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Amy Webb Tells TED How She Hacked Online Dating (Part II)

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What do you do when you love data, but can't seem to crack the online dating code? Rewrite the code, of course.

That's exactly what Amy Webb, author of Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match, did. After a bad breakup, and a series of bad dates through online dating sites, Webb decided to turn her passion for numbers and algorithms into a strategy for hacking the online dating system. "Rather than waiting for an algorithm to set me up," she told a rapt TED conference audience, "I'm going to try reverse-engineering this entire system."

She began by writing down every possible trait she was looking for in a mate. By the end she had amassed 72 different data points that covered everything from religion, to occupation, to hobbies, to children and parenting styles, to travel plans, to body type. She then prioritized the list, breaking it into a top tier and a second-tier of points and ranking them from 100 down to 91. Finally, she devised a scoring system to mathematically calculate whether or not she thought the date would be a good match for her.

At first glance, her points system appeared to be a success. She returned to online dating and found a good-looking, well spoken, and well-traveled man she thought could be the man of her dreams. There was just one problem: he didn't like her back. That's when Webb realized there was one variable, the competition, she hadn't considered. What about all the other women on online dating sites?

Webb's next step was market research. She created 10 fake male profiles in order to gather data about the women who were attracted to the kind of man she really wanted to marry. She looked at both qualitative data (the humor, the tone, the voice, the communication style) and quantitative data (average length of their profiles, how much time passed between messages). Her findings are fascinating.

"Content matters a lot," she explains. "Smart people tends to write a lot, 3000... 4000... 5000 words, about themselves." Successful online daters also tend to use nonspecific language and optimistic language, which makes their profiles feel more approachable. Timing is also very important, Webb found. "The popular women on these online sites spend an average of 23 hours in between each communication," she says. "And that's what we would normally do in the usual process of courtship."

Armed with new insight, Webb could optimize her online dating approach and create a super profile. And it worked. She is now married and has a daughter, and wrote a book to share her insider knowledge of the online dating system with the world. The question is...what does all this mean for you?

"There is an algorithm for love, it's just not the ones that we are presented with online," Webb says. "In fact, it's something that you write yourself...all you have to really do is figure out your own framework and play by your own rules."

Related Article: Amy Webb Tells TED How She Hacked Online Dating

Amy Webb Tells TED How She Hacked Online Dating

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If you haven't heard of TED (and what off-the-grid deserted island have you been living on, if you haven't?), TED is a global set of conferences owned by a private nonprofit foundation dedicated to showcasing "ideas worth spreading." Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Gates, countless Nobel Prize winners, and artists of all kinds.

Amy Webb, author of Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match, took to the TED stage to tell the story of how she hacked online dating. After a bad date left her at a restaurant with a $1300 bill, she decided to game the online dating system by creating an algorithm of her own. Using dating sites as databases, she came up with 72 data points designed to identify her ideal partner. She prioritize the 72 points and devised a scoring system:

  • 700 points and she'd send an e-mail
  • 900 points and she'd go on a date
  • 1500 points and she would consider a relationship

What she was attempting to quantify with serendipity. Most people take the "expect it when you least expect it" approach to love, but that wasn't enough for Amy Webb. She wanted to know the exact probability of finding her Mr. Right, and she knew her passion for data and numbers was the way to do it.

Of course, it wouldn't be a story if it was always smooth sailing. Webb began her online dating journey by copying lines from her resume and posting them into her online dating profile. I'm sure you can guess how that turned out: not well. The dating site's algorithm paired her with terrible matches that led to even worse dates. Some would give up then, but not Amy Webb.

She began collecting data points during her awful dates. She tracked things like awkward sexual remarks, bad vocabulary, and the number of times her dates attempted to high-five her. After gathering the data, she crunched the numbers and started making correlations.

Perhaps the most surprising finding was that the algorithms on online dating sites weren't actually failing. They were doing exactly what they were designed to do: take user-generated information and match it with other user-generated information. The problem with Webb was that she'd put bad information - her resume - into the algorithm in the first place. "The real problem here," she explained to her TED audience, "is that while the algorithms work just fine, you and I don't."

What was her solution? The answer will amaze you...

Related Article: Amy Webb Tells TED How She Hacked Online Dating (Part II)

5 Online Dating Tips You May be Overlooking

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Have you been online dating a while? Do you feel like you aren't getting matched with the right people? Are you sending emails that get no responses? Rest assured, it's not you. But there are a few things you can do to help garner more interest online.

