Friday, October 15, 2010

Data Mining Info from OkCupid

Are ya'll familiar with the free on-line dating site OkCupid?

The site was launched in March of 2004 by a group of Harvard grads and now claims 3.5 million active users. Match.com is 10 years older and has 20 million users in 37 countries; I believe that Match is the largest on-line dating site that exists.

The style of the two sites is very different. Match is very traditional, very Microsoft if you will. OkCupid has a much more youthful, humorous attitude, more like Google. Ten years ago I don't think many people would have expected Google to be as dominant in the computing world as it has become. It's possible that the same will be said about OkCupid and on-line dating, 10 years from now.

OkCupid has a number unique features, but two are especially noteworthy. First, instead of focusing on identifying your personality, OkCupid's matching questions are more often based on real life choices and opinions. Yes, many of the questions are dumb or irrelevant, and those are annoying to answer, but the best questions can be unusually revealing.

Here's a random example, "Which is worse: abused animals or starving children?"

I like animals just as much as the next person but I would hope that most people would choose starving children. If a guy chooses abused animals over children it doesn't mean I would never date him, but, it is a flag that the guy and I might think very differently, even if our personalities are compatible.

I might be giving you the impression that individual questions are extremely important on OkCupid. Actually, the opposite is true. There are so many potential questions that one or two odd answers become irrelevant. The results, therefore, represent a match's general attitude, opinions and priorities. If you have a high match percentage with someone, it is very likely that your approaches to the important things in life are aligned.

OkCupid's second unique feature is its multitude of tests. Many are not intended to find you match, they're just fun to try - tests like "Are you a good kisser?" or "The Ultimate Broadway Lyrics Test" or "The Gaydar Test" (beat my score! 85%). Other tests are more revealing - tests like "The Dating Persona Test" or "The What Kind of Man Turns You on Test?" (Buff Sweetie, aka Brad Pitt at 35).

The tests help make the site interesting and you can certainly burn through a lot of time just by searching through all 43,440 of them. But both the test results and the tests a potential match chooses to take can be extremely revealing. For example on one profile I looked at, the guy had 9 tests related to show tunes, musicals and theater. I like all of those things. In moderation. Because those kinds of tests overwhelmed the other tests, it's obvious that he's a huge theater geek. Knowing that, I'm not sure we'd make a good match.

The primary reason I'm writing about OkCupid is not to give them a nice plug. Instead, I'd like to direct you to a recent blog entry on their "OkTrends" page.

OkTrends is a corporate blog that focuses on dating reality and perceptions. They use data from all those questions and tests that OkCupid users complete to show that common perceptions are either right on, or, surprisingly wrong.

The specific entry I think you'd all enjoy is "Gay Sex vs. Straight Sex."

This title is a bit of a misnomer because one of the most interesting parts of the article, to me at least, is a chart that shows personality traits by orientation. The data comes from 669 million (!) questions.

Probably the most unexpected thing the data show is the single biggest way gay men and straight men differ...their interest in watching sports. Straights like to watch, gays, not so much.

The biggest similarity between straight men and gay men? They are equally likely to be into drugs.

Overall, gay men tend to be more ambitious, artsy, compassionate, political, literary, spontaneous and introverted than straight men. While straight men are significantly more violent, aggressive and horny.

Kind of a fun article, don't you think?

Bisexuals are not left out. Some parts of the article compare data from gays, bisexuals, and straights. Also, there is one key section that shows that 28% of their users have either had sex with someone of the same sex and enjoyed it, or, they'd like to have sex with someone of the same sex. Apparently there are more people who are willing to experiment that we might guess.

It's all interesting stuff, backed up with mountains of hard data. Check it out!

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A quick update on my life.

Gabbie has been noticeably, consistently sweeter to me since we returned from our trip 10 days ago. It's making me feel guilty. I feel like I should give her the benefit of my doubts but I remain skeptical that we will be together much longer. I don't know why I'm not happier now that she's been so well behaved.

We're going to be moving within the next six months, perhaps as soon as early February. In an attempt to end all of this ambiguity, my plan is to put her on the spot as soon as we have a moving date set. Moving is an easy, logical time for us to split up. So, if that's what she wants to do, I will agree to let it happen.

Ironically, I think Gabbie is happier right now than she's been in several years and she may not want to leave. That is the answer I fear the most. I really wonder if I have mentally traveled so far down the gay-and-single road that I can't go back to where I was before. I just don't know.

Here's something new. Blogger friends have urged me to get some real-life fag friends. I think this may be a wise idea in case I should suddenly find myself single. About a month ago I answered a Craigslist Strictly Platonic ad from a gay guy who was organizing a relaxed game of Scrabble for homos. It turned out that I couldn't make any of the game nights until tonight.

I have no idea why, but I'm nervous as hell. I don't really know what I'm so worried about. Hopefully I will calm down quickly. I guess I fear walking into the house and seeing one of Gabbie's gay friends there. That would be a big "Oh shit" moment.

Also, I'm wracked with guilt about going. When I committed, I thought Gabbie was going to be out and the kids would all be at home, beating each other up like usual. But suddenly, my daughter got invited to a birthday party and Gabbie tells me she thought the two of us were going out.

Now I'm ditching my wife and kid to play scrabble with a few other geeky queers.

I was seriously thinking of flaking but Gabbie made other plans and my daughter got a ride to the party.

Now I have no choice but to walk to some gay guy's house in the Castro, shaking like a leaf for no good reason. Wish me luck.

3 comments:

  1. Hey buddy, this is such a great first step out into the fresh air of the world. Scrabble you should and just let yourself relax and have some fun. How can you have any guilt going out like this when Gabbie did all her going out with that horrific guy all those months. Normal heterosexual men and women have friends and go out with buddies outside the marriage and it would be good for you even if it never opens up any other direct opportunities.

    So glad to see you taking some command of things!!

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  2. You're probably already there by now - enjoying the Scrabble game. But I think you have nothing to worry about. Your biggest fear should be that the group of guys meeting to play Scrabble are going to be boring.

    I agree with jaysonstreet - you have nothing to feel guilty about. You've been there every time someone in your family needed anything. You deserve a night out every so often.

    And I agree that OKCupid is a lot of fun - and better than match.com. Also - they don't spam you with ads all the time. I've been on dates with two different guys from OKCupid - never met anyone from another dating site. Also - the members seem to be more willing to answer messages than some other online dating sites.

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  3. Another free dating site is Plentyofish. Match.com has lots of members, but how many are paying members that you can communicate with? It seems like you see the same people on all sites - match, MH, a4a, whatever

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