Using data to find a husband

January 15, 2013  |  Statistics

When it was time to settle down with the right man, Amy Webb joined two dating sites, created a profile, and went on some horrible dates. Her solution was to create fake male profiles and then scrape and analyze data to find out how she could improve her chances.

Posing as these men, I spent a month using JDate. I interacted with 96 women, cataloging how they behaved and presented themselves online and scraping data from their profiles (such as the language they used or the number of hours they waited before emailing back one of my profiles). Wanting to learn everything I could about my competition, I kept a detailed database, and I recorded which female profiles were popular. While JDate doesn't publicly release its algorithms, at the time of my experiment I observed that the more popular profiles come up higher in search results, allowing one to get a quick-and-dirty ranking of who's hot (or not). I quickly realized that the popular women seemed to know something I didn't; they were clearly attracting the sort of smart, attractive professionals who had been ignoring my profile. Being hypercompetitive, I wasn't about to let some bubblegum-popping blonde steal the neurotic Jewish doctor of my mother's dreams.

Basically, she pulled an OKCupid for herself. It worked.

6 Comments

  • Saw this when it came out on WSJ — glad you picked it up here too.

    Fantastic read and a +1 for analytics.

  • I had done this around 2000 with fake female profiles & shared findings with all the males that had interacted. from a guy perspective, being a desirable girl on a dating site is like opening a bottle of crazy.

  • Ha Ha. I can see this being turned into a rom com script at some point in the near future. :-)

  • I’m surprised no one else finds this crazy unethical and generally distasteful. Surely it’s violating the TOS of these dating sites to pose as someone else.

    • (From OkCupid TOS: Unique and bona fide profile: You agree to create only one unique profile. In addition, in order to maintain the integrity of the Website, by joining, you agree that your use of the Website shall be for bona fide relationship-seeking purposes (for example, you may not use the Website solely to compile a report of compatible singles in your area, or to write a school research paper). From time to time, we may create test profiles in order to monitor the operation of our services.)

      I don’t view this as analytics (the analysis of observational behavioral data) but rather an unethical “experiment” that wasted the time and violated the privacy of 96 women. We’re better than this, guys.

  • Shame on any publication that would punish results from such an unethical study. This stuff ruins honest studies of this type and creates bad blood in the community. Although minor, seeing this publicized is horrible for all the reasons mentioned in any research ethics class. Take it down.

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