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Hi, I Want To Meet (17.6% of) You! 372

Posted by samzenpus
from the there-is-someone-for-everyone-except-you dept.
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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Hi, I Want To Meet (17.6% of) You!

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  • by christurkel (520220) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:13AM (#22475656) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • I for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by esocid (946821) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:13AM (#22475658) Journal
    Would rather meet 0% of you. No offense.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:14AM (#22475662)
    I think I speak for many slashdotters when I say; "No one cares, get a blog"!
  • by alta (1263) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:16AM (#22475684) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:17AM (#22475700) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • "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.
      • Except... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by imstanny (722685) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @12:28PM (#22476778)

        You get more page hits (more ads) and more subscription fees by _not_ doing a good job of hooking people up.
        I would have to respecfully dissent with that idea.


        You're assuming that users will continue to come back to a service that doesn't do a good job of hooking people up. Though some certainly may, others may not, and a poor system will not garner more New users.

        Would you keep going to a mechanic that fixes the problem completely or only fixes it temporarily, requiring you to come back in 1 month and fix it again? By your logic, that's what the mechanic shoudl do to gain more revenue. Now imagine you have 2 dating services; 1 has high success rates, the other not so much. Which will you go to?

        If this guy develops his system, and it increases success, people will flock to his system and increase his ca$h flow.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nschubach (922175)
          I'd like to know where I can track the success status of each of these sites.
      • You lose at game theory. Yes, match.com and Yahoo won't switch to his system, but if a startup or fringe player switches to it, and it actually works better, then their profits will still go up.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kadin2048 (468275)
          It seems like something that OkCupid might be interested in. Compared to (my non-user's perception of) Match.com, eHarmony, and some of the other big players, they (seem to) cater to a younger, slightly geekier clientèle. There's a big emphasis on 'compatibility' matching through online quizzes and the like, and I assume you can set hard-and-fast criteria as well. They also don't use a subscription-based business model, or pay-to-contact.

          If Match and Yahoo are making money hand over fist as-is, they
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jez9999 (618189)
            This will sound bitter, but I'm gonna say it anyway.

            OkCupid is the shittiest dating site I've ever had the misfortune to use. Because it is free, my experience is that many people use it as a blogging site, and have no intention of dating at all. At least with match.com, etc. people have PAID to sign up and should be half-serious about actually dating.

            In addition, OkCupid's freeness seems to give it a male:female ratio of about 5 billion to 1. This means that females' accounts (with pics) tend to receive
    • I actually did exactly that 3 years ago, met a really nice girl too. Then I sold the site to a porn company based in florida. (dotmate.com)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:18AM (#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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by somersault (912633)
      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!

    • by Shivetya (243324)
      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.
    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      Yeah, ok. But, how do you fix stupidity? Other than killing off the stupid people?

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

      This is an issue with women. Seriously, what are they thinking?

      "I think the internet is filled with freaks and perverts who probably kill me, so I am going to sign up for an internet dating site and meet a nice guy."

      Really, if one thinks the pool is loaded with sharks, one should not go for a swim. Is it really that hard to comprehend? Or, do these women think they wi

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        If you haven't guessed, my experiences have led me to have a (very obvious) low opinion of most women.
        [tongue in cheek]Lemme guess, not enough sex?[/tongue in cheek]
    • by LilGuy (150110) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @12:27PM (#22476752)
      Not always true. The week I went off to college my mom decided she was going to learn how to use her newly available computer. I started receiving calls day and night from her, asking how to do this or that, or that she broke something. Every weekend I'd come home and remove spyware and show her how to do things like create folders or scan pictures.

      Then I started getting calls from my younger sisters. Mom's an internet addict. Quite the shocker, as this was the same woman who used to dream about throwing the computer out the window when my dad was alive. So now she's flying off around the country meeting men and having dirty phone conversations with them and she bought a webcam. So I decided maybe I should talk to mom and let her know that people on the Internet are RARELY who they seem to be, especially the trolls you find on yahoo chat. Of course it didn't faze her. These guys were way too smooth to be cock-blocked by some punk college freshman.