Often people think if they post a couple of pictures and answer basic profile questions, and then potential dates will come running. But this isn't the case - for most of us, we have to put in some effort in order to reap the results. So how do you attract more people to you?

Following are a few tips that are often overlooked when creating a profile or sending email messages. If you take the time to do these, you'll see better results:

Tell a story. There is a phrase writers often tell each other when crafting a good story: "show, don't tell." This means, instead of just saying "I like to mountain bike," provide some detail. Talk about your trip to southern California and how you rode through treacherous canyons and encountered snakes or coyotes along the way. You get the point. Tell a story, don't just make a statement. Make it come alive - then you have a conversation starting point.

Send more emails. How many emails should you send to potential dates every week? Five, ten, or twenty? Try fifty. If you aren't getting responses, it's because you aren't reaching enough people. Not everyone is going to respond to your email, no matter how great your profile may be. Be careful to not be generic, though. If you don't have the time to craft a lot of emails, then make the few you do send really count. Read the profiles of your potential dates, and talk about something they mentioned. Make your email stand out.

Have a friend look at your profile. Sometimes we can't be objective when we're trying to sell ourselves. We either think we're bragging, or we don't see ourselves in a clear enough light. Leave it to your friends to help tell you all of your wonderful qualities, or to help steer you away from revealing too much or talking about your ex. They can give you perspective and help you to shine.

Use a catchy subject line in your emails. This is important but overlooked. "Hey what's up?" isn't going to draw attention anymore than a blank subject line. Instead, headline with something she said in her profile. "Scuba diving in Costa Rica?" or "Would love to meet a Dodgers fan" can help in getting your email read.

Avoid the negatives. Maybe you had a bad break-up, or maybe you know exactly what you want to avoid in your next relationship. But your online profile is not the place to communicate it. Focus instead on the things you DO want - your interests, your home life, what you like to do on weekends. It's a new relationship, after all.

Dos And Don’ts Of Online Dating Profile Pics

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Choosing the right picture for your online dating profile is an art form.

Wait a minute, you don't even have a profile picture? Ok, let's start right there: get one. Stat. You're gonna need it.

Here's what you need to know to choose one that brings all the boys (and girls) to the yard:

  1. Do take candids. Candid shots that convey less effort tend to get a better response than professionally posed pictures. On average, candids receive 2x the messages that professionally posed photos do.
  2. Don't pose in the bathroom. Please, just don't. No one has ever looked good with grout in the background.
  3. Do share your passions. Show off your personality in pictures instead of words. Upload shots of you engaging in your favorite hobbies, pastimes, and passions. Action shots lead to 3x the amount of interest and higher quality conversations.
  4. Don't do duck face; do do a kissy face. If your lips are parted, people are 5% more likely to be attracted to you. On top of that, women are 32% more likely to be chosen by someone when they pucker their lips into a kissing face instead of just keeping them sealed.
  5. Do wear red. Both men and women find those who wear red to be more sexually appealing. Rawr.
  6. Do put on a happy face. I don't need to tell you that people aren't looking for angry or sad dates. People are 12% less likely to click on you if your profile picture expresses a negative emotional state.
  7. Don't post huge group shots. It just gets confusing. If it's not obvious which one is you, it's not a good choice for your dating profile.
  8. Do go for natural light. It's the most flattering, and could make you look as much as 10 years younger.
  9. Do remove your glasses. Online daters are 28% less likely to click on your profile if you're wearing glasses in the picture.
  10. Ladies: do make eye contact. Making eye contact and flirting directly with the camera gets the best response from potential suitors. Think "Myspace angle."
  11. Men: don't make eye contact. Men get better responses when they are staring at something off in the distance with a charismatic smile. Think "I'm too cool for direct camera contact."
  12. Do smile! People are 45% more likely to select profile pictures when the subject is smiling.
  13. Do find the sweet spot. 3 photos is the ideal number. Profiles with 3 pictures receive up to 85% more messages than profiles with more or fewer.

10 More Things Millennials Need To Know About Online Dating (Part II)

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Good news! We no longer think online dating is reserved only for socially awkward guys who live in their parents' basements and desperate, lonely women who fear they're going to die with 75 cats. And now that it's safe to jump on the online dating bandwagon, the Millennial generation is hopping on in droves.

