I have several friends who have tried online dating. In every case, the horror stories outnumber the good dates I hear about ten to one. After discovering for herself how often online dating can go horribly wrong, the author Amy Webb decided to use her data analysis skills to game online dating. She would figure out exactly what she wanted in a guy; create a scoring system to determine which guys were worth a date; and learn from popular female profiles in order to craft her own. It worked too, as she met her husband on her first post-analysis date.
I love data as much as the next girl (see post, I Love Data). Even so, the author often exceeded my geekiness quota when she sent numeric ratings of her dates to friends…from the bathroom during her dates, multiple times on the same date. Copy-pasting her resume into her dating profile also struck me as pretty crazy. As you might guess from that little fiasco, some of the things she discovers about improving her profile are a bit obvious. I also had problems with the authors attitude on dating. In non-fiction as in fiction, I like a strong heroine. A heroine who is so desperate for a date that she interacts with other women using a man’s profile to collect data doesn’t check that box for me. Logging onto online dating sites as a man and interacting with women also crossed an ethical boundary, in my opinion.
At other times though, the author was what I liked about the book. She’s funny, she’s interesting, and she’s admirably up-front about her flaws. We also share a love of algorithms, although I disagree with the way she chose to dumb them down for the book. Fortunately, she has an appendix that clarifies how algorithms work, which made me like her even better. She also has a final section in which she extracts general advice from what she learned. She is very upfront about the fact that her “research” really only proved this works for her. I think I would have liked this more as an idealized romantic comedy. Some of the author’s oversharing and geekiness could be air-brushed away. We could focus more on the cute story of how she meets her husband and how he reacts when she tells him about her rating scheme. And there could still be an appendix with a short description of the true story, plus the author’s useful advice.