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September 14, 2009 10:05 PM   Subscribe

How (not) to write an online-dating message, based on a sample of 500,000 "first contact" messages.

The average message from a man to a woman on OK Cupid has a 32% chance of getting a response. (Although longer is apparently better. Also, women seeking men, men seeking men, and women seeking women have somewhat better odds.) But not all messages are created equal: “netspeak, bad grammar, and bad spelling are huge turn-offs,” while the “top three most popular ways to say ‘hello’ were all actually bad beginnings.”

OkTrends, the OK Cupid development/statistics blog, has come up previously.
[Via Hacker News.]
posted by Kadin2048 (79 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
Never let it be said that a bad beginning can't lead to a happy ending.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:10 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hows it going?

Your post is pretty much awesome. Sorry if I'm awkward, but you mention some blogs and my zombie athiest vegetarian metal band is playing this weekend. Email me back here if you want to come see the show.

(Man I hope you are a girl...)
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:11 PM on September 14, 2009 [56 favorites]


Hello atheists! I apologize for interrupting, but you mentioned you were lonely....
posted by orthogonality at 10:11 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most of the most successful keywords to use in the greeting came as a real surprise to me. "How's it going" as the most positive greeting? Still, thought it was funny that "zombie" outranked "literature" in the category of interests by a huge margin.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:16 PM on September 14, 2009


lol.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:20 PM on September 14, 2009


That was an interesting read, and its great that OKcupid is cool with publicizing this kind of information, tame though it may be. The injunction against other forms of communication does make sense, but it sure seems convenient for them.

It would be cool if we could input a word and generate these ourselves.
posted by milestogo at 10:26 PM on September 14, 2009


Clearly we should avoid dating online with the amount of undead zombies prowling those sites. Unless you're a zombie...
posted by movicont at 10:27 PM on September 14, 2009


From the second link: Something we learned building SparkNotes, in our pre-OkCupid days.

How did I not know that OkCupid was done by the same guys behind the dearly departed humor website, The Spark? This is just as boggling to me as when I found out those Game Neverending people started a photo album site.

Anyways, now that these catchy key phrases are out there in the open, won't they become less effective because the writers are clearly out to game the system? Or will they become more effective because irony is so awesome?

PS: Zombies? Pfft. Played out like yesterday's vampires, pirates, ninjas, and robots. I say onwards to werewolves. Karen O agrees.
posted by mhum at 10:33 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait. I take that back. Robots are not played out all.
posted by mhum at 10:34 PM on September 14, 2009


I get *a lot* of resumes from jobseekers looking for information and connections, and the biggest turnoff I have is the frequent use of l33t-speak in so-called casual communications.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:35 PM on September 14, 2009


From a personal standpoint, I'd say this would be pretty accurate. If a guy sends me a message and uses sloppy grammar or netspeak, I'm turned off. If someone goes on to tell their entire life story in the first message, it can be borderline creepy. That said, a lot of guys will send messages that are too short and consist of come ons or attempts at flattery.

I ignore all of these if I get them because I've got a boyfriend, but if I were looking for someone, the best introduction would be casual, detailed but not too long, and without flattery. Oh, and don't have pictures of pot leaves on your profile and/or talk about how you love getting wasted and have only females on your friend list.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:35 PM on September 14, 2009


Still, thought it was funny that "zombie" outranked "literature" in the category of interests by a huge margin.

I think this is probably because people who are interested in literature wouldn't use the word itself in an introduction note. I'd be interested to see the response rates for keywords like Moliere and Larkin (and Tolkien).
posted by stammer at 10:39 PM on September 14, 2009


OP: ... longer is apparently better.

Wasn't that already discussed in this thread?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:41 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Good morrow dear ladyfolk,

My real name is James, but my friends call me Sneak, because I will "sneak" into your bedroom and smell your hair while you are asleep. Maybe I will even cut a small piece off to keep in my wallet.

Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight? It appears quite black.

My favourite book is Psychopathia Sexualis. Do you like to read on the toilet as much as I do?

Text me yo.