      She abused her relationships with every one of us kids in order to please some short fat little illegal hispanic from Houston, 10 years her junior, and now he's taken every dime she had and now that he's got his green card, looks to be planning his escape. Judging by what all of his brothers have done, it would be the rule rather than the exception. Unfortunately for my mother she STILL doesn't see it coming, even after he wiped her bank account out, and now demanded they have seperate bank accounts since he got a nice paying job.

      True not every relationship formed from online 'dating' could or would end up this way, but I don't think either of them got what they bargained for. It's too easy to lie online, they're both guilty of it, and now they're going to pay the consequences. He will run off with his new citizenship card, and she will have to try to repair all the damage she's done to her family in the hopes that someone will take her in.
      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:02PM (#22478232)

        Then I started getting calls from my younger sisters. Mom's an internet addict. Quite the shocker, as this was the same woman who used to dream about throwing the computer out the window when my dad was alive. So now she's flying off around the country meeting men and having dirty phone conversations with them and she bought a webcam. So I decided maybe I should talk to mom and let her know that people on the Internet are RARELY who they seem to be, especially the trolls you find on yahoo chat. Of course it didn't faze her. These guys were way too smooth to be cock-blocked by some punk college freshman.
        You screwed up. Now here's what you should have done. Find out her screen profile, chat her up for a month or two, get her really looking forward to meeting you for the first time, then show up for the date and ask her if she finally realizes that you never can tell who you're talking to online, shock her out of her complacency. If she's still interested in continuing the date, stand up slowly, head for the door, and never speak to her again.
    • by Alsee (515537) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:32PM (#22482772) Homepage
      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.


      95.2% of the women who have replied to this man are still alive.

      Women who date this man report an average of 8.3 minutes cuddling after he gets what he wants.

      Gimme my money.

      -
  • Alternatives (Score:5, Informative)

    by Saxophonist (937341) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:19AM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Stonent1 (594886) <stonent&stonent,pointclark,net> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:48AM (#22476120) Journal
      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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by eh2o (471262)
        OKC works quite well for me and several of my peers. In my experience Match.com is useless (also, it is not cheap).

        The profiling/questionaire system only works insofar as it assures you will not meet someone offensive (e.g. basic political or religious incompatibility). Beyond that I'm fairly skeptical.

        Also, all the pictures, words and numbers cannot prepare you for what someone is like in *real life*. I've had successful relationships with people who "on paper" didn't have a high matching coefficient, a
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Se7enLC (714730)
        "Free" is the key to a successful dating site.

        I'm all about meeting people in non-traditional ways, but I don't want to meet somebody who is desperate enough to pay for a dating service, nor do I want to become that desperate.

        OKCupid is good stuff. It's actually fun just browsing around on there, and it does an impressive job of matching people up, despite the fact that the questions are user-submitted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Inda (580031)
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
        These days jesus...I knew people who were marrying their MUD girlfriends in 1991. And the phrase "mail order bride" is from the period when mail meant...well, mail.

        But yea, why not? Take two people who are lonely enough to try an online dating service, give 'em 500 questions to answer, and match up the people whose answers are similar. Seems like a no-brainer. That's all most people want in a relationship anyway, and it's immensely soothing to date someone who shares your interests.

        I did it the old fashione
    • by JavaLord (680960)
      It's been about 2-3 years since I was on those sites. If I recall correctly, the sign up fee is like $15 a month. If you are good looking enough, and you write an email that is interesting, women will spend the money to talk to you.

      Yes, women get more messages than men. This is due to the ratios. The main problem with the OP's theory of "criteria", is that the most important criteria on a dating website is your picture. Yes, women list things like "I want a guy that is at least 5'10, makes x amount
    • by STrinity (723872) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @12:22PM (#22476690) Homepage

      Second, it is fairly trivial to work around your correspondent not being a member of Yahoo! Personals so long as you are.
      Neither one of you needs to be a paying member. Just use the information in her ad to track her down on Facebook and MySpace, then send her a message saying,

      Hey baby, I saw your profile on Yahoo! and thought you were teh hawt, so I've spent every night this week sifting through the MySpace profiles of all the women in your age range in the area where you said you lived until I found you. Maybe we can go out to a movie sometime.

