45, don't waste your time), or feel the need to make blatant sexual overtures in the first email, sending out 50 vs 20 emails may just mean getting 2 responses vs 1. Quantity helps, but quality matters.

-Fake profiles are *not at all* hard to spot if you're not a moron. Guys - if you see 7 profiles with the same picture, consider them all fake. If some poor girl got her headshots stolen, sucks for her. Even if it's a unique profile, if it reads like it was written who bought the cheap english-russian dictionary, and they don't mention having just moved here from eastern europe, it's fake. People who grew up in a small town in PA don't frequently say they're "looking for the man who is caring and wants to make the serious relationship"

-There are two types of fake profiles: Those put up by services to entice people to joining, and those put up by scammers looking to hit you up with a hard luck story and get you to send them money. The former may someday be pressured out of existence. The latter never will, because scammers pay the same monthly fee as everyone else, and there's no reliable way to spot them until after they've already hit up dozens of people. (Psst....Bennett: they'll sign up for your mythical site too)

*rolls eyes* Online dating is not, and never will be perfect. If you go to a reputable site, however, it's pretty good, and improving all the time. Too much math will just confuse people and scare them away.

who is this guy? (4, Interesting)

syrinx (106469) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476490)

Why does "Bennett Haselton" get to use the Slashdot front page as his personal blog? At least Roland submits interesting articles most of the time. Does Mr. Haselton have incriminating pictures of CowboyNeal or something?

Not bad, but it needs more... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22476526)

Its a not bad idea, but it definitely still needs a lot of work.

The issue is that guys "don't take a hint", if a women puts up a profile with the hottest picture EVER (or even just showing a moderately sexy shot of her ass), and has a 0% response rate, she will STILL be getting hundreds of messages every single day. Most guys look at it like its a free lottery, it doesn't cost anything to play and he could win one million dollars!

The key is the women.

You need to figure out how to get the "ego boosters" to actually engage in using the site, and you also need to figure out how to weed out the loser guys so the ones that DO message the women are at least moderately decent, not married and not on there looking for a woman with low self esteem so they can get an easy lay.

How do you do this? You need to take into account the opinions of OTHER women of course!

I think you are on the right track, but instead of using just response rates you need to take into account response QUALITY. Have the receiving party rate the quality or type of response, for instance: Rejection, Boring, Creepy, Funny, Intelligent, Sexy. Not only that, but rate the quality of profiles (descriptions/interests ONLY, no images involved so that doesn't affect the rating), ie: Boring, Lame, Creepy, Funny, Intelligent, Sexy, etc... And also rate the images (separate from anything else) in the same manner and NOT between 1-10 like most sites do.

If done properly and combined with actual response rates, I think this type of system would work extremely well. The women on the site for a ego boost usually have a profile that reads like licking salt, so it will be rated low, and if they don't their responses (or lack thereof) will cause their profile to be rated poorly. It will work the same way for the men, ones who constantly send creepy emails to any female with a picture trying to get laid will be rated poorly extremely fast. Women can then filter their incoming messages to only those that are coming from men who have historically sent: Funny, Intelligent, or Sexy messages.

Men can then also filter out the womens profiles to only those that have RESPONDED to other men in Funny, Intelligent, Sexy or "Accepting" ways. Or women who respond to the type of messages that you historically send, either Boring, Funny or whatever they may be. Combine this with a mathematical formula showing response rate to men with certain profile attributes and I think you will have a great solution.

A system like this would essentially make any guy that can send "Funny/Intelligent" emails a rock star and give them the pick of the "litter". But thats pretty much exactly what women are looking for, a guy that "can make me laugh".

 

Time for arranged marriages again (1)

fluffykitty1234 (1005053) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476536)

Finding a mate is way too hard now, can't we go back to arranged marriages? It works for India! Maybe we can outsource the arranging too!

something's not quite right here? (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476548)

You're asking Slashdotters for their advice on something like online dating?!?!

wow that's long (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22476602)

now you see why nobody ever RTFA?
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