Inside the new offices of OkCupid Labs, you won't find beakers. The experiment happens here on the couch, where engineers brainstorm ways they can use data to be the ultimate matchmaker.
By looking at how you act and where you spend your time in the world, these geeks think they can build a profile of you — and use it to make people recommendations.
After the dating startup was sold to Match.com in February 2011, cofounder Sam Yagan wanted a more free flowing place to hatch new ideas. Thus, OkCupid Labs was born and the San Francisco office opened in November.
"We hope to launch a bunch of businesses over the next few years that will each innovate in new ways, whether it's new ways to date, new areas in which to deploy matching algorithms, or new business models. This builds on everything — the successes and the failures — we have learned in eight years of developing OkCupid," Yagan told us.
We got a chance to sit down with four of his engineers for a nice brainstorm session: Chief Strategy Officer Nick Abramovic, Chief Technical Officer Tim Connor, General Manager Brian Luerssen, and Chief Product Officer Rand Fitzpatrick.
Here's some of what we learned:
- "Facebook is good for connecting people who you already know. We are interested in 2nd and 3rd degree."
- "Grindr, watch out for Manhunt."
- "We look at more profile vectors. You can draw discriminants and cluster them accordingly." Translation: You'd never want to date someone you used to work with.
- "There doesn't seem to be an engineer who doesn't read the OkTrends blog. There isn't an engineer who hasn't gotten a date off of OkCupid."
- "I'm married, but I still like to people browse on OkCupid."
- "Writing essays are a creative chore for everyone. We want to use sentiment analysis."
- "You may say, I'm interested in X,Y, and Z. A lot of people don't actually know what they are interested in. We pull that data, based on what you've done, when you've said it, and what you've said. We are working on products that do stuff like that."
- "There are people who will date serially in the real world and will be total man whores. But they will be like that on any product that they use. We want to support all types. There are various people along the spectrum."
- "Everything that is old is new again. Back in the day, if chat rooms had videos in them, it could have been Airtime."
- "We want to find a way to balance the asymmetry. There's a massive disparity of messages sent by men and the number of messages received by women. Men don't get the responses they want and women feel threatened by spam. Do we want to mirror real-life usage? Or do we want to improve on it?"
- "We are in a sexy space. We're not just another spam shop, another ad farm, or putting out another widget. We are putting out a product that will make you happy."
When I asked about porting over DNA information to the profile, you can image where the conversation went: straight to the gutter.
One engineer said: "That would be interesting if people feed in their DNA. That's a little creepier than I imagined. People should do that at bars and say, we need to take a DNA swab. Ha, we need a hall of shame of most inappropriate ideas."
As we chatted, they did a good job at keeping quiet about what they are working on.
Two engineers did admit they were working on a universal platform to port over your Facebook, Twitter, and other social network information into one spot.
We guess we have to wait until they launch their first product to see if they can put their dating data chops to good use.