The Inquisitr sat down with Let's Date CEO Adam Huie to get his advice on dating for the under-30 set. I've already counted down the first 10 things they say 20 year olds need to know about online dating, so here's the second 10:

  1. Get your friends involved. We might be the most social generation ever, so why not get our friends involved in our online dating pursuits? Have them review your profile, help you choose dates, or join you on an adventure using a group dating or wingman dating service.
  2. This is not Snapchat. I love Snapchat, don't get me wrong, but it's always wise to think twice before sending a scandalous photo. Once it's out there, it's out there for good, and you have no idea where it might end up. If you're ok with that, snap away.
  3. Don't give out personal information. We grew up with the Internet, Millennials - we should be well aware of this one. Any identifying information (location, place of work, phone number) does not belong on your online dating profile, and it shouldn't be readily handed out in private messages with other online daters, either.
  4. Cheaters need not apply. If it's against the rules of your relationship to have an online dating profile, then don't do it. It's really simple.
  5. Be patient. We're used to getting everything instantly, but that's not how relationships work (even the ones that start online). You might find a date right away, but you might not. Online dating is an investment, and if you put the time into it the date will eventually come.
  6. Don't say "Hey." Please, for the love of God, do not say "Hey." I can't tell you how many messages I delete that seem to think one word will make me want them. I'll never understand it. You don't need to write a novel, but you definitely need to make some attempt at an actual conversation.
  7. Plan. I'm a fan of spontaneity, but one of the nifty things about online dating is that it gives you the chance to form a game plan. Take the opportunity to craft really great messages and creative date ideas.
  8. Don't be a "serial dater." You could go on multiple dates every day if you wanted to (especially now that location-based mobile dating is so popular), but please don't. Either you're fishing for free food and drinks, or you're dropping way too much cash buying other people food and drinks.
  9. It's not an excuse to be an asshole. We have a bad habit of being rude online because sitting behind a computer screen makes us feel invincible. Don't do it. You are not invincible, you are just a jerk.
  10. Delete the app. If you're in a serious, monogamous relationship, it's probably time to take your online dating profile down. Consider it a victory.

Related Article: 10 Things Millennials Need To Know About Online Dating

10 Things Millennials Need To Know About Online Dating

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I was scrolling through my email, clearing my inbox of junk mail, when a headline caught my eye: "20 Things 20 Year Olds Need To Know About Online Dating." I'm 20-something-or-other. I'm involved in online dating. I think we're generally a pretty tech-savvy bunch, but apparently I needed to know whatever bite-sized bits of wisdom The Inquisitr had to share. So I clicked.

These are the first 10 things The Inquisitr, in partnership with Let's Date CEO Adam Huie, thinks Millennials need to know about dating online:

  1. It works. Well, I can't argue with that. The percentage of relationships (and marriages) that begin online is increasing all the time, and a recent study found that the divorce/separation rate is lower for couples who meet online than for couples who meet offline.
  2. It's cheaper. I guess that depends on what your idea of a date is, but yeah...it definitely can be. A month's worth of nightclub cover charges and drinks bought at bars could easily add up to more than an online dating site's monthly subscription fee.
  3. It's fun. If dating - of any kind - isn't fun, you're doing something wrong, but online dating services are going the extra mile to make meeting people easy and enjoyable. "Gamification" is all the rage these days, which is making some dating services feel more like games than matchmaking.
  4. The Catfish scenario is not a reality. Eh, The Inquisitr has it half right. Yes, the overwhelming majority of people you meet online are genuine folks who are looking for love just like you are. But that doesn't mean that there aren't any unscrupulous people online. Just keep your wits about you and your BS detector switched on.
  5. More the merrier. It sounds like an invitation to an orgy, but what it actually means is that you should try out several dating services. Each offers something different, and you won't know which one suits your goals best until you experiment.
  6. It's okay to be curious. Yes! Thanks for including this one, Inquisitr! Online dating sites can be a great place for LGBT young adults to begin exploring their sexuality if they haven't had the chance to do it offline yet.
  7. Use your best photo. Is there anyone who didn't already know this? Millennials should be especially equipped to pick a killer picture (as long as we're avoiding the dreaded mirror selfie), since we grew up in the era of Facebook and Instagram.
  8. Take the time to fill out your profile. This, on the other hand, we might not be as good at. We like words to come in short, 140 character bursts - a full dating profile might be too intimidating to tackle. Tough luck, Millennials. It needs to be done anyway.
  9. Don't lie. I've heard some valid reasons for stretching the truth, but on the whole it's easier not to. And why go the harder route when you can choose an easier one?
  10. Spelling counts. I can't emphasize this enough. Text speak is not cute anywhere outside of a text message (and it's hardly even cute there). No one wants to date someone who sounds like they didn't make it out of third grade.

Related Article: 10 More Things Millennials Need To Know About Online Dating (Part II)