Category Archive 'Dating'

19 Oct 2016

Engineering Romance

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sebastian_stadil
Stabil says: “I’m a fat, bald, short guy whose only quality is that he isn’t an ax murderer.” He’s lying about all that. As the photo shows, he isn’t fat, bald or short, and he is the founder of a “multi-cloud management platform” company, which ought to make him something of a catch.

Sebastian Stabil claims that he went on 150 dates in four months, meeting girls and inviting them out via Tinder using an automated app to swipe and exchange messages.

I decided to hack the system and go for volume instead of personalization. To hell with romance — I needed to play my odds even if it meant right-swiping the whole Bay Area.

You need a certain number of candidates to be able to benchmark what quality means, and humans are really difficult to assess. In computer science, this is known as the optimal stopping algorithm, aka the secretary problem.

A few lines of code later, my app was born. An abstraction layer capable of managing online dating for me:

Automatic swiping
Automatic messaging
Automatic date scheduling

I quickly got hundreds of matches, and hundreds of messages.

My first problem was solved: getting leads into the pipeline. I had a new problem now: volume. So I decided to industrialize the process.

I had to qualify each lead — see with which girl there was a fit and with which there wasn’t, to maximize my chances. So, I automated everything. Openers, follow-up messages, swiping, bookmarking, text messages and phone number recording. The machine was well-oiled.

I assumed canned messages wouldn’t work well, but after sending more than 10,000 I discovered wasn’t a significant response-rate difference between personalized and generic messages. At least, that’s what the data said. I became an online dating magician who knew how to optimize a profile with  A/B picture-testing and messages. If I changed my profile picture and got more “likes” as a result, that meant it was better. I was tracking data, which made it easy to see what performed best.

Conversion rates increased: more matches, more leads, more dates to schedule. A new match would receive up to seven follow-up messages to maximize response rates. To give you ballpark numbers, 43% responded after the first message, 21% after the second, 14% after the third, 9%, 3%,1%, 1%. The rest sent me a message first.

Here is the standard sequence of messages I used.

    Bonjour ! Care to meet over coffee some time next week?

    Perhaps I can tempt you with some pastries instead? I know of place with fruit tarts, chocolate pies, and macaroons. :)

    Can I interest you in a chai latte then? Better than coffee, and we can still get the pastries!

    Fine, if you don’t like coffee nor pastries nor chai, we can do tea. How does tea sound?

    Yeah, you are right. Tea is a little boring. We should get ice cream! How about the Bi-Rite Creamery?

    Ice cream is too cliché anyway. We should do something no one else does on a first date, like meet at a gas station and get beef jerky! Think of the stories we could tell our grandkids!

    Alright, I’ll admit that meeting at a gas station isn’t the most romantic. And let’s be honest: American food portions are so large we don’t need more calories. How about a boat ride on Stow Lake? We can get a nice pedal boat and get fresh air and plenty of exercise. How about that?

As soon as it got an answer, the program would prompt for a phone number, leading sometimes to disjointed conversations.

The number would then be recorded in my custom CRM and automated texts would be sent with Twilio. I also had some tricks ,  like subscribing to premium services to make my messages more visible. It worked well to get attention… but not always interest.

I was now dating at scale.

Read the whole thing.

03 Jun 2014

Drôlerie Français

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Hat tip to Henry Bernatonis.

23 Jul 2013

Tail at Yale Situation Not Really Different Today

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Harkness Tower at Yale

Weekend before last, the Times Magazine published one of those heavy-breathing, “We’ve got trouble right here in River City” sorts of articles about Ivy League hook-up culture, which maintained that today’s coeds at elite universities are too busy with grade-grubbing for serious relationships and are therefore settling for brief, meaningless encounters.

All this didn’t really ring true to me, so I was not surprised to find some skeptical pushback in Time from recent Yale graduate Eliana Docktermann.

