Christian Rudder, co-founder of OKCupid, has spoken further about his company’s experimentation with users following his controversial blog post ‘We Experiment On Human Beings!’ last week. After admitting that the post was ‘sensationally written’ and at least partly intended to incite active debate around the topic, he defended the dating website’s actions on the grounds that it was part of the ‘scientific method’ – that without this kind of experimentation no website could ever hope to improve its users’ experience.
The first problem is that we don’t see everything we theoretically ‘should’ on social media sites anyway. Facebook rolled out its Top Stories feature some time ago, wherein it was the most popular and commented-upon posts which took up most of the space on users’ feeds rather than relying on pure chronology. Users grumbled, but there was still the option to view posts by ‘most recent’ and clearly enough people were happy with Top Stories for it to stay.
Likewise, as Rudder pointed out, OKCupid already uses certain metrics and algorithms to determine who is compatible and who isn’t. These are not written on tablets of stone, contrary to popular belief – thousands of years of human intellectual endeavour have gone into the figuring out what makes people fall in love, and it seems unlikely that a couple of guys managed to crack it on their first try (even if they did go to Harvard). Constant tweaking and refinement is the name of the game when it comes to perfecting user experience, and doubtless these same people would be kicking up a fuss about some other aspect that wasn’t running according to their exact preferences.
Steven Furtick said that ‘the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we’re comparing our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel,’ and yet that doesn’t stop us posting pictures of our amazing safari but not of us curled up in bed with the flu, of fancy dinners with friends but not eating McDonalds alone in our car. Perhaps one day we’ll reach a stage of self-confidence sufficient to represent our true selves both online and off, but until that mythical point it’s hard to blame OKCupid for fiddling with a few profiles to try and find out who we really are, and who we might really love.