The closer to percent—mathematical soul mate—the better. But mathematically, McKinlay's compatibility with women in Los Angeles was abysmal. OkCupid's algorithms use only the questions that both potential matches decide to answer, and the match questions McKinlay had chosen—more or less at random—had proven unpopular.
When he scrolled through his matches, fewer than women would appear above the 90 percent compatibility mark. And that was in a city containing some 2 million women approximately 80, of them on OkCupid. On a site where compatibility equals visibility, he was practically a ghost.
He realized he'd have to boost that number. If, through statistical sampling, McKinlay could ascertain which questions mattered to the kind of women he liked, he could construct a new profile that honestly answered those questions and ignored the rest. He could match every woman in LA who might be right for him, and none that weren't. He then sorted female daters into seven clusters, like "Diverse" and "Mindful," each with distinct characteristics.
Maurico Alejo. Even for a mathematician, McKinlay is unusual. Raised in a Boston suburb, he graduated from Middlebury College in with a degree in Chinese. In August of that year he took a part-time job in New York translating Chinese into English for a company on the 91st floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. The towers fell five weeks later. McKinlay wasn't due at the office until 2 o'clock that day.
He was asleep when the first plane hit the north tower at am. The experience kindled his interest in applied math, ultimately inspiring him to earn a master's and then a PhD in the field. Now he'd do the same for love. First he'd need data.
While his dissertation work continued to run on the side, he set up 12 fake OkCupid accounts and wrote a Python script to manage them. To find the survey answers, he had to do a bit of extra sleuthing. OkCupid lets users see the responses of others, but only to questions they've answered themselves. McKinlay watched with satisfaction as his bots purred along. Then, after about a thousand profiles were collected, he hit his first roadblock. OkCupid has a system in place to prevent exactly this kind of data harvesting: It can spot rapid-fire use easily.
One by one, his bots started getting banned. He turned to his friend Sam Torrisi, a neuroscientist who'd recently taught McKinlay music theory in exchange for advanced math lessons. Torrisi was also on OkCupid, and he agreed to install spyware on his computer to monitor his use of the site. With the data in hand, McKinlay programmed his bots to simulate Torrisi's click-rates and typing speed. He brought in a second computer from home and plugged it into the math department's broadband line so it could run uninterrupted 24 hours a day.
After three weeks he'd harvested 6 million questions and answers from 20, women all over the country. McKinlay's dissertation was relegated to a side project as he dove into the data. He was already sleeping in his cubicle most nights. Now he gave up his apartment entirely and moved into the dingy beige cell, laying a thin mattress across his desk when it was time to sleep. For McKinlay's plan to work, he'd have to find a pattern in the survey data—a way to roughly group the women according to their similarities.
The breakthrough came when he coded up a modified Bell Labs algorithm called K-Modes. First used in to analyze diseased soybean crops, it takes categorical data and clumps it like the colored wax swimming in a Lava Lamp. With some fine-tuning he could adjust the viscosity of the results, thinning it into a slick or coagulating it into a single, solid glob.
He played with the dial and found a natural resting point where the 20, women clumped into seven statistically distinct clusters based on their questions and answers. He retasked his bots to gather another sample: 5, women in Los Angeles and San Francisco who'd logged on to OkCupid in the past month. Another pass through K-Modes confirmed that they clustered in a similar way.
His statistical sampling had worked. Now he just had to decide which cluster best suited him. He checked out some profiles from each. One cluster was too young, two were too old, another was too Christian. But he lingered over a cluster dominated by women in their mid-twenties who looked like indie types, musicians and artists. This was the golden cluster. The haystack in which he'd find his needle.
Somewhere within, he'd find true love. Actually, a neighboring cluster looked pretty cool too—slightly older women who held professional creative jobs, like editors and designers. He decided to go for both. He'd set up two profiles and optimize one for the A group and one for the B group. He text-mined the two clusters to learn what interested them; teaching turned out to be a popular topic, so he wrote a bio that emphasized his work as a math professor.
The important part, though, would be the survey. He picked out the questions that were most popular with both clusters. He'd already decided he would fill out his answers honestly—he didn't want to build his future relationship on a foundation of computer-generated lies.
But he'd let his computer figure out how much importance to assign each question, using a machine-learning algorithm called adaptive boosting to derive the best weightings. With that, he created two profiles, one with a photo of him rock climbing and the other of him playing guitar at a music gig. Sex or love? Answer: Love, obviously. But for the younger A cluster, he followed his computer's direction and rated the question "very important.
When the last question was answered and ranked, he ran a search on OkCupid for women in Los Angeles sorted by match percentage. At the top: a page of women matched at 99 percent. He scrolled down Ten thousand women scrolled by, from all over Los Angeles, and he was still in the 90s.