8==D~~~~~~SNEAK~~~~~~( o )( o )
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:42 PM on September 14, 2009 [57 favorites]


milestogo: "The injunction against other forms of communication does make sense, but it sure seems convenient for them. "

I didn't mention it in the post because it seemed peripheral, but there is a possible flaw in their methodology there: they're looking at messages that contain external contact information and writing them off as failures because they don't get responses. This is one possible explanation, however those messages could be getting responses outside of the OKC system which are simply not counted in their data. They just don't know, so they really shouldn't write them off.

As far as I know, OKC doesn't really try to prevent or seem to care whether people transition immediately to some other form of communication—the whole point of their service is to allow people to meet in real life, after all—but they have reason to believe that many users think that moving too fast in that direction (which involves a loss of anonymity) is skeezy. I suspect that they're right about this and are drawing on personal experience or interaction with users, but the data presented doesn't really support it.

The other points struck me as the more interesting ones; I'm not sure you can draw much from the external-contact one without more information.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:44 PM on September 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


Bitterness this way lies, for anyone who thinks this will help them much. The people who run a dating site have a vested interest in having users believe their are "tricks" or "methods" that will make the person you like like you back.

Which there aren't. Of course 1337 and "ur so sexy" are turn-offs to most halfway intelligent women. But writing some novel (but not too long) where you mention how you have all the same interests and love puppies ain't gonna help if she just isn't into you. And it's a pain in the ass to put that much thought into a message that gets ignored, because you just weren't that person's type. That's why, when I was doing online dating, I would write something polite, specific, but just three or four lines.

I thought of it as a courtesy to the person I was writing to. If I approached someone in a bar, I wouldn't blurt out eight carefully structured paragraphs about all the things we had in common before she even had a chance to speak. I would say "hi" or smile, and if she just didn't like the look of me, or hated the band on my shirt, well then that would be that and I'd be free to move on.

What I actually found out from using OkCupid is it's not hard to get dates if you can form a sentence and have a few halfway decent pictures of your non-Elephant-Man self. The horror starts when you go on the dates and actually see how these people act in real life and thus why they ended up on an online dating site.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:59 PM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


I didn't mention it in the post because it seemed peripheral, but there is a possible flaw in their methodology there: they're looking at messages that contain external contact information and writing them off as failures because they don't get responses.

The main flaw is that people who write short, generic messages, or who include their personal info, tend to be spammers, sending out messages to literally every girl on there, even those with whom they obviously have nothing in common and no chance.

Expressed as a percentage, someone who emails only one or two carefully selected people will have more success, regardless of message content.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:02 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


My favourite book is Psychopathia Sexualis. Do you like to read on the toilet as much as I do?

You know, I had some other snotty comment to make, but for a while I did, IRL, really and truly, have a copy of Psychopathia Sexualis sitting on the toidy tank, along with volume 3 of The Worlds Most Dangerous Places.

I am not single. Miraculously enough.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:06 PM on September 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I thought of it as a courtesy to the person I was writing to. If I approached someone in a bar, I wouldn't blurt out eight carefully structured paragraphs about all the things we had in common before she even had a chance to speak.

But online dating isn't a bar, and the person on the other end doesn't have the benefit of tone, seeing your band shirt, the way you laugh, touch, or the way you behave, so it takes a bit more than just a hi or three line introduction to make the decision whether this person is interesting enough or nonthreatening enough to pursue.

This is why I mentioned messages from guys (aside from the spammers) often being too short. They tell me not much about you and then it doesn't give so much to go on. That said, leave some mystery, but don't expect a quick "Hi" to be sufficient either.

