YouTube Preview Image

My blog assistant sent me this link about the science behind OkCupid’s algorithm.

I watched the seven minute video and while I found it entertaining, I saw two big flaws in the way OkCupid purports to match you based on compatibility:

1) OkCupid has three pillars of their algorithm – what you think, what you want your partner to think, and how important it is to you.

This all makes sense in theory, but it falls apart in practice for this reason: people don’t know what’s good for them. Really. If they did, I would be out of a job.

Simply put: what you’re attracted to and who you’re compatible with are two very different people. Most people – myself included – are wildly attracted to the opposite sex versions of themselves. Do you like skiing? Then HE better like skiing!? You’re charismatic? HE better be charismatic! You make a lot of money? HE better make a lot of money! Such commonalities may cause you to be more attracted to someone, but none of these things are good predictors of true compatibility.

That second pillar of the OkCupid algorithm doesn’t say much of anything – it only goes to show how narcissistic you are in searching for someone who is just like you.

As such, that second pillar of the OkCupid algorithm doesn’t say much of anything – it only goes to show how narcissistic you are in searching for someone who is just like you. For this algorithm to work, people would have to be a LOT more self-aware about compatibility – and they’re not.

Because you could find a neat-freak who likes being the center of attention, but if he doesn’t believe in marriage, or doesn’t make a livable wage, or doesn’t believe in sharing household duties, it doesn’t matter.

2) The way OkCupid weights importance is seriously out of whack (see 4:43 in the video).

Irrelevant = 0
A little important = 1
Somewhat important = 10
Very important = 50
Mandatory = 250

A little important is BARELY scored higher than irrelevant. Mandatory is TWENTY FIVE times more important than “somewhat important”. I’m positive some very bright people put some thought into this and decided on this scale, however I don’t know how “somewhat important” can be ten times more valuable than “a little important”, while “very important” is only five times more valuable than “somewhat important”. It’s all very arbitrary and inconsistent, if you ask me.

Frankly, I think eHarmony’s compatibility testing is probably smarter and more relationship-based than OkCupid. The problem, of course, is that eHarmony took all the fun out of their questions and removed attraction from the equation. So you have OkCupid, which is fluffy compatibility pseudoscience based on physical attraction and common interests (as if mutual love of horror films has anything to do with anything) and eHarmony, which is undoubtedly deeper, but ignores the base human impulse to look up attractive faces. Most people I know are using OkCupid because it’s more fun, not because it produces better matches.

Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.