      P.S. You should really put your own pic in your profile instead of one of your kitty. I had to search through your photo album to find a picture of you that matched the one on Yahoo.

      P.P.S. I also found your Flikr album, and all I can say is, "Wow!" Though you really should put those shots of you in a teddy in a private album.
      Now, I can't say this method has worked for me yet, but I feel confident it will eventually pay off.
  • by Electrawn (321224) <electrawn&yahoo,com> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:20AM (#22475726) Homepage
    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.
    • You can apply math, but it works strangely. 1 + 1 = x, 2

      • Sorry, accidentally put < in as a the actual character:

        You can apply math, but it works strangely. 1 + 1 = x, 2 <= x. 2 - 1 = 1 + Lawyer. N - 1 = y{t) + Lawyer where y(t) is equal to 1, or 1 + SocialWorker or N - 1 or N (if a SocialWorker is present). Any subtraction operation can lead to 0 is the subtraction is of sufficent magnitude.

  • by pigiron (104729) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:21AM (#22475732) Homepage
    Has anyone actually read the entire article? No wonder they can't get any dates!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.
      • by gardyloo (512791)

        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.
        There was only one dimension in which I could even stand your group. Bastards.
  • OKCupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cromar (1103585) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:21AM (#22475734)
    OKCupid! [okcupid.com] has a much better implementation. Users post questions, users answer them, and a percent match is calculated. Wow!
    • Re:OKCupid (Score:5, Interesting)

      by i love pineapples (742841) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:38AM (#22475984) Homepage
      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.)
      • by NMerriam (15122)

        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 message

      • It would also be great if there was a higher demand for girl nerds

        Might I suggest trying to date non-nerds? I've dated women who were nerds of various kinds -- math nerds, IT nerds, otaku, etc., and though many of them were really cool, it never worked out. It's not a pissing-contest thing -- I genuinely love and respect intelligent women. However, in 2 months I'm marrying a beautiful intelligent woman who is decidedly not a nerd, and has a lot of background in literature, classical music, and philosophy --
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Prien715 (251944)
          May I humbly submit you're a tech geek and she's an art geek, but you're both nerds;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by syousef (465911)
        If you're out to meet a geek quit with the dating sites and find a couple of male dominated interests (e.g. chess, remote control aircraft, electronics, a sporting club). Don't go out there advertising that you're there just to pick up. Find an actual hobby you'd be interested in. If you meet someone, great. If you don't you'll probably still make friends, pick up a hobby, and grow as a person.
    • by TheSpoom (715771) *
      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.)
  • 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.
    • by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr&bhtooefr,org> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:34AM (#22475932) Homepage Journal
      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.
    • by mh1997 (1065630)

      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.

    • Bad idea. People will just go throught and click 5 for 1000 pictures in a row just to get the reduced discount. What's more, This marginalizes people without photos or who (for one reason or another) photograph poorly.

      What would be more interesting os to see the the pictures that another person thought were "hot" or "not". Then you'd know if you were their physical "type". Or, maybe you could see whether a guy or girl is solely interested in "hotties" or not.

      On of my pet peeves about dating sites is tha
    • I like it, but lets look at some other tweeks on that. First decide what the goal is of the site. If the goal is to get membership revenue then the above scheme will reduce the number of people on the site (the 80% not judged pretty would say why bother and leave). With the remaining 20% all of a sudden 80% of those are now on the bottom and they would say why bother and leave the system. (its a recursive problem much like the current economy with the richer getting richer...). So there has to be some other
  • by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:22AM (#22475752)
    and let 'buyers' & 'sellers' leave feedback on each others' profiles... what could possibly go wrong!
  • by EmagGeek (574360) <<gterich> <at> <aol.com>> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:25AM (#22475806) Journal
    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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pete-classic (75983)

      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 ma

    • 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 o
    • And if au naturale isn't your forte, there's always fufme [medienkunstnetz.de]
  • 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.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:27AM (#22475828) Journal
    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

  • by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:28AM (#22475836) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:32AM (#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".

