14 March 2006

A Technical Match-up

Today at lunch we started discussing the whole online dating thing.  Not from a usage standpoint, but more from a technical stance.  We are geeks, remember?

Having recently implemented a dating site for a client and with an in-process effort underway testing a slew of people-matching algorithms and approaches, it is fair to say that I'm a little more than a novice on the subject.  As I threw out a topic and watched the fur fly amongst those at the table, I was intrigued by how passionate people can be about the whole thing.  It seemed that everyone had an idea, a point of view, and was intent on validating their perspective.

Don't get me wrong, it's pretty often that we discuss psuedo-religious topics of great weight.  But this was hardly the touch point I expected it to be.  To be fair, one of the gentlemen is an educated and trained therapist and another had implemented a dating site, so this was a subject that hit close to home.  Still, the remainder of the crew were pretty evenly split between steadfastly single and devoutly married.  With this kind of mix, I wasn't expecting much, but voila! a serious table rap ensued.

As I pondered this, I came across a couple of interesting reading points from recent history which were in my notes file.

First off, was a reference on The Non-dating Life about how eHarmony.com rejected a client because she listed her status as Seperated.  Read the source article on The Consumerist here.

Secondly, this post by Dave Taylor summarizes what a tinder-box this whole online thing can be.  Count the number of expert references, studies, and factoids he drops.  Sure it's more or less insightful and certainly a useful summation of current thinking.  But really, if you don't already know what he's going to write, you really don't need to be dating in any form.

Thirdly, when all else fails, it's back to old-fashioned geographic matching.  After all, if you can't find your perfect fit based on your personality, you can settle for someone next door.  I dug out a reference to a company called 4ppl that I had come across a long time ago which uses location-based services in a mashup with dating profiles to help people with the whole finding-others thing.

Lastly, evidently according to Jupiter Research this whole online-dating thing is going downhill.  They told the BBC that the market is declining.  Remarkably the don't think that the growth of social-networking sites (read: myspace, friendster, etc.) pose any threat because "They don't have the tools or the right audience to help people to find a date."  Well, okay then.  I guess the fact that more people use myspace in a month than use match all year, has nothing to do with it.

This continues to be a fascinating subject.  But then again, I'm a geek.

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