OKCupid Questions

Written by Nexcerpt on March 1st, 2011 in Dating & Online.
Tags: , , ,

This question has been rumbling around in mind — and it arrived in the mail today.

I want to connect users on a site based on their responses to a series of questions (some sample questions):
Smoker? [y/n] (possibly with a flip-side question: Tolerate smokers? [y/n])
Carnivore or Vegetarian?

and so on, with a goal of finding other “compatible” people who’ve taken the survey.

Most online dating sites try to exploit a similar strategy; most do a miserably poor job. For one thoughtful approach, see how OKCupid asks questions.

The smartest aspect of their strategy: when answering every question (for purposes of matching someone you might like to meet) members must declare the value of a potential match’s answer:

This question is...
   A little important
   Somewhat important
   Very important

(Note: although some dating sites can’t grasp the concept, it’s wise to notice that questions even have a flipside. It is possible for someone to exhibit a trait, yet not tolerate its opposite in a partner. So, for example, a smoker could want to make it Mandatory for their match to be a non-smoker. Maybe they want to quit; maybe their other friends don’t smoke — maybe they want a caretaker during their upcoming lung disease… who knows?)

We may reasonably conclude that OKCupid’s matching tree begins by excluding exactly opposed “Mandatory” conditions.

   User makes it mandatory for match to be non-smoker. Exclude smokers.
   User makes it mandatory for match to be vegetarian. Exclude meaties.

Next, presumably, they prioritize among matches on “Very Important” questions, then move into less and less “important” questions until a deliverable set is complete.

Only a few Mandatory conditions might reduce the potential matching set by several orders of magnitude. That alone is more hopeful than all the fuzzy approaches taken by other dating sites.

Match.com and Chemistry.com for example will readily suggest self-identified “Ultra Conservative” members to self-identified “Very Liberal” members. Similar mismatches are routine in a other categories, such as Body Type. There’s no way a member can create an explicit block against characteristics of a match, unless the service permits them to do so.

Granted, few issues are truly mutually exclusive for most people. Being matched with someone who doesn’t meet your preconceived notion of who you’d like could be lucky for both of you. But, these sites sell themselves on the premise that people mustn’t rely on luck to find the right partner!

OKC’s implementation is non-trivial, but trumps everything else in this space. Overall, the OKCupid staff are simply the best technical crew — as to understanding both analysis and coding — in the online dating scene.

Bonus points if you’re aware that IAC / InterActive Corp brings Match.com, Chemistry.com and OKCupid all under the same corporate umbrella. It’d be cool for them to let some of the OKCupid staff correct all that’s wrong with Chemistry.com, and broken at Match.com.

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