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  • 24.06.2019
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Here's How OkCupid Uses Math to Find Your Match

Online Dating 101: Revealing how dating sites work and the matching algorithms behind them

Online dating sites are thriving, and their methods are now so advanced that they match couples by using mathematical formulae. Can analysing data result in the perfect date? Today around 2,, flower gifts will be received, 37 million dinner dates will be enjoyed or endured, and the number of text messages will soar by 11 million. In Indonesia, sales of chocolates will double and in the United States there are expected to be , proposals of marriage — ten percent of the annual total. Dating websites are booming in the UK.

In Indonesia, sales of chocolates will double and in the United States there are expected to beproposals of marriage — ten percent of the annual total. Dating websites are booming in the UK. Six million Britons visit them each year, and ina study reported that more than a third of people who married in the US between and met their partner online.

Perhaps surprisingly, the key to the success of online dating lies in clever calculations.

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Dating sites rely on algorithms : sets of instructions which inform a machine what to do with certain information. Online dating sites ask users questions about their habits, beliefs and lifestyle choices and the computer runs the answers to find possible suitors. But the lasting value of online dating has been disputed.

A study by researchers in the United States concluded that no algorithm could predict an enduring partnership. It is heartwarming to know that love can be explained by a formula, say some. Studies suggest that people who meet online are slightly less likely to divorce and they claim to be happier in their marriages — proof that maths can result in true love. Besides, online dating is essential for those with busy lives and limited opportunities to meet a mate. What rubbish, retort the romantics.

Maths is cold, impersonal and abstract, whereas true love is emotional, messy and unpredictable. While these algorithms might increase the probability of introducing people with similar interests, they cannot reproduce the magic of attraction. No one can ever fully understand the mysteries of love, so how can a computer? You Decide Is love a mystery, or simply a mathematical equation? Are dating sites a good invention or a bad one? 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.

How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love

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.

Inside OKCupid: The math behind online dating talks about the math . As An Experiment. finishthetrail.com But how do sites calculate the likelihood of a successful relationship? Christian Rudder, one of the founders of popular dating site OKCupid, details the. This means that online dating sites need to have the best method for OKCupid even uses the tagline “we use math to find you dates” and writes on its website.

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.

Dating sites maths

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. The rejection stung, but he was still getting 20 messages a day. Dating with his computer-endowed profiles was a completely different game.

He could ignore messages consisting of bad one-liners. He responded to the ones that showed a sense of humor or displayed something interesting in their bios. Back when he was the pursuer, he'd swapped three to five messages to get a single date.

Now he'd send just one reply. Want to meet? By date 20, he noticed latent variables emerging. In the younger cluster, the women invariably had two or more tattoos and lived on the east side of Los Angeles. In the other, a disproportionate number owned midsize dogs that they adored.

His earliest dates were carefully planned.

Women on Dating Sites Cause Incels

But as he worked feverishly through his queue, he resorted to casual afternoon meetups over lunch or coffee, often stacking two dates in a day. No more drinking, for one. End the date when it's over, don't let it trail off. And no concerts or movies.

McKinlay's code found that the women clustered into statistically identifiable groups who tended to answer their OkCupid survey questions in similar ways. One group, which he dubbed the Greens, were online dating newbies; another, the Samanthas, tended to be older and more adventuresome. Here's how each cluster answered four of the most popular questions.

One night. A few months to a year. Several years. The rest of my life. As far as you're concerned, how long will it take before you have sex? Only after the wedding. Yes, and I enjoyed myself. Yes, and I did not enjoy myself. No, and I would never. No, but I'd like to. Extremely important.

Instead, he realized, he should be dating like a mathematician. . On a site where compatibility equals visibility, he was practically a ghost. Six million Britons visit dating sites each month, but can a computer really find I n the Summer of , Chris McKinlay was finishing his maths. Everyone you know has an online dating profile and if they say they don't they there's actually a mathematical formula behind the digital match-making. founders, Christian Rudder, explains how his site's algorithm works.

Somewhat important. Not very important. Not important at all. After a month of dating equally from both of his profiles, he decided he was spending too much time on the freeway reaching east-side women from the tattoo cluster. He deleted his A-group profile. His efficiency improved, but the results were the same. As summer drew to a close, he'd been on more than 55 dates, each one dutifully logged in a lab notebook.

Only three had led to second dates; only one had led to a third.

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