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OKCupid Plays With Love in User Experiments - NYTimes.com


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I wonder how users feel about being used.

They don't like it but still better than Facebook.

Some have tried to explain why this testing is less controversial than Facebook’s. It’s not simply because a much smaller group of people use the dating website. OKCupid’s tests were just different.

As Josh Constine noted, when we use Facebook, Google, Twitter, Google, Yahoo or Linkedin, we agree to be part of experiments that will alter our experiences in an attempt to make us visit a site longer or click more things.

That’s what OKCupid was doing.

In Monday’s post, Rudder described three “of the more interesting” experiments the company has run. In one experiment, OKCupid removed all the photos from its website as it was rolling out a blind dating app to see how it impacted use. In the second, OKCupid ran a test to see how much a user’s picture affects viewer’s perception of their personalities. In the third, OKCupid told users that they had a 90 percent compatibility rate with users who they actually shared a 30 percent rate with.

By removing photos from its website, OKCupid learned information it could apply to its blind dating app. In its second test, it found that users saw personality and looks to be the same thing, and now instead of rating people on both personality and looks, users simply give one overall rating. Its third test seems to be the most controversial, but essentially it confirmed that OKCupid’s dating algorithm actually works — users don’t just work out because OKCupid suggests it.

All of these tests or experiments were done to improve user’s experience on the OKCupid website. When people sign up for OKCupid, they’re signing up for a service that is going to connect them with strangers based on data they enter.

Manipulating that data and finding best practices is just OKCupid doing its job. At the basic level, all social networks are altering what you see in your feed to make the time you spend on them better.

But Facebook’s study went beyond that. Facebook manipulated content in users’ feeds to see if the emotional tone of their News Feeds impacted the tone of their own posts on the social network, deliberately making people sad. After conducting the test on almost 700,000 users, it published those results in an academic journal.

Unlike OKCupid, Facebook didn’t alter the user’s experience simply to improve the algorithm for a business purpose. In this study, the company essentially conducted a psychological experiment that many consider unethical.

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