OkCupid has earned a reputation for its fun and insightful use of data, playing with the mountains of statistics it has on the science of love. But today it met its match in the mathematics blog Isomorphismes.
The main thrust of the argument here is that the mandatory questions users need to answer when creating a profile and finding a match really skew the system. They are often rather sensitive questions, for example Isomorphismes’ mandatories include: Do you think homosexuality is a sin, would you try to control your mate with suicide, would the world be a better place if people with low IQs were not allowed to reproduce (yikes!).
Users who answer these questions differently have no chance of being matched. But users who do answer these questions the same way are ranked as very compatible, despite the fact that on a granular level, they may be wrong for one another. This bothers Isomorphismes, who pointed out that, ‘Someone doesn’t become a great potential match simply because they’re not a bigot, a cheat, a eugenicist, or a depressive manipulative.”
It also makes it fairly easy to appeal to a broad swathe. “The worst side effect of the current scoring system, is that a spammer could easily answer only the questions with obvious answers (basic facts and display of non-bigotry) and get a decently high match percentage with a lot of people. At which point, the spammer uploads a picture of an attractive guy/girl, writes some generic profile text, and scams away,” writes Isomorphismes.
It seems the post touched a nerve. OkCupid employee Riley Goodside responded that while he couldn’t address the whole post, the point about spammers was essentially correct. “The algorithm as described in the FAQ does suffer from this problem. However, we have enhancements that address the issue very effectively. The FAQ is slightly out of date, and shouldn’t be taken as a complete, exhaustive description of how we make matches.”
And for those who learn how to game the system, romance may be in the cards. “That is exactly what I did which led to my meeting my (now long-term) girlfriend. I was receiving about 5 profile views/week with 500 questions answered. I scrapped them all, answered 20 or 30 questions with non-offensive answers, and skyrocketed to 60-100 profile views/week,” wrote one commenter on Hacker News. Love or spam, it’s all in the eye of the algorithm.