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University of Iowa Professor Revamps Online Dating with New Algorithm

The online dating world is bereft with tales of dates gone wrong, poorly matched partners struggling to find the connection that the dating site they use saw between them. But no more, thanks to Professor Kang Zhao's work at the University of Iowa.

Matches in online dating all come down to an algorithm, like those used on popular search engines to aggregate and arrange content in order of popularity and relevance to your search. Only with dating, we're talking about more intangible factors and evaluating an individual's personality and appearance subjectively rather than simply trying to find the most relevant information. Zhao's algorithm moves those intangibles to a more objective data set, resulting in more accurate matches.

But perhaps it's best to let the experts explain:

"Zhao's crucial innovation is to combine information about both tastes and attractiveness. The algorithm keeps track of both who I am messaging, and who is messaging me. If a male user has similar taste (he is messaging the same women as I am) and attractiveness (he is messaged by the same women as I am) to me, we are scored as being very similar; if we are similar in one trait—if we have similar tastes but attract (or fail to attract) different groups of women, or vice versa—we have a moderate similarity ranking, and if we are different on both measures, we are counted as very dissimilar. 

Similarly, when finding women to recommend to me, the algorithm factors in both sides of the messaging coin. Women who had a back-and-forth messaging relationship with men similar to me are ranked very highly, women who had a one-sided messaging relationship with men similar to me are ranked in the middle, and women who have had no contact on either side with similar men are left out." 

The new "hybrid algorithm" was then tested on an as-yet-unnamed dating site. The findings were promising, with their new algorithm outperforming a number of existing popular models.  And all that just to get someone to message you back.

Now only if we knew what site they tinkered with.


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