Can you hack your dating app to get better matches? – The cut


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Asking a dating executive how their matchmaking algorithm works is like asking Coca-Cola for its secret formula: they’ll tell you it’s a mystery, that it’s too hard to explain, that they just can’t talk about it, in the Fight Club style.

Tinder says it looks at things like app usage, profile details and swipe history to find your matches. Bumble also says it looks at your swipe history, while Hinge didn’t say much, except that its “proprietary algorithm” was based on work done by two Nobel Prize-winning mathematicians.

But there’s a reason these companies are so cautious about their code. Mathematician Cathy O’Neil says she thinks that if the people they meet really knew how basic algorithms are, they might not put so much blind faith in them. The applications, he suspects, work without predictive algorithms. “They just take historical data,” he explains, and “look for patterns of success or failure.” In other words, they “extrapolate”.

In episode three of Land of the Giants: Dating Games, we dive deeper into how these algorithms work and talk to people who are trying to hack the code that controls their love lives. Algorithms can feel “kind of like magic,” O’Neil explains. But the truth? “We don’t want anyone to see how silly he is.”

The result is users who have a lot of terrible dates, and some who come up with strategies to get more and better matches. Take Jeremy, a 30-year-old app developer in Philadelphia, who found that their algorithm works best for him when he removes any unique details from his profile. “It’s definitely disheartening to know that what’s generic and watered down works best,” he says. “When I started getting a lot more matches on my profile, it was because I had things that didn’t make sense.”

Listen to the latest episode of Land of the Giants: Dating Games, a co-production between Cut, The Verge, and Vox Media Podcast Network. You can watch new episodes Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotifyor wherever you get your podcasts.

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