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

    Would Mr. Haselton please elaborate on step 2?
  • Already been done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stevey (64018) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:40AM (#22476016) Homepage

    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.

  • 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 t

  • by Lanoitarus (732808) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:46AM (#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 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dan Posluns (794424)
    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
  • Halfway decent idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:51AM (#22476172) Homepage
    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.

  • OkCupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:55AM (#22476256)
    mathematical dating.

    http://www.okcupid.com/faaaq.html [okcupid.com]
     
  • 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. boomer
  • 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.
  • ... 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 prob
  • -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 someo
  • who is this guy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by syrinx (106469) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @12:09PM (#22476490) Homepage
    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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sootman (158191)
      He wrote a story. He submitted it. Someone approved it. End of mystery.

      PS: I found this interesting. The third of it I skimmed, anyway. :-)
  • You're asking Slashdotters for their advice on something like online dating?!?!
  • now you see why nobody ever RTFA?
  • Why is there never a listing for IQ?

    Or, for that matter, weight?

    Those two numbers alone would drastically increase the value of the search criteria of internet matchmaking services.
  • by vanyel (28049) * on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:23PM (#22478556) Journal
    What I have yet to see is one that gives you matches that are actually interested in *you* as well, at least in any of the systems that doesn't try to ream you big time. When 99% of what you get specifically states they aren't interested in you, there's not a lot of point in using the system, and I'm not wasting $20/month for something that's likely a waste of time even then.
  • Dating websites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cyberfunkr (591238) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:33PM (#22480438)

    IANAL, but I *AM* an owner of a dating website (PolyMatchMaker.com [polymatchmaker.com]), so I have an almost qualified opinion (which means I probably shouldn't be allowed to reply).

    Note: The current software is showing it's age, so go easy on it. There is a new version coming in near future. But I doubt I'll get much of a slashdotting as it's very much a niche market dating site.

    Whether you go mathematically or go with simple searches, it boils down to members wanting a magical "Find me a hook up now" button. Everyone has their own perception and experiences of dating sites and how they should work.

    Here is the life cycle of typical members when they are left to their own devices with search features:

    • You sign up with hopes and dreams of finding the perfect person.
    • You use the advanced search, find the top 4 people you match and write each of them a personal, multi-paragraph email explaining life, love, and why they are perfect together.
    • You get no replies and feel dejected.
    • So you try sending shorter emails to the next 10 in line.
    • Of the 10, only 1 or 2 reply and those fizzle out in a few emails. No meat-space dates.
    • Finally, in desperation you send out 50 emails to random people saying "You're totally hot. We should get together. Email me."
    • Of those 50, 7 reply back calling you pathetic, 4 don't bother replying and just report you as a troll, and 3 reply back to start a conversation.
    • Of those three, only one can even hold a conversation and that one turns into an awkward one-night stand.
    • You gives up, and blame the website for not finding you true love.
    • You sign up to a different dating site with hopes and dreams of finding the perfect person.

    So even on non-mathematically-based sites you end up using a type of math; the more emails I send out, the better my chances of getting a reply.

    On the other hand, for sites using mathematics to work, there needs to be a huge amount of questions. And when all is said and done, it's still just a guess as to compatibility. My idea and your idea of "well read" can be completely different (Star Wars fan-fics don't count in my opinion in case you're wondering). There are questions that are yes/no on the quiz, but is a huge shade of grey in reality. There are questions people will lie about because it 'sounds better' or they think will give them a better chance at matching. So it's very possible you're more compatible with someone you only match 29% as opposed to the 75% person.

    There is no perfect way to do build a dating site. I have my own ideas and have moderate success. On my site, despite the name, there is no matchmaker feature. There is only a basic search and a quick profile form. Instead, members are encouraged to use the forum software and express their true self so other members can learn about the real person.

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