Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Instead of spending time with my lovely fiancee, I've been thinking about dating sites. Before you romantics start yelling at me, (A) I'm cooking for her soon, and (B) this is strictly for work purposes: I'm trying to figure out if we can get people to do useful work while they flirt online (ideas about this are welcome). Just imagine: below the picture of a hot girl the site could say "This person is looking for somebody who can speak both French and English. You must translate this Wikipedia article to French before you can go on a date with them."

Anyhoo, related to dating sites:

  • One thing I'm wondering is how the very first person signs up to a new dating site. If the site is completely empty, it makes little sense to spend time filling out a profile. I guess the same happens with new social networking sites, but the problem is more pronounced with dating sites, since there is (still) some stigma in writing a profile, and since you get no benefit out of a dating site unless it has people who are not your friends. My guess: new dating sites put fake profiles to seem more popular.

  • Has anybody done a good study comparing online versus real world dating? I've seen a few, but they are all pretty much bunk: either they have ~5 subjects (note to the HCI community: let's please stop writing papers with only 5 subjects), or they are done by the dating sites themselves (sorry, eHarmony, I just can't believe your propaganda). The study I'd like is a long term one: if you meet online versus in the real world, what is the probability that you are still happily together 10 years later? My personal guess is that unless the study is done carefully, online dating would win big because of a sample bias.

I don't think my fiancee reads my blog, so let's not tell her what I've been doing all day.


  1. You seem to have a misspelling there...



  3. Luis, this is impressive, even for you.

    I think that there may be some reCAPTCHA-like way to ask potential dates to prove their IQ through "Feats of Intelligence" (cf. Feats of Strength.

    As for sites making up fake profiles to get the party started, I'm sure of it. Some do so indefinitely; see the consumer complaints about Great Expectations.

    No idea about the study. My wife probably wouldn't be keen on my doing too much hands-on research in this area. :-)

  4. > Luis, this is impressive, even for you.

    I hope that's "impressive" in the good way and not in the "you're so evil" way >)

  5. What's the difference?

  6. I think translating a wikipedia article into French to prove that one is capable of speaking French is a little bit too harsh. If you get a wikipedia article you know a little about that you have to translate, the quality of a translated article will be crappy even though he might be good at French. Maybe translating some forum posts might be more interesting..

    I believe a strategy like the one you mentioned in the last blog post may work for dating sites also. Make it something like a university student's only dating site to get the students join and then open it up to everyone later..

  7. I agree with Anon above that translating a wikipedia article into French may be harsh and can turn away a lot of people from said dating site (but not the most dedicated haha). However, if we cut down from a whole wikipedia article to something like, a small excerpt a few sentences long, then it wouldn't be so bad.

    It's also important to consider if a person plugs the passage into Google translator or Babelfish although I'm sure a quality assurance test can be implemented.

  8. You might ask Semyon Dukach about his experience with his now defunct venture, GottaFlirt.

  9. No need to create fake profiles with attractive-looking people. Unfortunately, the spammers do that for you. --max AT okcupid

  10. I can see that established sites like okcupid have no need to create fake profiles. But the spammer argument doesn't hold for brand new sites, since it takes spammers some time to notice them (or for it to even be worth their time).

  11. It would be cool if dating sites implemented some kind of attention bond mechanism.

  12. Can you be a little more specific why online dating will win because of sample bias?? I personally think that since you are adding happiness in the loop so it should not be very simple. Also we need a special metric for measuring happiness :)

  13. if girls ask for a translation, von Ahn would be a st8 up pimp!

  14. Before signing up for eHarmony, there's a long survey to fill out to qualify to join. So why not just insert a few "intelligence tasks" into the survey? I assume if you don't have the "clout" that eHarmony has... that your new dating service wouldn't get too many people to answer a bunch of survey questions.

    As for how new dating services start... I assume they start up by buying access to existing single communities? They fake scale until enough people sign up...

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  17. Before signing up for eharmony, there is a long survey to fill out to qualify to join, so why not just insert a few intelligence tasks into the survey?

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