I’m straight, white, female, and just graduated from an Ivy League school, so these trend pieces are supposedly about me. But they don’t ring true, and after a year of reading them, I am exhausted by the media’s obsession with the “hookup culture.” Why, besides the obvious reasons, is this topic so irresistible? Dr. Lisa Wade, an associate professor of sociology at Occidental College who has done extensive research on the subject, explains, “The media is talking about it because we love moral panic.”

As it turns out, there’s not all that much to panic about. If you look at the data, this Ivy League “hookup culture” exists for only a tiny percentage of college kids. What’s more, the sex lives of most of today’s college students may not be all that different from those of their parents or grandparents at the same age.

So let’s look at the … biggest misconceptions about college kids and sex:

1. College students are having random hookups rather than meaningful relationships.

Well, it depends on how you define a hookup, but in general rampant casual sex is not the norm, despite what the media is saying. …

[A]ccording to the survey quoted in that same Times article, 20% of female students and 25% of male students have “hooked up” with 10 or more people. That sounds like a lot. But wait—10 or more people over the course of four years in college? That’s only two to three partners per year. Moreover, the definition of “hookup” spanned from kissing to intercourse. Of those women and men who had hooked up with 10 or more people, only 40% of those instances were sex.

Crunching the numbers, that means that only 8% of college women who responded to this survey had sex with 10 or more men who they were not dating over the course of four years. …

Most Ivy League girls too busy and ambitious for relationships.

[T]he demands of the modern world have left women at these elite institutions with no time for boyfriends, so they are opting out of relationships and into hookups.

Raisa Bruner …, who graduated from Yale with me in May, was dissatisfied with the conclusions of [an Atlantic] piece and decided to find out if Yalies were really dismissing relationships for hookups. She wrote in the Yale Daily News:

    In a survey I conducted of over 100 Yale students, almost all of the single respondents, ambition be damned, said they were currently seeking a relationship involving dating, commitment or, at the very least, monogamous sex.

I know a number of very successful women—women who are now students at top med schools, analysts at the State Department and Rhodes scholars—who found the time while at Yale to maintain serious relationships with equally-as-busy boys (or girls). I know many other women who left Yale wishing they had had a relationship in college.

And while I can’t say that the sex lives of Yalies represents all college students or even those in the Ivy League, the data from the school about sex is a good reality check. In 2010, the Yale Daily News conducted a sex survey on campus and found that only 64.3% of students had had sexual intercourse over the course of their Yale career. The median Yale student had had only two sexual partners by the time he or she graduated. Promiscuity is not the norm. Not even for men (whom we never hear from in these articles for some reason). 30.5% of Yale men had never had intercourse. Plenty of students are forgoing sex entirely, limiting their sexual partners or engaging in exclusive relationships.

Read the whole thing.

17 Jul 2013

Dustjacket Dating

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New Yorker cover, November 8, 2004.

Elyse Moody offers a literary alternative to Missed Connections.

ve been asking myself some basic questions: What do I like? Reading. What am I looking for in a date? Someone who enjoys books and talking about them, and who can strike up good conversations with strangers. An idea started to gel. Maybe if I’m choosy about what I read on my longish interborough commute, the right guy—one with superlative taste who’s curious enough to make a move—will be drawn to me by the tractor beam the open book in my hands emits.

I ran this idea by my therapist, and she started nodding excitedly. “Books are such a great crutch,” she said. “I think of them like props.”

Exactly.

So this strategy’s been clinically endorsed. I’ve reviewed my journals, made a list of the most attractive qualities of potential soul mates past (setting aside their less desirable traits—e.g., substance addiction, monomaniacal narcissism, commitment phobia), and distilled it into archetypes of the charming men I hope to meet, if fate wills it, somewhere in the New York City public transit system.

Her choice of lures, however, struck me as far from the most interesting or effective, especially if you desire to strike up an acquaintance with “Ivy League smart” males. I think of Saul Bellow myself as an over-rated, excessively promoted ethnic writer. If I saw a girl reading Tom Robbins, I would shudder and walk quietly away. Eudora Welty is a representative of the grotesque-and-invariably-depressing school of Southern writing, and the sight of her dustjackets will probably work on most men in a decidedly anaphrodisaical manner.


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