This post made me go over to OKCupid to browse the quizzes and I just got a message -"Hey"- by virtue of being online, despite how my profile says "seeing someone" and has "I am only here for quizzes" on it. So read profiles and send messages with some details that separate you (the royal you) from the pack, and not what you think a person wants to hear. drjimmy11 is right in that saying how you match perfectly can be rather smothering.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:12 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good lord being single and actively seeking a mate looks like it must be hell.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:15 PM on September 14, 2009 [17 favorites]


In one of my classes, it became common for people to send mass emails to our 200-student class list-serve, ranging from peddling used books to trying to mount an organized, tet offensive against our professor's grading standards. It was a real free-for-all. The pinnacle came when this kid sent out a mass email after our Final:
To the girl i met in this class, i knew you for a while, but never once i asked for your name. you have helped me many times in giving me the answers for our study guide which i appreciate. All i know her is that she is a beautiful muslim from either morroco or aljeria she is usually behind me, i am Omar I would like to get your name and your email for future preference. and by the way i didnt ask your name or hardley talk to you is because of ramadan lol. i hope you did good on the test because it was hella hard
Since I had nothing to lose, I followed up with a letter to the class of my own...
I totally need to know the name of this girl in class. If you're her, you might remember me: I'd stare at you. All class long. You gave me several dirty looks, but I'm pretty sure it was love at first sight.

I think you're Scandanavian, or Peruvian, or from Azerbaijan, or something like that. I followed you home one day, so I know where you live. I also have your social security number, and I broke into your home in the middle of the night to steal some locks of hair. But I swear I'm not creepy, really.

So, to this anonymous girl, if you're her, my parents are ready to meet you. We shall name our first child Bilbo.

Anyway, writing this mass email was waaaaaaay easier than actually talking to you in person when I had the chance.

Please love me,
Jerome
I immediately felt bad after hitting send because I was taking down an easy target, and he never really asked for it (other than airing his private lust). But, thankfully, the satire was lost on him, and he wrote me a response to call me out as a creepy sex offender.

The aftermath of my letter had a quaint side-effect (other than all the hahahahaha, your funnys and don't spam my email with your junks): a girl wrote to me and said she knew who I was from lecture, thought I was funny, and wanted to meet up for some coffee on campus. Never one to turn down an adventure, I agreed.

She ended up being a little too thick for my tastes. And religious. But I didn't think it was appropriate to ask for a picture by email.

I don't quite know where I was taking this story, but my okcupid profile has the header: "I am creepy, judgmental, and acerbic." Apparently it's a winner.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 11:15 PM on September 14, 2009 [19 favorites]


Don't tell her she's sexy, tell her she's pretty sexy.
posted by Elmore at 11:37 PM on September 14, 2009


"Scientifically, this is because it’s a little evil sounding."

hehe!
posted by salishsea at 12:13 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


They don't really say how many times a word has to appear before they deem it statistically relevant, so we don't really know if "zombie," for example, showed up twice, or 25 times, or 45,700 times. And is it safe to presume that they are tracking the same X number of occurences for each comparison? Like 50,000 each of "Hi" versus "Yo," etc.? Because I don't see how it makes sense otherwise.

Another(?) sort of glaring flaw, if I'm understanding this correctly (am I?), is that they chose which words to track, presumably on their own expectations of likely win/lose phrases. What if "pumpernickle" is actually a really significant word in successful first-contact messages? (and personally, if it's paired with "cream cheese," I don't really see how it could possibly be anything but Win.)

Literature? It doesn't surprise me that it doesn't come in that high; it seems like somebody talking about their classes or exams. Why not SciFi? ("Fantasy" would obviously be problematic.) Or even "books," or "love to read," etc.? What about "dog," "cat," or maybe "pets"? I would be very curious about those, among many others.

"Zombie" is quite a cipher, but I suspect it's less interesting than it seems, simply because it's not plural. I bet it's something more along the lines of, "I've been studying so much I feel like a zombie" or something... because, what? One zombie? Unless people are talking about their love of zombie films, I guess. I would have definitely done pairings with that one to try to figure it out. And, again - how many times did it appear? This one is very curious indeed.

Anyway, maybe some statistics nerds can enlighten me about the methodology and my assumptions.
posted by taz at 1:05 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, wait: they actually show frequency for the greeting section, but not for the others. I'm so confused.
posted by taz at 1:09 AM on September 15, 2009


I'm falling in love with someone *hard* at the moment.

