Weeks after Facebook admitted to misleading users in a psychological study on the popular social network, now top U.S. matchmaking website OKCupid said Monday it regularly mismatches users to test its technology.
In a post called “We Experiment on Human Beings,” the founder of the dating site, Christian Rudder, defended the OkCupid social experiment, admitting that “OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”
With that understanding in hand, it was revealed that OkCupid’s engineers sometimes play around with people’s accounts to figure out the best way to build the site. He explained that this has included hiding profile text, matching up people who may not have been right for one another, and telling pairs who may have made great matches that they weren’t compatible. For example, it was discovered that when people were told they were a good match, they acted as if they were. When couples were told they were bad matches, even though OkCupid’s algorithm showed the opposite, they were less likely to exchange four messages.
Another experiment showed that people responded solely to profile pictures and not the words on those profiles; indeed, Mr Rudder said, “So, your picture is worth that fabled thousand words, but your actual words are worth…almost nothing.” This presumably reveals that people are either really shallow, or they mostly respond to images first and words later — a fact that anyone working in the internet pretty much knows already. Which brings up a central point to this whole operation: The results aren’t that surprising, so why were they needed to be performed in the first place?
According to Rudder, it’s a necessity to building the websites we like. “Most ideas are bad,” he wrote. “Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”
If this pisses you off — like people were angered when Facebook’s emotion-manipulation study was revealed — OkCupid’s Rudder wrote that we basically need to get over it.
We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook ‘experimented’ with their news feed. But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.”
OkCupid plans to continue with the experiments moving forward. Will that ruin your faith in the dating website, or have you continue browsing nevertheless? Let us know in the comments below.