Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Okcupid's Experiment

So apparently Okcupid experiments on users from time to time.  And everyone is up in arms about it.  Feeling betrayed, tricked, outraged, all of the above.

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand it feels like not much more than elaborate trolling, which has its merits from time to time.  On the other hand I do feel like it represents bad business ethics.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think anyone has a case for fraud, nor should any government agency get involved (I think the market can and should determine what happens) but I think I would feel uncomfortable experimenting on my consumers like that.

If you didn't read the post, Okcupid did three different experiments: two dealing with photos and the third dealing with the match percentage algorithm.

The results:

-When no one had a photo on the site (due to a intentional "glitch" on the site) conversations went longer, more detailed and people exchanged contact info more often and were more satisfied on the dates they went on than they were in cases where they knew what the person looked like before hand.

-When asked to rank personality separately from looks, users generally rated both the same.  Even when the profile contained absolutely no text just a photo.  Essentially the profile text was irrelevant to your rating.

-When told they were a great match (with a fake compatibility percentage to boot) people generally acted like it.  And vice versa when told they were a bad match.

Part of me feels like maybe this explains my absolutely dreadful record on dating sites.  Or I should say a big part of me wants to believe that.  Obviously that's wishful thinking.  But to be honest I didn't really use the matching algorithm as faithfully as some might, and I don't often "rate" profiles.  So maybe I was never involved in any of these experiments.

This is one of the reasons I think it would be wise to approach online dating with a grain of salt.  You just never know whether the person you're messaging just isn't interested or is just a part of a laboratory experiment.

I do hope that Okcupid applies the same standards to people who create profiles to run their own unsanctioned experiments.  Obviously it's their site and they should be free to do with it what they want, but I think it would be good etiquette and good science to allow others to run their own experiments.  Either as a way to reproduce their results or as a way to test other hypotheses.

But I'm not sure how I feel about the whole thing.  I like the knowledge but I'm a smidge uncomfortable with the tactics used to get it.  How do you readers feel?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why I Still Have a Flip Phone

I'm not a Luddite.  I swear.  I love technology and think it makes our lives easier each passing day.  While I'm not "old", I'm old enough to remember the days when looking for a movie to watch meant making a trip to Blockbuster rather than whipping out your Kindle Fire and going on Netflix.  I also remember the days when my dad used to type up (on a typewriter) his resume when he would go on job interviews.

The day I got my iPod back in 2006 was the beginning of a new era for me, as I'm sure it was for most people when they got their first iPod or MP3 player.  It freed me from having to make that high stakes choice: lug around 100+ CDs so you have musical variety, or take only 2 or 3 to cut down on your luggage weight.  Whichever choice you made, you were bound to regret it.  But the iPod changed things.  I could 7,000 songs on one small light weight device.  Plus, I could scroll to exactly the song I wanted, rather than having to hit "next" over and over until getting to where I wanted to be.  It was really a 90s kid's dream come true.

I still have that iPod by the way.  It's been 8 years, I've taken it on countless runs, trips to the gym, road trips, even just regular old sitting on the couch listening to music, and it still works.  Hopefully will for a while.
Now that I've established my technological bone fides, let me explain my opposition to smart phones.  First off, I have nothing against the idea of smart phones: being able to look something up or get directions, or read email or hell, just talk to someone on Facebook when you're bored, no matter where you are (more or less) is great. It's a tremendous value.

The problem I have is that I think the value is overpriced relative to what I'm willing to pay for it.  My brother pays 80 dollars a month for his data plan.  I currently pay about 45 dollars for my talk and text plan.  The extra 35 dollars might not seem like a lot, but over the course of a year that's about 400 dollars.  I'm not being cheap, I just have different values.  If you told me I could pay 400 bucks to go on Facebook wherever I go, or Twitter, or read emails, etc., I think I'd pass.  I have an iPod touch that I bought last September for 300 dollars that does most things a smart phone does (with the exception of phone calls), it just requires a Wi-Fi connection to do so.  So I know what apps are and I know the basics of smart phone usage.  It works for me, I'm fine with it, anyone who needs to get in touch with me can call or text me.  Important people have my number.

I won't knock anyone for feeling differently though.  I'm sure there are people who think I'm crazy for paying money to go see baseball games or my gym membership or the food that I eat.  And I'm sure there are people for whom 400 dollars is not that big of a deal.  I'm sure that if I made more money than I currently do, I might decide that a smart phone was a good idea.

It's nothing personal.  I'm not a better, more socially connected person because I don't have a smart phone.  I'm not "more real", I'm not a Luddite bent on destroying every semblance of technology on Earth.  I'm just someone who doesn't value the benefits of a smart phone like most people do.

Monday, July 14, 2014

On Rejection

I've found that one of the hardest things to understand is the idea that you shouldn't take rejection personally.  Whether it's someone rejecting you when you ask them out, or when someone does go out with you but doesn't want to see you again, or even if someone ignores your messages on a dating site, or your chat messages on Facebook.  "It's not personal" it's often said, but how can it not be?  

They are rejecting you.  They might not know all about you, but they're rejecting as much as they do know.  Maybe the way you drank your coffee or the way you talk or the way you walk.  Whatever it is they're rejecting it.

I sympathize with the idea that the best response is to brush it off.  On to the next, it makes no sense to get invested in someone you barely know.  But I think it's harder to do it when you have no history of success and all you've really known is rejection.  

For this reason, I really think it's best for people to get some dating experience in their high school or college years.  Those are the years where you really can get to know people without awkward dates with people you met at the grocery store or a dating site.  

This is kind of a rambling post, brought on by some recent events in my life.  So it's not my usual post.  I'll try to write something useful next time.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Relating to People

This blog focuses a lot on the ways in which I'm inexperienced when it comes to dating, sex and relationships.  Those are important no doubt and I definitely think it defines who I am to a great extent.  Or at least, who I am now.  But it's also important to note that I'm also inexperienced when it comes to what I'd call "independent adult life".

It hits home for me when I visit friends of mine who have their own apartments or their own houses (hell sometimes they even have children already).  It's weird when they're already firmly on the path of adult life and I'm still here practically at the starting line.

I know I"m not the only Millennial to be living with his parents.  Lots of us are.  But I think what makes me somewhat unique is that I've never actually lived on my own.  Not even in college.  In fact, I haven't even had my own room since I was 4 years old.

I think it's fair to say this makes it hard for me to relate to people my age.  If you've been out in the real world, paying rent, cooking your own dinner every night, figuring where you're going to put pieces of furniture, you really have nothing in common with somebody who's been mooching off of mom and dad his whole life.

It's why I find myself running the other way when I see someone I went to high school with (not friends, just regular people) or their parents.  I don't want anyone knowing that while they (or their kids) have been out and about in the world, I've been doing nothing except working a dead end job, lifting weights, and blogging about how I don't go on many dates.  It's a glamorous life I know, but it pales in comparison to trips to Europe or a new house with a deck (and obviously someone to share it with).

So I don't know.  It's been an interesting weekend which kind of opened my eyes to some of this.  As much as I think of myself as an old soul, I really have some growing up to do.