I'm so happy it wasn't someone I met through okCupid, but we did use okCupid after we met to compare match/friend/enemy percentages (98%, 96%, 1%, with a large number of common questions answered).
posted by D.C. at 1:44 AM on September 15, 2009


By the criteria listed in this article, I must be the sexiest person on the internet.
posted by JHarris at 1:53 AM on September 15, 2009


I'm pretty sure dating sites are all have fundamental design flaws because their stated goal is that people meet people, but they profit most when users continue using the site, a pretty major conflict of interest.

I think two sites that are helping matters are iamfreetonight.com and crazyblinddate.com, focus on people meeting face to face, and don't offer any serious dating expectations. Another approach might be preventing males from contacting females unless invited, thus reducing the waisted effort.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:09 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Curious? What I would like is to grad school your haha with my awesome metal "zombie," lol.

[sends]
posted by maxwelton at 2:10 AM on September 15, 2009


Or perhaps zombie flashmobs or similar are one of those activities which encodes a cluster of attractive values (imagination, having a good time, &c.)?
posted by acb at 2:11 AM on September 15, 2009


> I think two sites that are helping matters are iamfreetonight.com and crazyblinddate.com...

You are aware that crazyblinddate.com is run by the OKC folks?
posted by simoncion at 2:34 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Err... of course you know that the OKC guys run CBD. They say as much on their front page.
Please do ignore my previous comment. I need to learn to think things through more carefully when posting this early in the morning. :(
posted by simoncion at 2:37 AM on September 15, 2009


Your ability to actually go out and talk to someone of the opposite sex despite not having anything to say or any real genius behind your words speaks far more to your long-term ability as a potential mate than just about anything you could write on a web page.

At least, for me.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:23 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think many people are most tempted by online dating sites when they first move to a new city. I've found the most useful trick for finding friends and potential lovers after moving is to move into a big social flat with lots of flatmates. It doesn't matter if you're making over $100k, you'll gain some friends by living with people for several months, and then find yourself another place.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:40 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Physics???
posted by digsrus at 4:48 AM on September 15, 2009


See also.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:50 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Haha (but I really mean "hehe")! I'm feeling a little bad about being so amused by that link, Pollomacho. But I would totally go out with Fred the Viking.
posted by taz at 5:38 AM on September 15, 2009


See also.

The hair! The glasses! The earnestness!
posted by Forktine at 6:01 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like to imagine that interns were paid to read through OkCupid emails and mark down words on a big-ass tally chart.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:01 AM on September 15, 2009


Am I alone in my irritation at the subliterate hehe? Much as I dislike LOL, I was pleased to see hehe sagging, however slightly, in the LOLrankings.
posted by kmennie at 6:04 AM on September 15, 2009


I would totally go out with Fred the Viking.

You know Taz, I was thinking the same thing! If I were a lonely, mid-1980's, middle aged woman viewing that video, Fred would definitely be the guy I'd call.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:05 AM on September 15, 2009


You know, as a vegetarian necromancer who listens to metal, I have to admit that women throw themselves at me all the time.

OK, I'm lying. I'm not really a vegetarian.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:11 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I say onwards to werewolves.

I was with you until wolves. If we're going were, I want werewallabies and weresalamanders and werecarp and weregnats.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:23 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good lord being single and actively seeking a mate looks like it must be hell.

It really is. In particular, Satan is at the center of it, forever frozen into the middle of a lake, and you're trapped in one of his three gaping toothy maws, being gnawed on for all eternity. This is not, I fear, a metaphor.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:18 AM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]



I'm pretty sure dating sites are all have fundamental design flaws because their stated goal is that people meet people, but they profit most when users continue using the site, a pretty major conflict of interest.

For the most part, yes - but only if they don't work well.

Think about it this way - if you're good at introducing people, if you really can say you generate good matches, and word spreads to that effect, it'll draw in more users at a pretty high rate; IME, dating is extremely prone to the power of anecdotes. I've used okcupid because I've heard friends bitch about lack of results on Match, on eHarmony, on Chemistry, on plentyoffish - but I've heard them rave about the Awesome Dude they met on okcupid. Basically, the potential good-reputation benefits of actually finding people good matches, I think, vastly outweigh the loss of one person who'd have eventually stopped using the site anyway.

