Analyzing Love: Data Mining on Match.com


If you're wondering what to look for in a profile on an online dating site, you can find plenty of advice on the Internet (this video, for example).

But what about data on what people really do look for in those online profiles? That information isn't as hard to come by as you might think, and the best source for the data, it turns out, is the online dating sites themselves.

“You cannot trust what people say. You have to watch what they do,” Amarnath Thombre, senior vice president of strategy and analytics at Match.com, told the audience during a session at last month's Predictive Analytics World conference.

Drawing from experience with millions of singles in 24 countries since its launch in 1995, the site has compiled a wealth of data about what factors tend to attract people to one another. From this information, it can predict the likelihood of similar attractions in the future.

Factors as simple as height and a desire for kids can be important in predicting whether members are likely to connect, said Thombre, estimating that 95 percent of relationships can be predicted by analyzing as few as 10 characteristics on each profile.

Some characteristics, such as smoking and politics, are polarizing. And here interesting patterns emerge. For example, Match.com’s statistics show that more people identifying themselves as Republicans in their profile are willing to connect with people identifying themselves as Democrats than the reverse.

Thombre also threw out another interesting and amusing statistic. For the most part, he said, members with accounts on Twitter, the micro-blogging platform famous for allowing messages of no more than 140 characters, have shorter relationships.

But is this data really measuring the frequency of love connections? Well, not really. In fact, the site measures any instance in which members exchange more than three emails as an “event” of significance.

Still, with an estimated one in every five relationships now starting online, dating sites are collecting volumes of information on factors influencing attraction that have never before been available. We’ve blogged previously, for example, about Stanford University studies that used data mining of social sites to predict such things as the individuals most likely to connect to each other on Facebook and which members on other sites were likely to be “friends” or “enemies.” (See: Getting Friendly With Facebook Analytics and The Pluses & Minuses of Social Analytics.)

Ignoring for a moment the issue of privacy, on which all social sites, including Match.com, have exhaustive policies, how might this data be used by miners in the future, and what might it be able to help us predict?

Shawn Hessinger, Community Editor

Shawn Hessinger is a community manager, blogger, social media and tech enthusiast, journalist, and entrepreneur based in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He serves as community manager and blogger for BizSugar.com, a business news and information Website, and contributes regularly to the online business news source, Small Business Trends. He is the founder of PostRanger.com, an online content and media community, and has provided blogging and social media services and consulting for companies all over the world. He researches and writes on a variety of business, Internet-related, and other tech topics including business intelligence and analytics. He is also keenly interested in computer-aided data management as it relates to his various online ventures. A newspaper journalist with more than 11 years experience as a reporter and then managing editor, Shawn began blogging in 2006 and now provides a variety of consulting and outsourcing services in Search Engine Optimization, Web development, and online marketing to companies large and small. He is a strong advocate for the use of BI and related computer data management in business decision making, whether using software as a service (SaaS), cloud, or other applications, and in the opportunity these technologies provide to transform small startups and larger established businesses alike.

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Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/13/2011 10:44:23 PM
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Wow tnx Ariella. This is quite interesting and conviencing.

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/13/2011 5:25:27 PM
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Seth, sounds like you have some interesting stories out of Match.com---though this might not the most appropriate venue to share them! From what I can gather, online dating sites have taken off largely perhaps female participants trust them more than finding a guy at their local watering hole or the supermarket.

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/13/2011 2:01:54 PM
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Here's a bit of data on love (or at least relationships) illustrated by an inforgraphic. It includes the contact info to receive the full results of the survey behind it: http://www.bitrebels.com/social/online-dating-the-relationship-status-update-infographic/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+bitrebels+%28Bit+Rebels%29

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/12/2011 3:44:10 AM
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Tnx alot for sharing the article Ariella. This will help us to understand what exactly the process behind this is.

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/11/2011 7:56:41 AM
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@anahdn, I admire a healthy skepticism. Don't just take one person's word for anything. Isn't that part of analytics, as well?  I want to share one more link here b/c the title is so close to the title of the blog: The Mathematics of Love

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/10/2011 10:34:47 PM
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Tnx Ariella. Looks very inteesting. Will see. I would like to get a comment from anyone who else has read about this guy and his works. Anyone else at AA ???

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/10/2011 8:07:36 AM
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adhand, really it's just like any other predictive analytics. I've copied this for you from http://www.gottman.com/49853/Research-FAQs.html

Altogether, Dr. Gottman has completed seven studies that explored what predicts divorce. These studies included three groups: 1) couples that divorced 2) couples that stayed together and were happy and 3) couples that stayed together and were unhappy. Dr. Gottman’s research helped him identify specific behavior patterns in couples that he later termed the “Masters” and “Disasters” of relationships.

Six of the seven studies have been predictive—each began with a hypothesis about factors leading to divorce. Based on these factors, Dr. Gottman predicted who would divorce, then followed the couples for a pre-determined length of time. Finally, he drew conclusions about the accuracy of his predictions. He has also consistently evaluated other theoretical models that might predict differently and reported the results of these analyses (e.g., Gottman & Levenson, 2002). This is true prediction. Prior to his six prediction studies, Dr. Gottman did an initial post-hoc analyses study back in 1980 to help him determine what factors were useful in predicting divorce.

Although the predictive studies have been touted in the media, Dr. Gottman believes that it’s much more important to understand why certain actions increase divorce risk rather than to predict it. This enables Drs. John and Julie Gottman to design successful interventions. Their very high prediction rate suggests that they’ve hit upon a type of interaction or pattern of behavior that can make a couple vulnerable to divorce – and this sheds light on how best to intervene. 

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/9/2011 10:20:14 PM
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You seemed to have studied his book really well. Anyway I agree with you on certain things where a person can be analyzed based on his behaviour but lets say that the behaviour got changed due to religous reasons after a period of time. Then the mariage which he said will not long last might have a chance to last forever isn't it ?

Anyway just one question, does he say to thei face whethe it will long last or not ? If so dont you think the comment he makes (positive or negative) might have an impact since lets say if the comment was negative it might work on thier heads and that will lead to a dispute and break their marraige isnt it ? I think he is playing a little mind game if so. Anyway this is my opinion. I may be wong. 

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/9/2011 7:51:21 PM
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I admit it, I admit it. I tried Match.com .  It can increase the odds of meeting someone, but a person needs to be patient.  I believe the real reason it works is in part because of a placebo effect by taking some of the fear out of dating. 

Also, Ithere are a couple of people out their who are mad at me because I'm not attracted or compatible with them when the computer plainly told them I should be. 

 

Re: Predicting attraction or ?
  • 11/9/2011 11:17:07 AM
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If you read his books, you'll see it's not quite like that -- not quite as deep as the question of Divine knowledge versus free will. He can tell from a couple's interaction whether there are destructive elements at play. He identifies 4 key ones. It's OK to have conflict, but if they demonstrate contempt -- one of the big no-nos -- then they're in trouble. 

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