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In a similar vein, Wired magazine introduced us to Chris Mc Kinlay, “the math genius who hacked Ok Cupid” and managed to meet the woman of his dreams after cleverly reverse-engineering the website’s algorithms.
The brilliance of Mc Kinlay’s achievement is somewhat diminished by the revelation that he had to work his way through unsuccessful dates with 87 women before his “genius” paid dividends. Imagine looking at the anonymised dating profiles of 10 close friends and comparing them with the profiles of 10 mere acquaintances. It’s basically random.” It is crazy to believe that someone’s eye colour and height, or even hobbies and musical tastes, are a basis for a lasting relationship.
Apps such as Grindr and Tinder allow people to skim quickly through profiles based on some very simple criteria. The alternative, embraced by more traditional matchmaking sites such as and Ok Cupid, is to use the power of data to find the perfect partner.
We badly want to believe that after giving a website a list of our preferences, hobbies and answers to questions such as, “Do you prefer the people in your life to be simple or complex?
However, we underpredict some of the correlation patterns; search frictions may play a role in explaining the discrepancy. I do research in behavioral economics and try to describe it in plain language.
But it’s not clear that the innovation of online dating is helping very much.
We hold out hope that if only we could be cleverer, the algorithms would deliver the desired effect.
For example, Amy Webb’s TED talk “How I Hacked Online Dating” has been watched more than four million times since it was posted in 2013.
Using the profile descriptions alone, could you pick out the people you really like? But that is the belief that algorithmic matching encourages. Jeana Frost’s Ph D research explored an alternative approach to online dating.
Online dating is built on a Google-esque trawl through a database because that’s the obvious and easy way to make it work. Why not, she asked, make online dating a bit less like searching and a bit more like an actual date?
Given that online dating tends to be tedious, time-consuming and fruitless, it is no surprise that we seem hungry for a better way.