Also, for what it's worth, okcupid gets a ton of continued usage because of its quizzes and forums - it's three parts dating site to one part social networking site, and a lot of my taken friends still use it for the latter.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:18 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I suspect Atheist rises because Religions are fragmented. If the choices were Religion: Yes No, as opposed to Religion: Atheist (no subcategories, really) Muslim (and subcategories) Hindu (and subcategories) Christian (and subcategories) Jewish (and subcategories), the results would be different. Note that categorizing religions is wildly complicated. I chose these as an example, and because okcupid is a USian site. Please pick some other stupid thing I said to flame me with. I'm a non-proselytizing atheist.

I know lots of people who met their prefectly nice partners online. The people who use online dating sites, meet somebody and leave the site are probably a pretty large number. The people who join online dating sites and never leave, because they are, shall we say, unsuitable, skew the stats. Or at least, I hope this is the case because I figure I'll end up getting up the nerve to join, eventually. And I'd like to meet a nice person, not a troll. And I don't use troll figuratively here.

I don't really want to date a werewolf, either, although I suppose he'd be a night person.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 AM on September 15, 2009


perfectly nice partners, too.

Yeah, being single and preferring to not be single? it's teh suck by orders of magnitude. The prospect of dating, online dating, blind dating, all make teevee on Friday night look positively fabulous.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 AM on September 15, 2009


Am I alone in my irritation at the subliterate hehe?

I can only believe that it is Jon Stewart's imitation of GWB's laughter which is hammering the final nails into the hehe coffin.

hehehe
posted by hippybear at 8:53 AM on September 15, 2009


The injunction against other forms of communication does make sense, but it sure seems convenient for them.

My name is EmpressCallipygos and I use online dating sites.

I'm not so sure it's an injunction against other forms of communication, only one against offering/requesting that in the very first email. I know that I'm not quite comfortable with offering more "revealing" contact details right out of the gate until I've had a few email exchanges with the guy, so when they offer me their phone numbers/emails right out of the gate, I do tend to ignore it -- look, I don't know you, I'm not sure yet whether I want you to have that much access to me. You gotta work for it a little (by "work for it", I only mean "let's trade a couple emails so I can make sure you're sane").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


This reminds me why I deleted my OKCupid profile and started using a local dating website.
posted by soupy at 9:02 AM on September 15, 2009


My husband and I met on OkCupid and several of the people we recommended it to have moved in with someone they met there. They also send out nifty info like the "flowchart to your heart" that highlights the most important questions you have answered on the site.
posted by dancingfruitbat at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2009


You can see on profiles what questions people decide as most relevant.

My ex had a profile before and while we were dating, and on his he had 'Would you consider dating a married couple?' 'Have you ever taken antidepressants?' and 'Do you enjoy receiving pain during sex?' There was the guy who seemed nice enough until I clicked through to his profile and it was a screed on how women never seem interested in speaking to him and he's a nice guy really. The guy who messaged me, wasn't interesting enough to respond to, and then continued to message me every week or so to ask me why I hadn't replied yet. The maximum creepiness I encountered during my brief time on Craigslist, though, was an old guy in Australia who picked out an unusual phrase on my profile, googled it, found other bits of my web presence (I didn't use my usual username on OKC) and then e-mailed me to tell me all about it.

