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Hacking OKCupid to find true love

A screenshot of an OkCupid profile.

Optimal Cupid: Mastering the Hidden Logic of OkCupid
Jon Finkel

Online dating websites use all kinds of technology and calculations to help you find a mate. It could be as simple as giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to a photo, or as complicated as a long list of questions asked, points scored, and intense mathematical algorithms that play digital matchmaker. Mathematician Chris McKinlay was working on his doctorate and his love life at the same time, and found that he was unsatisfied with the calculations made. So he hacked an answer and in the process wrote "Optimal Cupid: Mastering the Hidden Logic of OkCupid." 

McKinlay says the problem with OKCupid is that it doesn’t tell you exactly what to do. “They just say hey, here’s a bunch of questions, and you don’t have any idea what questions necessarily the people you’re interested in might find important.” 

“One way to get the site to actually match you with people you are compatible with is to confine yourself to only answering divisive questions,” McKinlay said. “If say like, tattoo culture or motorcycles is important to you, answering a yes-no question about that and marking it mandatory is far more divisive -- guys who aren’t into that stuff aren’t going to score points with you.”

It took McKinlay 88 dates to finally meet the love of his life, and now he is engaged. He has his own operator’s manual to thank.

“All I did was write software that logged into the site as a profile, and then took all the data and came back to me.”

To hear more about how McKinlay used technology to maximize his chances of finding “the one,” click on the audio above. 

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.
Optimal Cupid: Mastering the Hidden Logic of OkCupid
Jon Finkel

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