E-Chat Recap: Dating Data Lacks Sufficient Dimension

Data used to create matches on dating Websites lacks sufficient dimension to predict successful relationships, say bloggers and members of the AllAnalytics.com community who chatted Friday about research suggesting the limitations of the data in these instances.

For one, data collected from users who sign up for such sites only reflects a “snapshot” of each individual at best and cannot predict the success of a relationship with the many variables that it may bring, said Ariella Brown, an AllAnalytics.com blogger. Brown, who posted recently about studies delving into the effectiveness of online dating, said the problem occurs when we ascribe too much value to the matches resulting from personal data posted on dating sites. More telling on the success of a future relationship would be data collected by watching couples interact, said researchers Brown cited in her post. Dating sites, however, fail to take such measurements.

Other chat participants simply doubted the personal data collected would be sufficient to predict a successful relationship or even “chemistry” between two people.

AllAnalytics.com blogger and social media analytics expert Marshall Sponder, who has struggled in his own work with the limits of data available to draw meaningful conclusions from the social Web, complained that too many variables exist in human relationships to make meaningful predictions from a collection of personal data.

“No algorithm can fully predict how well two people will get along because much of the data is ultraviolet [unknowable] by any system,” Sponder said.

He suggested another problem might arise from the quality of the data site participants supply in the first place. Perhaps not all users could or would be objective enough when providing information in their profiles to make accurate matches possible.

In a recent AllAnalytics.com poll, only about 24 percent of respondents said they believed dating sites’ algorithms capable of identifying their “true love,” while about 35 percent didn’t believe them any more effective a dating tool than a visit to a singles bar.

But participants in our live e-chat disagreed with the assessment that low predictability of successful relationships made the algorithm of no value.

“To be fair, it is better than a singles bar, and the singles events that a friend of mine described to me sound like nightmares,” Brown said. “Introverts, in particular, would probably find it easier to initiate contact online. One just has to realize that the real test will come in person.”

“It could be a problem of defining the objective function,” added AllAnalytics.com blogger Cordell Wise. “Do you really expect a successful relationship from a dating site, or is it enough to increase the odds of such?”

What do you think? Can analysis of a collection of personal data really help predict a successful relationship? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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: Online Kismet
  • 3/24/2012 11:20:10 PM

An online dating inforgraphic was just posted on Mashable

Re: Online Kismet
  • 2/22/2012 7:32:37 AM

Ariella's point is an excellent one, Shawn.  One advantage of the profiles is that you get to choose  what kind of personal statistics that you want to deal with.  Prefer a smoker? It's on the profile versus having to raise the question in a conversation.  Even in business networking some questions, while essential to specific decisions, can be awkward to ask - When was the last time you've seen a business development manager openly ask a prospective contect at an expo if they can pay? The same amount of balancing inteerst and interrogation can happen in dating. Profiles provide a personal vetting process.

Re: Online Kismet
  • 2/22/2012 7:22:17 AM


I think the answer for many people lies somewhere between increasing the odds and a belief that "no algorthm that really pick the best for me".  People like to believ in something more emotional than being quantifies.  They may allow it to some degree based on the widespread availability of analytics, but most people want to believe that their personal decisions influenced the chances for love, even in a dating site.

Analytics plus singles bars?
  • 2/21/2012 10:26:41 PM

Unfortunately I missed participating in the poll. In any case I came out of the E-chat slightly less skeptical about the dating services and their analytics than I went into it.

For people that can relate to basically blind dating (and it's not totally "blind", I found out), it's probably an improvement, especially if they need something to overcome any inertia. I've also referred several times to putting yourself in what Dr. Phil calls a "target-rich environment", and probably narrowing down the field to lots of people with common interests can do this.

On the other hand, there's still a lot that can be said for the singles bar (in which not all are singles, of course, but leaving that aside...) Seems to me that the new business model for an innovative dating service would be to combine the analytics with its compatibility selection process with specialized singles bars, where all the people meeting the compatibility criteria would have a chance to do whatever they do there besides getting sloshed. At least they'd have a chance to give the old "It' factor a chance as well as improve the possibilities for the Click.

Wonder how a name like Love Analytics would work for a singles bar... My mind is already starting to invent the new cocktails...

Re: Online Kismet
  • 2/21/2012 8:33:52 PM

Hospice and Ariella,

Another thought brought up during our chat about a better way to think of the benefits dating sites actually do provide. As I quoted him in the wrap up blog above, AllAnalytics.com blogger Cordell Wise suggests:

It could be a problem of defining the objective function. Do you really expect a successful relationship from a dating site, or is it enough to increase the odds of such?

Re: Online Kismet
  • 2/21/2012 6:08:42 PM


It sounds like your friend's perseverance has finally paid off. But most people don't have this stamina and they would have given up after the first frustration. That is what makes us say that dating sites are not the convenient places to find one's soulmate.

Re: Online Kismet
  • 2/21/2012 2:45:13 PM

I think you said it best during the chat, Ariella:

To be fair, it is better than a singles bar, and the singles events that a friend of mine described to me sound like nightmares. Introverts, in particular, would probably find it easier to initiate contact online. One just has to realize that the real test will come in person.

Re: Online Kismet
  • 2/21/2012 2:33:39 PM

@Callmebob, yes, that's exactly it. Your own story reminds me of an episode in From Time to Time, in which one character deliberately gets in the way to prevent two people from meeting and marrying. He has the best intentions, of course. 

Re: Online Kismet
  • 2/21/2012 2:13:59 PM

@Ariella - Can't disagree with you. All love matches are happenstance, 1 sample about my friend proves nothing and is strictly anecdotal. I met my wife on a street corner (No, not that kind of street corner) in a city of 12 million. So 1 in 12 million are not very good odds and is on par with the lottery. If I had been 30 seconds delayed, crossed a different street, or stopped to tie my shoe I could still be single today. To me, it's all about reducing the odds. If it helps, try online dating. If it doesn't, go to the MOMA and wait for someone to ask you to explain that Jackson Pollock painting you've been staring at for hours.

Re: Online Kismet
  • 2/21/2012 1:46:51 PM

@Callmebob We all love happy endings, but from a scientific perspective, such testimonials are not real proof of greater effectiveness. As you point out, on the intital run, your friends got somewhat frustrated with the process of online dating. It was only because he gave it another shot that he met someone who clicked with on it. The same could happen at singles events, too. You could get overwhelmed at one and then return to a second one where you happen to meet up with someone you like.  Or you could keep mulling around bookstores until you strike up a conversation with someone you want to keep saying -- a tactic I'm told some singles adopt. Anything could work, but the fact that a particular tactic worked for someone you know is not conclusive.  It would be rather like  as a lottery winner bought his ticket at this store, I can conclude that this is a lucky location.

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