I met two people on there - one during a break with my ex, which was like pulling teeth, and one when single, who was a very nice bloke but we never met with any intention of Stuff. The whole thing seemed very disheartening for me, really, the online equivalent of a fresher's ball where anyone female and in possession of a couple of D-cups or a working pulse and the ability to type got bombarded with form chat-up lines, and I wasn't really that bothered about chasing that stuff anyway. And then I got together with MrW, who came from a different corner of the internet altogether.
posted by mippy at 10:03 AM on September 15, 2009


But yeah, my very taken friend still uses it for social networking purposes. I never signed up to sites like that with the intention of taking them seriously, and usually at times when a relationship wasn't particularly what I wanted or needed.
posted by mippy at 10:04 AM on September 15, 2009


And as I can't edit - I spent a while chatting to a guy in the States, who seemed funny and became a kind of e-pal for a while, then stopped writing. Maybe it's easier to use sites like OKC in the States. Anyway, I looked him up on Facebook out of curiosity, wondering if the sudden cut of communications was because he decided to marry his next-door neighbour, and all I found was a group set up by some of the pupils he taught called 'xxxx xxxx IS A BIG PERV!!!!!'
posted by mippy at 10:07 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I immediately felt bad after hitting send because I was taking down an easy target, and he never really asked for it (other than airing his private lust). But, thankfully, the satire was lost on him, and he wrote me a response to call me out as a creepy sex offender.

Somebody looked me up at random on the university e-mail database and kept sending me VERY creepy messages ('i see u round the printa! u hav amazing bust and booty! i need to kno ur name'), to the point where I started to wonder if they knew where I was and what times I was in the IT building. I complained, expecting to hear nothing, and ended up getting a handwritten apology from the e-mailer, possibly written as an alternative to being sent down.
posted by mippy at 10:09 AM on September 15, 2009


> Good lord being single and actively seeking a mate looks like it must be hell.
> posted by Burhanistan at 2:15 AM on September 15 [10 favorites +] [!]

I foresaw exactly that, so I got my parents to arrange a marriage for me. It's worked out pretty well so far. It did cost a shocking number of camels, though.

dating sites. egad.
posted by jfuller at 10:25 AM on September 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


This explains how I ended up going on a date with a spambot after it wrote me this email:


how's it going atheist band zombie grad school pretty much tattoo you mention sorry noticed that curious what awesome physics howdy vegetarian your name


I never knew why I was so attracted until now!
posted by gonna get a dog at 10:49 AM on September 15, 2009


Theora55 makes a good point. One issue though, is that the religion categories on there are so specific that they cause issues for those of us who are Christian but not the "typical American evangelical"; I'm Quaker and there are plenty of "Christians" who basically think I'm a heretic, so I list myself as "Other" (which includes Wiccans/Pagans and a host of other religions). It gets assumed that I'm Wiccan/Pagan and I get tired of explaining it, so I mention in my profile that I'm Quaker.

I've recently realized that I need to provide a better explanation of what I exactly believe because I'm sure there are plenty who assume that I'm a prohibitionist with really weird habits and other such things. That in turn scares them away from talking to me.
posted by artsygeek at 10:50 AM on September 15, 2009


How often do you get asked if you like oatmeal?
posted by desjardins at 11:57 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not very often.
posted by artsygeek at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2009


Do you like oatmeal?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:22 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why can't we be Friends?

Because the damn website only gives us the choice of other.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:27 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


From taz:

And is it safe to presume that they are tracking the same X number of occurences for each comparison? Like 50,000 each of "Hi" versus "Yo," etc.? Because I don't see how it makes sense otherwise.

What they are doing is apparently perfectly legitimate statistics. Use another example: You go fishing with worms every day, and seldom catch a fish all summer (3 fish out of 34 weeks). On the last two weeks, you catch a fish every other day, using crickets (7 fish in 14 days). Same pond, same time of day; etc.

Wouldn't you think it's reasonable to assume that crickets work better than worms, at least in this pond? You'd be right, assuming that the population of samples in each case (238 days with worms, 14 with crickets) was large enough to provide an adequate confidence level.

OTOH, if one day you used an artificial lure (1 sample - pretty poor group size!), the result really won't tell you much of anything. Could have been a fluke (not a fish pun), either way.


Another(?) sort of glaring flaw, if I'm understanding this correctly (am I?), is that they chose which words to track, presumably on their own expectations of likely win/lose phrases.

I got just the opposite impression: they pooled all the word incidences, and tallied the most common non-trivial words (stats about "a", "to", and "the" don't really tell much, although stats on "teh" might).