He needed one more step to get noticed. Women reciprocated by visiting his profiles, some a day. And messages began to roll in. Thought I'd say hi. The math portion of McKinlay's search was done. Only one thing remained. He'd have to leave his cubicle and take his research into the field. He'd have to go on dates. Sheila was a web designer from the A cluster of young artist types.
They met for lunch at a cafe in Echo Park. By the end of his date with Sheila, it was clear to both that the attraction wasn't there. He went on his second date the next day—an attractive blog editor from the B cluster. He'd planned a romantic walk around Echo Park Lake but found it was being dredged.
She'd been reading Proust and feeling down about her life. Date three was also from the B group. He met Alison at a bar in Koreatown. She was a screenwriting student with a tattoo of a Fibonacci spiral on her shoulder. McKinlay got drunk on Korean beer and woke up in his cubicle the next day with a painful hangover. He sent Alison a follow- up message on OkCupid, but she didn't write back. Since August , an "A-list" account option is available to users of OkCupid and provides additional services for monthly fees.
In November , OkCupid launched the social discovery service Tallygram,  but retired the service in April Users were asked instead to consider other browsers. The website added a bevy of nontraditional profile options for users to express their gender identity and sexuality in late These options—which included asexual , genderfluid , pansexual , sapiosexual , and transgender categories—were added to make the website more inclusive.
Rudder updated the "OkTrends" blog, which consists of "original research and insights from OkCupid," for the first time in three years in July Rudder defends the involuntary experiment, claiming the practice is widespread: " That's how websites work. Despite being a platform designed to be less centered on physical appearance,  OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder stated in that the male OkCupid users who were rated most physically attractive by female OkCupid users received 11 times as many messages as the lowest-rated male users did, the medium-rated male users received about four times as many messages, and the one-third of female users who were rated most physically attractive by the male users received about two-thirds of all messages sent by male users.
In , OkCupid revealed in a blog post that experiments were routinely conducted on OkCupid users. When the photos were restored, users who had started "blind" conversations gradually began tapering off their conversations, leading OkCupid's CEO Christian Rudder to remark "it was like we'd turned on the bright lights at the bar at midnight". The results suggested that doing this caused users, who were "bad matches" under the original algorithm, to actually like each other: "When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are.
The revelation that OkCupid conducted these experiments on users led to criticism. Rudder attempted to defend the company, in part by suggesting that it would be unethical not to experiment on users:. I think part of what's confusing people about this experiment is the result In May , a team of Danish researchers have made publicly available the "OkCupid dataset" project, containing as of May 2, variables describing 68, users on OkCupid for research purposes e.
In December , OkCupid rolled out a change that would require users to provide their real first name, in place of a pseudonym as was previously encouraged. Although the company quickly backpedaled, saying that nicknames or initials would be acceptable.
In OkCupid reported on Twitter that they had removed Christopher Cantwell 's user profile for being a white supremacist after a woman reported receiving a message from him. This raised questions from some users who wondered about the ease with which the company could eliminate users from its platform. Clarifai, an A. A February report alleged that many users reported lost access to their accounts in a manner consistent with either a data breach or a widespread " credential stuffing " incident.
OkCupid denied any data breach or system errors. OkCupid claimed 3. According to Compete. Journals are not available to new members and the feature is now "retired. Any adult may join the site and all users may communicate with others via private messages or an instant messaging "chat" function.
OkCupid was the first major dating site to offer unlimited messaging free of charge, [ citation needed ] although this was limited in late when OkCupid's official blog announced the site is "getting rid of open-messaging" and making sent messages invisible to the recipient until they in turn interact with the sender. A-list members can also browse openly while choosing whether or not their profile is displayed to those they visited.
In early May , OKCupid removed the match search function for some users, including all those in Australia and including A-list subscribers. Following complaints, it has had to reimburse Australian users but, regardless of past complaints, implemented the removal for all users in July OkTrends, the official blog of OkCupid, presents statistical observations from OkCupid user interactions, to explore data from the online dating world.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, OkCupid reported a To generate matches, OkCupid applies data generated by users' activities on the site,  as well as their answers to questions. When answering a question, a user indicates their own answer, the answers they would accept from partners, and the level of importance they place on the question.
The results of these questions can be made public. OkCupid describes in detail the algorithm used to calculate match percentages. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American online dating service launched in Internet portal Human sexuality portal Society portal.
This Is What She Found". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 23 February Archived from the original on October 9, Retrieved May 23, Retrieved Hello Quizzy. Arkansas Times. Feb 2, Retrieved April 1, Archived from the original on October 6, Retrieved 10 April New York Observer. Archived from the original on The Independent.
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