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OKCupid, or the quest for the essence
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I first heard of OKCupid a couple of years ago. After an entry I had written suggesting a new kind of algorithm to match people on a dating site / social network, but then Fab pointed out that this had already been done; by a bunch of clever people, mostly mathematicians, who also used to have an awesome blog with lots of data-mining stuff inside; all this before the site got bought by Match.com

Few nights ago, I opened an account. It was the first time ever for me to open an account on a dating site actually. The main motivation was that a colleague of mine landed a date using Tinder and was explaining to me that if you allow it, the app uses your facebook profile information to match you with potential partners. I thought this was really inefficient and certainly not as good as what OKCupid had done. To be able to make my point I had to learn more about OKCupid.

First contact with the site's user interface was ruined by the adverts. Adverts everywhere. Adverts at every corner. This was so weird that I thought I had accidentally registered on a cheap Russian copy. Anyway, I got hocked up very quickly by the questions. After answering about 80 of them I fell asleep...

Woke up the following morning, the computer still open next to me, I carried on answering questions when suddenly something occurred to me: maybe I should look at the profiles the site was matching me with... :-)

In the following two days or so I spend a total of twenty minutes, few minutes at a time, browsing the girls I had highest compatibility with. The experience wasn't pleasant, not because of the girls, whom I am sure I would have an amazingly nice conversation with would I bump into them at a party, but because the experience was just very very boring to me. It took me half a day to understand why though: the boredom arose from a single thing: the Obi-Wan Kenobi inside me was telling me "These are not the girls you are looking for..."

OKCupid, to keep it simple, is for the regular folks. The people whose attractiveness framework is based on similarities and basic affinities. Those are people who think that (quoting my colleague) "He likes the same movies as me", people who define themselves by their political affiliations, people who think that putting somebody on a scale of "liking philosophical discussions" is actually significant. I didn't know at first where the problem actually came from. Was it a problem with the questions or was it a problem with the algorithm ? There is nothing wrong with the algorithm, but it's not a problem with the questions either. Using "better" questions would not solve the problem. The real problem is that passed a level of education, intelligence and overall sophistication, one is not faithfully represented by their answers to questions but by the processes by which they answer, which most of the time is the real focus of their own attention.

In other words, if one day OKCupid stops asking "Are you liberal or conservative ?" and starts asking "Which abstract process did you follow to identify the political party, if any, you vote for ?, and what is the underlying most important principle of this process ?", it will have a chance to capture me and the people I can have a relationship with... Moreover, in any case, this cannot be a multiple choice answer process.

But then, we already have the technology allowing people like me to identify potential partners: get your lazy ass away from the laptop's screen and actually talk to people. It works better if you go to places where the people you might like usually hang out... :-)

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