Anyway, maybe some statistics nerds can enlighten me about the methodology and my assumptions.

HTH.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2009


The whole thing seemed very disheartening for me, really, the online equivalent of a fresher's ball where anyone female and in possession of a couple of D-cups or a working pulse and the ability to type got bombarded with form chat-up lines

Oh, tell me about it. This is part of why I stopped using OKC the first time around. (Recently I got talked into it again, but I'm focusing on social networking this time instead of dating, and it's working much better that way). I seem to get less of those types of messages now that I'm older (I'm 41), but I still get a fair number of generic form letter responses that read as if they could have been cut-and-pasted to every woman on the site and have nothing to do with me as an individual. It doesn't seem to matter how much effort I put into constructing my profile in the hopes of screening those out, because a lot of people just look at the photos, and don't even bother to read what I wrote.

As an example, this is an actual first-contact message, copied verbatim from my OKC inbox:

hi angel...how was your day? hope fine just want you to know that i am new on this online dating site just want to give a try maybe i can find the right woman online, and i came across your profile and you sound intersting in your profile and i will like to get to know more about you so u can email me back to my personal email address which is [cluelessdude at whatever dot com] and if you dont mind you can also add me to your yahoo list so that will can chat and talk better there i cuss i am online now waiting.Wish to hear from you soon..

Um. Yeahsureyoubetcha. If this guy had actually read my profile, he'd know plenty about me already (perhaps too much, because that would reveal me to be an individual with strange quirks, emotions, idiosyncrasies, etc.) If he were perceptive enough, he might even realize that addressing a woman you don't even know as "angel" is not likely to be particularly endearing, and...and...oh, never mind.

There's a hell of a lot more to increasing response rates from women than choosing the right words. There's deeper work to be done. Men like this need to learn to see women. As human beings. As separate individuals. With needs and desires of their own and everything! Not just as potential dates or representatives of whatever gender or dating stereotype happens to be most prevalent in their minds at the moment.

Okay, rant over.

Seriously, though...we need a book about the many hazards of "dating while feminist," 'cause it's quite a minefield to navigate. I've considered writing a book like that myself...but I can't bring myself to get started on it, because the subject matter is too damned depressing.
posted by velvet winter at 1:47 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I seem to get less of those types of messages now that I'm older (I'm 41), but I still get a fair number of generic form letter responses that read as if they could have been cut-and-pasted to every woman on the site and have nothing to do with me as an individual. It doesn't seem to matter how much effort I put into constructing my profile in the hopes of screening those out, because a lot of people just look at the photos, and don't even bother to read what I wrote.

I could have said these very words.

And I think I actually got that VERY SAME EMAIL from a dude MYSELF, verbatim. Guys: this doesn't work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:05 PM on September 15, 2009


Guys: this doesn't work.

Obviously it does in some non-zero number of cases. Otherwise people wouldn't do it.

You can't prevent spam simply by asking people not to send it to you. Peppering your profile with statements trying to discourage these kinds of messages does nothing to stop them coming in and makes you look grouchy and unapproachable on top of that, which just ends up discouraging some percentage of messages from people you actually want to hear from. It's lose-lose. Better to go with the flow and just hit delete on the obvious spam.
posted by Potsy at 6:06 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or find a dating service with an inbuilt spam filter.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:29 PM on September 15, 2009


In The Art Instinct, Denis Dutton argues that aesthetic sensibilities and artistic talent are at least partially evolved. An essential part of that argument is the idea that humans, by selecting their own mates using factors extraneous to their ability to bear children, have played an instrumental part in their own evolution. Vocabulary size and facility with the language, along with other appealing characteristics like humor, have no obvious or apparent evolutionary purpose, but advertise intelligence, which does have evolutionary purpose. Our uniquely complex ability to assess intelligence made those characteristics preferred in natural selection. Dutton cites studies which argue that vocabulary size between sexual partners is actually the most correlative characteristic.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:27 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Though, it seems the OP's first link pretty much disproves that whole argument, as "tattoo" is a more successful discussion topic than "literature" or "grad school."
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:31 PM on September 15, 2009


I imagine spamming works better than other male strategies EmpressCallipygos, given the underlying site design and male-female dynamics.

