How Data Mining Can Help You Score on the First Date

Talk about news you can use:  OKCupid, an enormous free dating service, has a blog devoted to mining its user data and using the results to answer the really important questions.  Like, “Will I get lucky tonight?”  It turns out the question is pretty easy to answer.  Just ask whether your date likes the taste of beer:

Among all our casual topics, whether someone likes the taste of beer is the single best predictor of if he or she has sex on the first date.

No matter their gender or orientation, beer-lovers are 60% more likely to be okay with sleeping with someone they’ve just met.

Want to know how much height to subtract from online dating profiles?  Two inches, says OKCupid.  And take 20% off their income while you’re at it.  Or perhaps you’d like a first-date question that will reveal your date’s politics — without actually bringing up the issue?  Easy.  Ask if they prefer the people in their life to be simple or complex:

We were very surprised to find that this one question very strongly predicts a person’s ideas on these divisive issues:

  • Should burning your country’s flag be illegal?
  • Should the death penalty be abolished?
  • Should gay marriage be legal?
  • Should Evolution and Creationism be taught side-by-side in schools?

In each case, complexity-preferrers are 65-70% likely to give the Liberal answer. And those who prefer simplicity in others are 65-70% likely to give the Conservative one.

Uh-oh. If you’re a closeted conservative being interviewed for an academic job, watch out.  It’s not just questions about The Fountainhead that can trip you up.  And speaking of the closet:  You know those people who call themselves “bisexuals?”  They’re not, according to OKCupid:  “80% of self-identified bisexuals are only interested in one gender.”

OKCupid’s datamining blog is a source of amusement, politically incorrect insight, and horror in equal measure.  But what strikes me is the enormous power that comes from the democratizing of data-mining.  It will change the world, just as Google did when it democratized clipping files and newspaper morgues.

When datamining starts producing answers that everyone wants, the EFF and ACLU might as well abandon their campaign against it.  They’ve lost.

Time for them to wake up and taste the beer.