You cannot solve this problem within the usual dating site framework, as they benefit from the spam. You should instead either (a) not allow men to browse women's profiles or initiate contact, thus forcing men to polish profiles and women to initiate contact, or else (b) arrange direct face-to-face meeting between more than two people based entirely upon schedules & activities, ala iamfreetonight.com, crazyblinddate.com, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:28 AM on September 16, 2009


Though, it seems the OP's first link pretty much disproves that whole argument, as "tattoo" is a more successful discussion topic than "literature" or "grad school."

I'd guess the MeFi demographics skew both more literate and more tattooed than the general population, so I'm not sure that the stereotype of "tattoo = uneducated prole" holds true in every context. (And as someone who has been there, I can totally see how "grad school" could serve as a libido-killer.)

I imagine spamming works better than other male strategies EmpressCallipygos, given the underlying site design and male-female dynamics.

It's not so much about typical male/female dynamics as it is messages/hour. They pretty much gave the math for this in one of their articles, in their breakdown of ideal message length. Spamming allows you to minimize the search time -- the time spent reading profiles, thinking about them, and then composing your personalized message of optimal length. If instead you fire off a prefabbed message to every profile whose photo catches your eye, you'll be able to send so many messages that even a very low response rate will pay off nicely.
posted by Forktine at 5:39 AM on September 16, 2009


Forktine: I'm not sure that the stereotype of "tattoo = uneducated prole" holds true in every context

Not the stereotype I was making. My reading of the research merely suggests it would be more advantageous to talk about signs of intelligence (ie literature) than talk about intelligence-neutral topics (ie tattoos).
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:10 AM on September 16, 2009


Yeah, but I think what I'm getting at is that in certain contexts (still using MeFi as an example here), tattoos are not necessarily intelligence-neutral topics. Look at this FPP, for example.

And, thinking of online dating, a message about how amazing your tattoos are, and how much I love that artist's work, is probably a lot more personalized and meaningful than agreeing with you that book X is awesome.
posted by Forktine at 6:17 AM on September 16, 2009


Spamming allows you to minimize the search time -- the time spent reading profiles, thinking about them, and then composing your personalized message of optimal length. If instead you fire off a prefabbed message to every profile whose photo catches your eye, you'll be able to send so many messages that even a very low response rate will pay off nicely.

Consider, though, that the women who do respond favorably are also women who happen to be unable to ascertain that what they've gotten is a form letter.

If that's the kind of woman you're into, I guess you could call that success....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 AM on September 16, 2009


Actually, according to the Harper's Index I was just reading, it takes 12,414,000 spam emails to get one response, so in internet dating I think you'd save time and energy simply typing some personalized messages.
posted by Forktine at 7:29 AM on September 16, 2009


My reading of the research merely suggests it would be more advantageous to talk about signs of intelligence (ie literature) than talk about intelligence-neutral topics (ie tattoos).

People who talk about 'literature' as a generic bulk noun in those kinds of emails are the same sort of people who talk about candlelit walks on the beach drinking pina coladas, except they think that mentioning litterachoor makes them look deep. So it's been an avoid avoid avoid flag for people I know who use those sites.

God I am glad that I retired my dating jersey.
posted by winna at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


"If that's the kind you're into" is usually a major fallacy when discussing dating strategies. Sure, you won't get many dates if your also trying to sell viagra. ;) But a letter that talks about your hobbies likely won't set off spam filters. Otoh, some women will view over personalization as creepy. Also, many guys will fall into generics & platitudes when personalizing letters. I've even known women who felt asking questions was a lame ploy to keep the conversation running, even if the guy was a friend of a friend who'd she'd met face-to-face.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:38 AM on September 17, 2009


I have the entire works of Henry James tattooed on my loins.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:30 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


*drops Fred the Viking for Pollomacho*
posted by taz at 5:34 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


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